POSTCARDS FROM A NEW 'CONFEDERACY'
The deeper meanings gleaned from the results of Election 2004
Thursday, November 4, 2004
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Just one look at the Electoral Map of the United States of America is most revealing: all the so-called "blue" States to the sides (along the Pacific Coast- plus Hawaii- and along the upper Eastern Seaboard and following along the Great Lakes into the Upper Midwest), a giant sea of "red" States predominant in the vast center of the country. Other than New Hampshire (shifting "red" to "blue") and New Mexico (shifting from "blue" to "red")- Iowa is still uncalled as of this typing- this map is exactly the same as that of 2000, the Electoral Vote numbers adjusting slightly due to the Reapportionment kicking in after the 2000 Census, effective with the Midterm Congressional Elections of 2002.
John Kerry lost this election because he simply was not able to do what he had to do in order to win. As I wrote, only a few days ago, in my ELECTION PREVIEW:
<< In a nutshell, Senator Kerry needs three things to take place in order to win this Presidential Election:
1. Kerry has to, as much as is practicable, win all the States Al Gore won in 2000... 2. Wherever Kerry might lose a 2000 Gore State listed above, he has to then win a comparable State Bush himself had won back in 2000... 3. Even if he can pull off either 1. or 2., John Kerry will, in my opinion, still also need what I call a "Surprise State"... a "Surprise State" being one re: which we all slap one of our hands upside our heads in 'I coulda had a V-8' fashion and say, almost in unison, "How in the world did Kerry win that one?!"... Absent the above, President Bush will be re-elected.>>
I had, in that same piece, noted that
<<I still think that, when the returns actually come in beginning tomorrow night, whoever is elected President will end up with a significant margin in the Electoral College (at least the high-280s into 290s range, perhaps even the low 300s!): while I don't foresee an Electoral Vote landslide, I think that- despite the polling so far- there will be an overall trend, as Americans actually go to the polls and vote, more to one side or the other ("staying the course" or "throwing the 'bum' out") that will play itself out and push either President Bush or Senator Kerry well past the "finish line" of 270 Electoral Votes needed to be elected. Thus, I don't really see a replay of what occurred four years ago-- indeed, it is far more likely we will actually know who will be leading the 55th Presidential Administration which will officially take office at Noon come Thursday 20 January 2005 by no later than sometime Wednesday 3 November>>
Well, guess what, folks? Senator Kerry did not do 1. (that is, he did not win all of the States Al Gore had won [losing at least New Mexico if not also, eventually, Iowa]), though he pulled off 2. (by winning New Hampshire which- though putting him down 1 net Electoral Vote- is still comparable to the New Mexico he lost)-- the biggest omission, however, was not at all coming through re: 3. (that is, there were not a single one of what I defined as a "Surprise State" for Kerry). As a result, President Bush will- assuming Iowa does go his way- end up (albeit just barely) in the high-280s range in the Electoral College I originally thought the winner would ultimately gain in any event.
But I am not writing this piece to toot my own political punditry horn and I acknowledge that all I have written so far merely addresses the electoral "mechanics" of President Bush's second-term victory; it does not at all discuss why it happened: why did Kerry lose? why is the Electoral Vote map of 2004 so much like that of 2000? what does all this now portend? The rest of this piece is an attempt to answer these questions as well as prognosticate a bit on the prospects for a George W. Bush second term in the White House.
I have used the term 'Confederacy' in the title of this piece for ironic purpose, yes, but also in order to make a salient point. I first thought of this term when, in the aftermath of this year's Presidential Election, I reflected on how 11 States in the Northeast United States had turned out to be Kerry States and then realized, not only were 10 of these 11 Gore States four years earlier, but that 11 happened also to be the number of States constituent within the short-lived 'Confederate States of America' during the American Civil War! The once-Democratic "Solid South" may well still be solid, albeit solidly Republican now, but surely there is now evidence of a "Solid Northeast" as solidly Democratic as the "Solid South" for a century after the Civil War (it is most intriguing to note that the last full expression of the Democratic "Solid South" was the election of Jimmy Carter as President in 1976, exactly one hundred years after the disputed 1876 Election most historians generally regard as the death knell of Radical Reconstruction).
