George W. Bush’s electoral victory stunned pundits and pollsters. I was more surprised by the preelection polls than by the President’s margin of victory, which I had been correctly predicting for several months. When the Zogby numbers were brought to me at the end of the day, predicting a Kerry victory by 100 electoral votes, my confidence in my own judgment was shaken for a moment, but then I reflected. Which is more likely, that Zogby should have made a mistake—or let his ethnic (Arab) prejudice against Bush bias his interpretation—or that the American people had suddenly lurched either to the left or into conservative sanity?
Even before the nomination of John Kerry, I was offering odds on the Republican candidate. It was not that President Bush was a particularly strong candidate; but he, at least, looked and talked like a normal American, albeit not a very well-educated one. For many conservatives and all leftists, “anybody but Bush” was preferable; anybodies, however, do not win elections. The Democrats needed somebody, and what I doubted was the Democratic Party’s ability to come up even with the half-a-man who could defeat the President. As it turned out, there was no probable candidate running in the Democratic primaries.
At the start of the campaign, there were just two major issues: the war in Iraq and the economy. In order for a Democrat to win, the war could not simply go from bad to worse, as it did: There would have to be a calamity. That did not happen. The other possible opportunity was an economic meltdown. Instead, several sectors of the economy showed improvement. Predictably, Bush lost many industrial sections, because of the continued deterioration of manufacturing; overall, however, there was no reason for a majority of voters to unseat a sitting president during the “War on Terror.”
The nomination of John Kerry gave the Republicans a third issue, though it took some time for them to realize it: the—do not say the words or you are a bigot—Culture War. Who knows how many voters turned out to reject “gay marriage”? Anecdotally (and this includes exit-poll data, which is only a quantified version of anecdotes), a significant minority, composed especially of evangelicals but including many Mexican-Americans, viewed the election as a referendum on the homosexualist agenda, and, while Karl Rove now pooh-poohs the mere 22 percent that voted on the basis of the social issues, any significant loss of those voters would have given the election to Kerry. There is some evidence that Serbs and other Orthodox Christians may have turned the tide in Ohio, when they discovered that Kerry had openly consorted with KLA terrorists from Kosovo. At least the Serbs have something to celebrate.
Considering the assets enjoyed by an incumbent president during a war, President Bush’s margin in the popular vote might be interpreted as a defeat. What the President and his advisors should note is that the moral and social issues they tried to run away from are the issues that secured his reelection.
In voting for George W. Bush, “Red State Americans” were rejecting the Democratic Party, which, in its current form, is enough to scare any normal person into voting straight-ticket Republican. The old party of labor bosses, white ethnics, and Southerners—Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion, as the Republicans used to call it—has turned into the party of criminals and perverts: immoral single girls and mothers who want to kill their babies; cross-dressing fags in bridal veils; and Hollywood stars who want to make themselves immortal by eating someone else’s dead baby. (Stripped of humanitarian and scientific rhetoric, that is really the point of fetal stem-cell research.)
It is unlikely that the Republican bosses, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, are paying much attention to their electoral base. In fact, their first postelection moves might be interpreted as a slap in the face to their most important supporters: conservative evangelicals. The pro-life John Ashcroft—admittedly a kook of the first water—is out, replaced by the pro-infanticide Alberto Gonzales. As a judge, Mr. Gonzales took the extreme position by ruling against parental notification in cases of underage girls seeking abortions. When a Supreme Court vacancy opens up, it will be Gonzales and Arlen Specter, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will have the most to say about replacements. There was the usual shadow-boxing over Specter’s election, but I never had any doubt. Neither the President nor the Senate Republicans care anything about the sanctity of human life except as a stick to beat the Democrats with.
Many conservatives hoped against hope—and common sense—that Colin Powell, despite his ineffective record as Secretary of State, would stay and that the incompetents who mismanaged the war in Iraq—Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith—would go. But the worst has happened. The neoconservatives—men of, at best, doubtful loyalty to this country—remain and Condoleezza (I hope I have the correct number of e’s and z’s) Rice has replaced General Powell as Secretary of State. It hardly matters what Mrs Rice thinks: Her lack of ability and strange public performances ensure that she will play a negligible role in making foreign policy. Those decisions will be left up to a cynical and bungling team of Bush foreign-policy advisors—Vice President Cheney and his neoconservatives, Secretary Rumsfeld and his—who make us long for the pragmatic Machiavellians of the first George Bush.
Conservatives can take some consolation from the election results. In most respects, John Kerry would probably have made a worse President than George W. Bush, and the turnout of Red State Americans against homosexualism is a healthy sign. They should not, however, expect much from Bush’s second term, and it is not too early to think about how to block whatever candidate GOP leaders are already grooming.
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