After having enough time to digest the results and acclimate myself to the fact the Bush actually won the darn thing, I thought I would provide a few other thoughts I had on both the election itself and what has transpired since then. I’ve divided them into easily digestible parts, both for your ease of reading and my ease of writing.
The Election Itself
Having sat through months and months of campaign coverage, I am, if anything, simply glad that it is over. The level of partisanship and sheer level of anger and acrimony between the two parties has created a landscape that is no longer able to see the points of the other side in any way. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or thought, “We must be reading (or seeing) two different things.”
I think part of this may be due to the level of discourse during the Clinton years and certainly the feeling of Democrats after the 2000 election. But I recall not liking Clinton from the first time I saw him running in 1992, and that never stopped me from listening to him while he was President. I certainly did not like everything he had to say, and most assuredly did not care for some of the actions he took while in office. But I always gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was my President. You don’t see much of that anymore. Democrats have come to disregard every single utterance from Bush’s mouth in the last four years. If he said A, they would say anti-A. They simply would not give him the benefit of the doubt.
Likewise, on the Republican side, there are far too many that feel that now that they have their man in office, they need not listen to opposing views. You hear “Democrats are just stupid” or “They just don’t get it.” That may be so, but that never justifies not explaining it. Look, I recognize how difficult it is to discuss something with someone who remains obtuse, but that does not excuse the blanket ignoring of their views, regardless of how silly they may seem (and I admit, some are very silly indeed.)
I would like to see, especially in this time of war, an electorate that recognizes the tough choices we face and one that is willing to discuss them in an adult manner, not falling prey to intellectual dishonesty and cheap shots. I was impressed that some of the material in the debates was of a substantive nature and I would hope that more people would recognize that rather than falling into the ever so easy frame of mind – tuning out. This is serious stuff, folks.
Response to this Election
With the above said, I am not sure that my hopes will win out. Already, I have been called a “redneck” just for voting for Bush. I could easily say that this person was a “communist” just for voting for Kerry. But would that be a fair judgment? Absolutely not. We live in a country that has different ideas in which to live by. Some are better informed ideas than others, but they are an individual’s personal feelings on matters that they think are important in their life. We live under a great system that allows for freedom of choice and it would be nice if these choices were respected, if not liked.
I am disheartened to hear that people feel they need to move to Canada now, or that Bush is not “their President.” Folks, he is the President of the United States and if you dislike that, then you need to either learn to accept it or move. There are certainly plenty of other countries that apparently share your disgust, see the Daily Mirror recently for proof of that. But like it or not, these are the rules under which this government and country have worked with for two centuries. Only once in that time have we allowed the results of a Presidential election to shatter our unity. I would hope that nothing like that occurs here.
And what is the reasoning behind disregarding Bush so easily? What is the fascination with likening him to Hitler or assuming he will bring armegeddon upon us? He is just a politician, folks. If he screws up, he can be voted out. In fact, he cannot even run for re-election. But enough people in this country did not feel that he screwed up enough to oust him. Let us take those results and move forward now.
One of the things that surprised me so much was the notion (shown by exit polls) that moral values was the issue that effected votes more than the economy or the war. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I heard about it all year, but it never seemed to be front and center in either Bush or Kerry’s speeches. There is a feeling that the marriage amendment questions on 11 ballots assisted Bush in winning. I suppose I can see that, but it was not something I expected.
Further, I am distressed that some feel that these value issues either suggest a morality mandate, as Bill Bennett has written, or that all of those voting for said amendments, and thus for Bush, are bigots and anti-gay (and scroll up and down to see more of Sullivan's thoughts on this.) I don’t read it that way on either account. I don’t buy into the culture wars, frankly. The wonderful thing about federalism is the ability to move somewhere within the country more to your liking. There is no reason to mandate what everyone should feel or think about an issue. Sure I would like to see more of a culture of life that Bush speaks about, but that does not mean we should criminalize abortion. Rather, we should work to talk up such a theory so that abortions become rare and looked down upon as an easy solution.