Different region, same potential political isolation!!
I happen to live in one of these States of that new 'Confederacy'- New Jersey- and now look out across the vast ocean of "red" States in America's Heartland from this mere sea of "blue" and now try to discern just what happened in this most recent Presidential Election and what it might well portend for President George W. Bush's second term. I know this section of the country best: I was born here (as was, interestingly, President George W. Bush, in the very same New Haven, Connecticut place I was nearly ten years after he, as I've noted at least once before on this website [indeed, in a quotation of mine that will again appear later in this very piece!]), I grew up here (in three of its eleven States- one of which is the one I live in now), I went to college in Boston (the capital of a fourth State of the region), my two brothers and my nieces and nephew live in New Hampshire (a fifth Northeast State-- indeed, my nieces and nephews were all born in the Granite State).
The Northeast, in the end, gave Kerry- one of its favorite sons, mind you!- his strongest support in this Election, support as strong as, if not stronger than, California's: Oregon and Washington both turned out to be rather close, while Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were difficult to call for most of the evening before finally falling into the Kerry column. It is interesting to reflect that another favorite son of the Northeast who sought the Democratic presidential nomination this past year, Vermont's Howard Dean, was the one who noted that the Democrats needed to once again be the Party of those who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flags attached: but note that it is we, in the Northeast, who are now the 'Confederates', the new 'Johnny Reb's whilst the descendants of the original 'Johnny Reb' have, in the main, become much more the quintessential 'Billy Yank'- "the Union and Solidarity forever"- no matter that the Confederate battle flag- or, for that matter, the Stars and Bars- remain the peculiar cultural icon and historical property of that particular part of the Nation.
Thus, there can be no question but that America is a badly divided land: in truth, no less divided than it was four years ago. No soft-pedaling here! To quote the advertising slogan of the Boston Herald a few years back: "You want sugar-coating? Buy a donut!" The only important differences between then and now, differences which- in the end- kept this Presidential Election from potentially degenerating into that which we had four years back, are essentially two: first, George W. Bush is, in 2004, the incumbent President and not, as he was back in 2000, a Texas Governor challenging the Vice President of the opposing Party's incumbent Administration; second, Senator John Kerry- while rightly wanting to make sure his supporters' votes were fully and fairly counted in a deciding State like Ohio (in order to, hopefully, mitigate at least some of the ill feeling Democrats had as a result of the whole Bush v. Gore debacle)- truly wished to, if at all possible, most fully avoid that which had taken place during that whole mess we all still look back on as 'Florida 2000'.
The combination of the prestige of high Office (a benefit President Bush had not had four years before) bolstered by a clear majority of the Popular Vote (a winning margin at least 8 times that Al Gore had had) and a challenger most willing to balance the fears and concerns of his supporters as to the legitimacy of the result with a concomitant concern that we not go through yet another protracted legal battle in the courts over who had "really" been elected kept this from becoming yet another ugly "mud wrestle" over the Presidency (something that might be even dicier in the wake of 9/11 and, as Kerry himself pointed out in his Concession, American forces being in harm's way both in Iraq and in the broader War Against International Terrorism).
In this regard, despite detractors such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, John Kerry demonstrated the highest form of Patriotism- one certainly as high as his military service more than three decades ago: he allowed the People's decision on who they ultimately chose as President of the United States to stand with as little rancor as a defeat can produce among the partisans of the defeated. Kerry will, likely, never ever get to swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" but, as a United States Senator, he did take an oath to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic" and he (whatever one might think of what he once did as an opponent of the Vietnam Conflict) did just that. Only a person of most unfair mind can opine otherwise.
For there is nothing at all wrong with the loser not conceding to the victor until late morning into early afternoon of the day after the Election. I still well remember how, back in November 1968, I walked to school after breakfast Wednesday morning after that most divisive Presidential Election, not then knowing who the new President-elect would be: Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon. It was during 3d period 7th Grade Art class (thus, around a quarter to 11 in the morning) that the school's principal announced- over the Junior School PA system- that Nixon was, indeed, the one!
