Why Bush Won
|December 8, 2004||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Why Bush Won
During the run-up to this year’s election, I was a faithful reader of the “alternative” press — and I was getting the impression that there was a clear choice in the presidential election. I didn’t expect miracles; the Democratic challenger was lackluster and impenetrable, and the Republicans seemed poised to consolidate their hold over the Legislative Branch. But surely — intoned pundit after pundit — surely we would be smart enough to give our Super-Sized Texas Travesty the dishonorable discharge he deserved.
And yet somehow we didn’t.
Since Mr. Kerry’s concession, the general tone of the left-leaning media has been whiny. Moments after Kerry’s concession, for example, Greg Palast jumped right in with accusations of massive vote fraud. Now, I’d been following the electronic voting machine controversy all along, and I certainly think it’s possible that some tabulatory hanky-panky occurred.
But the tally of a close election, like the existence of Lee Harvey Oswald’s fellow gunmen, is something that “we’ll just never know”, and my gut tells me that whether we like it or not, Karl Rove successfully rocked the vote, and Kerry got his butt kicked in Ohio. (Here’s a quick illustration: Bush won by roughly 140,000 votes in the initial Ohio Count, while the referendum outlawing gay marriage passed by an astounding 1.2 million votes. That’s turnout. Although John Lennon once thought he might be nearly as popular as Jesus, clearly Bruce Springsteen and P. Diddy lack that kind of star power.)
The “vote fraud” issue quickly became a dead horse. Even though electoral reform remains a vitally important issue, most leftist columnists quickly started whining a different tune. There were, to be fair, still a few articulate voices out there, patiently trying to explain that the election was rendered meaningless long before the votes were counted. Each candidate merely had a credible plan for deck-chair arrangement.
The Bush win was too much of a shock, however, to be explained by such subtleties; it had to be something more obvious. And as the demographic analyses started filtering through and it became clear how important the “moral values” vote had been, commentators began to find comfort in the observation that — as summed up by Ted Rall — “By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush.” So there you have it. Not much you can really do about that.
(Rall must have really been feeling bad, though, to give his nemesis Ann Coulter as fat a pitch as the following: “So our guy lost the election. Why shouldn’t those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what’s going on in the world .” Dude. Cross a river once in a while.)
Well, the last time I checked, democracy did not depend on the voters being Hip.
And anyway, I could think of a few Bush voters who, despite our political differences, I consider to be pretty hip. Seems to me that Rall’s arrogant column summed up the box inside of which the Dems continue to think — because they haven’t felt it necessary to meet my friends Kelly and Keith (I’ve changed their names for this article, but not my memories and thoughts about them.)
When we first went to check out her in-home daycare business for our 2½-year old son, Kelly, who was just 21 — although she already had two daughters — seemed bright-eyed and purposeful, awfully young, but no pushover. She announced with some pride that “We’re a Christian family.” For the next two years I saw her three mornings a week, surrounded by a gaggle of young kids, and all their substances. She was, without exception, impeccably organized, cheerful, thoughtful, thoroughly at home in her body and her life. I became quite fond of her, and so did my son.
Kelly’s Christianity is the sort that comes in a cultural package. She bops to Christian rock’n roll while she cooks and cleans, and once (on my way to the rest-room), I noticed Total Woman by her bedside. (If you’re unfamiliar, you should know that this book’s author, Marabel Morgan, is a marital-advice maven whose work is devoted to revealing the sensuous delights awaiting the properly submissive Christian wife). Kelly’s husband, Keith, is retiring and pleasant. It seems clear that few of the major household decisions are truly his — yet his place as the Master of the House is never questioned, and he obviously worships the well-tended ground that his perky little wife walks upon.
One afternoon I happened to meet Kelly’s older sister. Somehow, seeing the two sisters together cast Kelly’s life into sharp relief. They looked enough alike that the sister could have been Kelly in some warped, alternate world. Her hair was more done-up, more brittle-looking; she had on more makeup (although I think Kelly always wore some); she smoked; her voice was a bit sharper and her movements a bit tenser. It’s probably very unfair of me to say this, but I had the distinct impression that, while Kelly’s sister may have been less likely to be a Bush voter, she was also much less comfortable, much less clear, far more alone and unsure in her world than Kelly was.
And it isn’t a good world out there, to be sure, there are demons and dangers by the score. Kelly and Keith were succeeding in making their home a place of Godly sanity and peace, but it took a lot of support. Soon after our son moved from Kelly’s care to preschool, she told us that she’d be having another child, and going out of business. Keith, who worked in a job he hated — cold-calling credit-card deals from the belly of the beast — thought that three kids were enough to care for and so — a bit wistfully — did Kelly. In time, our kids went off to public school, and both families had to deal, as best we could, with the corrosive influences of the outside world. Kelly read popular Christian novels and watched Christian news on TV. (We don’t have cable in Waldo County; they had to get a satellite dish to get The 700 Club). These things were not just comforting; they were fortifying. They helped maintain the enclave that she and her family had kindled and warmed against the Idiot Wind that raged outside from every direction — and it seemed right and good to them that the President of the United States shared those sensibilities, and was willing to tell the world that he did.
Lies about the reason for war? Who’s to say, really? There are so many filters, so many spins. They had found the Truth, and though the Book was difficult to read, they had the guidance of a trained and trusted Pastor, and even the President understood. His advisors, too, deliberately set aside their egos and sought the Lord’s guidance — and were not afraid to say so. Are Kelly and Keith fundamentalists? Part of the “American Taliban”, as Christians of their ilk have sometimes been called? As if there could ever be such a thing as an “American Taliban”! What a careless way to describe people.
The Spirit has always made human beings vulnerable. Asked how one shall enter the Kingdom of God, Jesus answered that one had to become as a little child. Zen Buddhists seek the “Beginner’s Mind”, and the Taoist sage is enjoined to “unlearn his learning”. Practitioners of various African religious traditions enter uncontrollable ecstatic trances, during which they absolutely trust their brethren to “pray them through”.
No doubt, it is this vulnerability, along with the ancient tendency for leaders to utilize it for their own worldly gain, that led all religion to be dismissed as “the opiate of the masses”, a hindrance that must be cleansed from the working people as a prelude to revolution. Well good luck with that. In the meantime, though, for Kelly and Keith and millions like them, faith provides more nourishment than intoxication.
Karl Rove, unfortunately, utilized this phenomenon in — well, let’s be a uniter-not-a-divider and just say, in a way that I find disappointing. Those who aspire to a less devolutionary political culture would do well to consider what “faith-based communities” mean by the term “fellowship”. That will certainly mean agreeing to disagree on a few issues, but hey, folks, that’s what democracy is all about — and what is the alternative?
I don’t mean to suggest that this will be an easy dialogue to begin, or to carry out. But we had better. And, common ground does exist. Kelly and Keith, for example, as parents of public-school kids, joined me in the successful effort of trouncing Maine’s property tax cap initiative. While we’re at it, let’s look at that Ohio tally again: after all, there were over a million anti-gay-marriage voters who did not vote for Bush! The more we look for things we can agree about, the more we find them — which makes it all the more distressing that so many erstwhile “progressives” seem disinclined to look.
Lindy Davies is the Program Director of the Henry George Institute.
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