And to counter the bigot claim, I simply do not see it. Andrew Sullivan has been calling Bush anti-gay ever since he put his weight behind the Federal Marriage Amendment. Why must this be a direct a+b=c equation? Could it possibly be that Bush does not want to see the courts mandate marriage between homosexuals and thus backs a way to stop that from happening? Can it not be the courts that he is acting against rather than homosexuals? Each and every one of these amendment questions won with large margins (Oregon was the tightest of the 11.) That means that a large number of people in this country do not want to see homosexual marriage. What’s more, they do not want to see the courts in Massachusetts make the entire country accept such through the full faith and credit clause in the Constitution.
I did not back the amendment question in Georgia, not because I don’t care about homosexual marriage, but because I do not believe that the best way to stop it is to amend the Constitution of Georgia. As I have stated before, amendments are there to preserve and protect rights, not deny them. What we could better utilize is an amendment that protects our rights from activist judges making law rather than interpreting it. If that was suggested, I would vote for it in a heart beat. And it would have a far more reaching effect than a singular issue amendment like the FMA.
But enough of that. Let us also look at the war and its seeming endorsement by the 59 million that voted for Bush, even with the mistakes his administration has made. Even if it was not the primary reason that people voted for him, it certainly colored their opinion. As I suggested before the election, I was worried what effect his loss might have on our enemies. How would they take a Bush defeat? Well, we do not need to worry about that. But his victory sends a clear signal to them that we stand behind our President and his actions to thwart them. It cannot have given them any strength of will, to be sure.
And I think it is telling that all we saw of our enemies before the election was a videotape rather than an attack of some kind. And the tape itself seemed to call for a truce. This is a clear signal that we are winning. Osama is marginalized. The forces in Iraq that are fighting against us and the freedom loving Iraqis cannot feel emboldened by this. If they could have hit us here, they would have. They did not. This, I believe, proves that not only have Bush’s big picture actions been effective, but that the majority of the American people see this and approve.
And A Word On Kerry and the Democrats
I said this before, but I will say it again. Regardless of what I thought about him during the election, my estimation of Kerry went up considerably the day after. His timely concession speech and the tone of said speech were more in line with our history of peaceful elections. Had Gore done this four years ago, we may have been able to come together far more than we have.
Gore’s insistence on stringing out his defeat gave fuel to the fire of many of his supporters that have never extinguished that flame. It has caused am immense amount of hatred and disregard for a constitutionally elected leader and torn a huge hole in the fabric of our political discourse. I can only hope that Kerry’s actions and words assist in mending that hole and putting out at least part of that fire.
I hope that the Democrats might put more thought into why they lost rather than trying to find the next person to blame. This loss was not Bush’s fault. It was not the American peoples fault. It was not simply a bad candidate that lost it for them. It was the message that they sent. Their theories of redistribution of wealth, universal healthcare, hatred of the rich and anti religion are not what the majority of American people want to see or live with. They go against the very foundation of our country and its meaning. We are hard workers. We realize that by working hard, you earn more, both monetary and in sense of self. We respect our history, our families, and possibly even our God. And we do not like those values dismissed by elitist journalists, professors and the Hollywood crowd.
Perhaps that is what the whole “values” vote was about. They voted for the man that respected their way of life. Democrats talk all the time about regular working people. Well, these people feel many of the above things. Over time, they will stop voting for the person that puts them down as if they were ignorant, unnecessary rednecks, even if that person is promising to do something for them. In the future, if the Democrats wish to remain a dominant and competitive national party, they will have to learn how to bridge that seeming divide. And I hope they do because it is necessary to have disagreement and intellectual discourse on the future path of this country if we wish to remain strong and growth oriented.
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There is more to go over, but this post has turned into a long one. I will continue later with thoughts on the mandate issue, what Bush's agenda should be in the next four years, the media in this election and perhaps even a look ahead. I hope you find it interesting.
Update - You can read Part II here.
That is all.