Like Nixon (who would assert that same day that "winning is a lot more fun"), President Bush now has a victory which- unlike his first one back in 2000- he could actually begin to savor not all that long after the votes have actually been cast. This should well mitigate a second bout of Republican anger over not being allowed to so visibly spike the ball in the endzone immediately after scoring the winning touchdown. Yet I have caught wind of the grumblings of the most unfair minded as at least some in the Bush camp (once a number of the over-the-air and cable TV networks had already called Ohio for the President, pushing his cumulative Electoral Vote to the tie-clinching 269) chided and, indeed, scored Kerry for not immediately conceding the election upon such network calls. I myself don't blame the Massachusetts Senator at all for dotting all the i's and crossing at least a few of the t's before making the inevitable concessionary phone call to the President: if nothing else, it legitimized the result in a manner 'Florida 2000' never could.
Our re-elected President, however, now faces a rather formidable task: no, not that of binding together a divided country (which would be formidable enough) but dealing with conflicting political winds within his own Party. Ever since the end of Ronald Reagan's Presidency, the Grand Old Party has had a rather serious divide of its own- one that Party has, so far, largely managed to paper over (thanks largely to its so-called 'Eleventh Commandment': "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican" [though a contentious Primary/Caucus battle, even a relatively short one of no more than a month or so- Bush '41' vs. Dole in '88, Pat Buchanan vs. Bush '41' in '92, Buchanan vs. Dole in '96, Bush '43' vs. McCain in 2000- can strain observances of this mantra).
President Reagan managed to unite the Supply-Siders who were concerned principally with economic conservatism and fiscal discipline with the Evangelicals concerned more with the infusion into everyday life- both in the private, as well as public, sector- of Morality (what President Bush himself refers to as a "culture of responsibility") without allowing either the Right or the Right-of-Center within the Grand Old Party to become alienated from the Administration or even going at each other's throats (thus, both a George Herbert Walker Bush and a Pat Buchanan, though Primary opponents in 1992, could both praise- as well as claim- the Reagan legacy, despite their differing interpretations of what a Republican President should be). Reagan had a knack of being very religious (as his son Michael pointed out at his father's burial service) while, at the same time, not necessarily wearing his religion on his sleeve (as his son Ron pointed out at that same sad gathering): in other words, Ronald Wilson Reagan could be evangelical in belief while, at the same time, not having at all to be an Evangelical (as that term is understood in the current highly charged American political/sociocultural atmosphere). Perhaps, in a sense, Reagan- a product of the Hollywood star system and its concomitant lifestyle (a different Ronald Reagan might well have become one of the so-called "Rat Pack" had he been a little younger and had less faith)- could never ever really be: if so, it was all to the good as far as the Nation under his two terms of governance was concerned!
President George W. Bush's situation, on the other hand, is that he is an Evangelical, albeit an Evangelical of no little moderation (in many ways, despite his religious leanings, he is- nevertheless- his father's son). Evangelicals flocked to Reagan's support because Reagan openly supported their agenda; they equally- if not moreso- flock to George W. Bush's side, however, because the President is one of them! Meanwhile, the more secularist (however, nonetheless, religious or no) tend to- precisely because of President Bush's religiosity- be at least a bit wary of the President's overall agenda precisely because he is not one with those of the new Gore-Kerry 'Confederacy' in evidence on the two most recent Electoral Vote maps!!
This causes the President no little difficulty- with Nation as much as Party- as he now enters his second term in Office. I touched on aspects of this very dilemma in my wrap-up of the 2004 Republican National Convention (interestingly entitled 'JUST WHOSE AMERICA IS THIS, ANYWAY?'), where I wrote the following:
<< One reading my synopses of the activities which took place on the floor of the Republican Convention this past week no doubt saw my parenthetical comment to the effect that Senator Elizabeth Dole, in the course of her remarks, forgot "that a sitting United States Senator denying a fellow American the Right to be free from Religion is, in and of itself, merely another form of the very discrimination and intervention she herself has just decried" when she repeated an oft-heard conservative "mantra" that, to quote Mrs. Dole directly, The Constitution guarantees Freedom of Religion, not freedom from Religion...
For the concept that "Freedom from Religion" is at all part and parcel of the First Amendment's guaranteeing Freedom of Religion is fraught with political difficulty in a free Society such as ours. Now, I myself every day willingly- and without reservation (or, for that matter, consternation)- use legal tender, in both currency and coin, embossed with the words IN GOD WE TRUST; in addition, back when I was still resident in New York City- a city that is often viewed, by outsiders, as one of the more politically liberal cities in our Nation (though, as one who had lived therein for a significant length of time, my own feeling is that this outsider's view is largely mistaken: one familiar with the City is, often as not, left to beg the question "liberal, compared to what?")- I twice served as a juror hearing testimony in courtrooms in that very city with those same four words on their walls and don't recall ever having had a problem doing so. Yes, it's true that I do rather strongly oppose the inclusion of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance (this already being public knowledge, since I've addressed this very issue in a Commentary on this very website dated 5 July 2002): I fully recognize and accept (if only for the time being [;-)]) that I am in the minority among my fellow countrymen on this particular issue (though anyone who might make even the quickest perusal of what I have written in my Commentaries, as well as in my responses to 'vox Populi', on this website should thereby learn that I don't ever take any polls before posting my own opinions herein)...
I have at least a few reasons for having taken this position re: the Pledge of Allegiance, but my principal (as well as- or so *I* would argue- principled) objection to the "under God" clause- which, but some two years before I myself first emerged from the womb in the very same maternity ward in which President George W. Bush himself had been born nearly a decade before, Congress had added to the phrase in the Pledge which originally read as one pledging allegiance "to the Republic, for which [the American flag] stands: one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all"- is that, so it has been my own observation and experience throughout my lifetime, "one Nation under God" has seemingly become more and more important- through all this time- than the equally, if not even more, important concepts of "one Nation, indivisible" and "Liberty and Justice for all" which follow it and, indeed, which were the very essence of that Pledge in its original form, not to say also the very essence of the Constitution of the United States and the political philosophy of the Declaration of Independence which, like its own Preamble, colors that very Constitution. There are many in America who, frankly, don't seem to much mind traditionalist belief in a Judeo-Christian God potentially dividing our Nation, so long as it is the atheist and the agnostic who is kept on the other side of the "barbed wire fence of Politics" that might thereby so divide us: some of these among my fellow countrymen- though, or so I hope, a tiny minority- also would willingly keep the Muslim (especially in these post-9/11 times), the Hindu, the Buddhist and even the non-orthodox (as defined by those so feeling) Christian and Jew likewise on the other side of that same "political fence". This is wholly unacceptable in America.
To quote from my own 5 July 2002 piece on this website: "back in the mid-1780s, [Thomas] Jefferson had encouraged [James] Madison to put together a Memorial and Remonstrance against the law [requiring Virginia's state support for established churches]. Madison had well argued therein that true religion did not need the support of secular law (simply put, if people willingly believe something, they don't need government to tell them to believe it: implying that, if government has to pass laws to support religion, it is likely that it is precisely because people are not so willing to so believe!), that a free society required that men's minds be free and that, to force either believer or non-believer to support a religious institution, was wrong." Thus- throughout all the years of the half century since Congress formally added the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance- the lover and supporter of Liberty, of Freedom and Justice, has been left to wonder just exactly why the addition of these words by the national legislature were even necessary in the first place and whether there was, in fact, intended a rather coercive effect against those who might, indeed, most freely wish to have that "Freedom from Religion" Senator Dole herself decried at this past week's Convention.>>
Indeed, we already have- little more than a day after Senator Kerry conceded and President Bush claimed his second term victory- spokesmen for the President's sociocultural conservative base- one energized by the President's victory, as well as other political developments I will discuss beginning with the following paragraph- talking, on the one hand, about how "the Kerry people have to meet us halfway" in any effort to heal the divisions so apparent in the United States today and, on the other hand, next opining that their "halfway" is expected to be quite a bit further along than that! "Half a loaf" may, indeed, be that proverbial "better than none" but there are far too many- on both sides, to be sure- for whom "half a loaf" is simply not going to be at all accepted.
Take the recent State Referenda specifically prohibiting Gay Marriage (by defining Marriage specifically as solely between a man and a woman): all 11 on the ballot in their respective States at the same time we were all voting for President this past week passed. That's all well and good- the voters of those States have spoken- but read some of these Ballot Initiatives more fully: Ohio's also prohibits Civil Unions, Kentucky's prohibits the benefits of marriage to unmarried couples (of whatever sexual orientation), Oklahoma's similarly prohibits the benefits of marriage to other types of unions. The President himself says that, while he strongly believes Marriage should only be between a man and a woman, he is- nevertheless- in favor of at least some of what has come to be called "Civil Union": this, on its face, sounds like a reasonable compromise on this rather divisive issue- a conservative position that at least strives to be most compassionate.
But the President's even more conservative supporters have no such intentions to so compromise! The language of at least some of the very Referenda for which they have just voted can easily be construed to deny same-sex couples, for example, the right to make medical decisions for their partners- even where the partner so desires this be done; inheritance of property shared by a gay or lesbian couple who have formed a single household is, under this wording, made inherently and unnecessarily difficult (at least unmarried heterosexual couples living together can always avail themselves of the protections afforded through Marriage). Therefore, the reasonable person in favor of Gay Marriage- or even Civil Unions short of same- is left with no choice but to not take the President's position all that seriously, while the more extreme proponents of Gay Marriage cannot be faulted for seeing Civil Unions as the moral equivalent of a water fountain with the word "Colored" printed on the side.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States includes the famous "Equal Protection Clause", which reads No State... shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the Equal Protection of the laws. Clearly the additional language of at least some of the Referenda adopted this past week- beyond the definition of Marriage alone- is dubious enough constitutionally (as it is clearly denying to at least some within the given State's jurisdiction such Equal Protection) to engender serious legal challenge in the courts. Enter the proposed Federal Constitutional Amendment defining Marriage (which President Bush supports and to which at least some would like to append similar language to that adopted in some of the States where the Referenda passed, verbiage that would clearly take the Equal Protection Clause out of the mix [since an Amendment to the Constitution overrides any previous interpretations of older portions of the text]); begins the ensuing bitter Debate; gone is yet another opportunity to overcome the division so evident in the most recent Election Statistics! No, I'm afraid that- for all the soothing words of a conceding Senator Kerry and a President Bush subdued in victory the day after the Election- serious divisions remain, and shall continue, for the foreseeable future.
This rift (seen also in other long-controversial domestic sociocultural issues here in America, most notably Abortion: keep in mind that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade [410 U.S. 113 (1973)] was intended by the author of the Court opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun [an opinion which raised this otherwise quite "conservative" jurist into that rather strange pantheon of 1970s liberals' heroes- along with the likes of then-Senator Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities which, at the same time, was blowing the veil off of what came to be called "the Watergate Affair", but who had been an abject opponent of Federal Civil Rights legislation throughout much of his Senate career], to be in the nature of a compromise- some (late-term) abortions would remain prohibited, others (early in a woman's pregnancy) would be permitted: a "half a loaf" that the pro-Life movement has found completely unacceptable-- it should be fairly noted that, in a rather interesting "role reversal", those favoring Gay Marriage, therefore, now find themselves more or less the equivalent of pro-Lifers re: Abortion!) is especially dicey when applied to the World scene- particularly in relation to the Middle East: the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the war in Iraq and its aftermath, the broader War Against International Terrorism, etc. Hence, the internal sociocultural rift remaining within America radiates externally.
Osama bin Laden (although I don't really believe we in the West were the primary audience for his latest tape) has been baiting the United States since even before 9/11 (his assertions in his latest videotaped "communique" being but even more such baiting). Al-Qa'eda's Jihad (which, as I've said [most recently in my Commentary entitled 'A VEILED THREAT OR JUST A "FIRESIDE CHAT"?', intends the eventual "restoration" of the pan-Arab Caliphate over at least the Muslim World) depends on the West's- in particular, of course, America's- response to Islamist Terrorism being in the form of a "Crusade", a Civilizational Conflict in which, once again, the predominantly Christian (now lately described as Judeo-Christian) Western World would be engaged in a mortal struggle with that same Muslim World: the danger is that the United States would, given President Bush's re-election, only be too happy to oblige: in order to understand why this is, indeed, a danger, one needs to understand just how 9/11 played in "red" State Middle America.
One of the major reasons cited for President Bush's victory over Senator Kerry is that of moral values (we have already touched on this at least a bit earlier in this piece where I talked about the Gay Marriage issue as just one of the divisions in America). It is not so much that John Kerry was seen as much too secular within the Middle America where the States, for the second time, went "red"-- it is that, the first time they went "red" four years ago, the incumbent Clinton Administration was still adversely affected in these areas by the stench of the Monica Lewinsky Affair, the Impeachment Crisis of 1998-99 and all that flowed therefrom: the Al Gore who, as Vice President, was part of that Administration was unable to get out from under all this in most- if not all- of those "red" States.
If nothing else, 9/11 virtually guaranteed that these "red" Bush States of 2000 would become even "red"der come Election 2004. It is singularly ironic that the very areas directly attacked back on 11 September 2001 voted for John Kerry (and, thus, established themselves as that new 'Confederacy' of which the title of this very piece speaks) but that it would be "Bush Country"- relatively far away (in culture as well as physical distance) from the dual "Ground Zero"s in New York City and just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.- which would be most spiritually affected by 9/11. 9/11 became, in Middle America, exactly what President Bush had said it was- a direct attack on "our way of life"... but, whereas a resident of the new 'Confederacy' in the Northeast might take "way of life" to mean that very "Liberty and Justice for All" with which the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God" or no [;-)]) ends, to many in Middle America- the Nation's Heartland (including the South), "way of life" means three things as old as that which the Puritans brought from "merrie olde England" to that original "shining City on a Hill" on Massachusetts' Shawmut Peninsula nearly four centuries ago: the Holy Bible, the Common Law and one's own firearm of choice.
To Middle America- unlike in the new Northeast 'Confederacy'- 9/11 is not at all about geopolitical conflict and struggles over the more arcane elements of International Law, 9/11 is far more about the eternal battle between Good and Evil. President Bush's references to Al-Qa'eda and their one-time protectors in Afghanistan, the Taliban, as "the Evil-doers" resonated strongly in the Heartland in a way a John Kerry wrapping himself in the Charter of the United Nations about as much as he wrapped himself in the American flag could not ever hope to. Middle America cares little about the niceties of how one should go about garnering approval for a Security Council Resolution and support for said Resolution's enforcement or the vagaries of Diplomacy; Middle America is about Response to Attack via Terror in the Name of Good, where not also the Name of God. In the new Northeast 'Confederacy' (with the exception of New Hampshire- the "weakest link" of this new 'Confederacy' [it did vote for Bush in '00, Kerry just barely won it this time round]), there is far more concern with the reaction in Europe to American military action (which is understandable, as the aging port cities become financial centers in the Northeast are far more trans-Atlantic-oriented); the Heartland cares little about all this: "Let 'em eat 'Freedom Fries'", it says to its sister States in the Northeast, "let's all jes' go git the terrorists!" And, when President Bush says Saddam Hussein was as much an instigator of the problems engendered by International Terrorism as Al-Qa'eda itself, Middle America has little trouble so believing a President they perceive as a man of Goodwill as much as a man of God (an image Bush does not exactly have among much of the Northeast population, a population which- even though more physically affected by the ravages of 9/11- does not much trust the President's analysis of Iraq pre-Invasion or his current claims for Iraq post-Invasion).
The problem with all this is that the geopolitical situation in the Middle East is as complicated as the region's History and the keys to successfully dealing with what has gone on- and continues to go on- therein are not going to be discerned through Biblical Exegesis (nor, of course, are they, despite the claims of Al-Qa'eda and like-minded groups, going to be found via Koranic exegesis either!) and nothing substantial is going to occur without a full-press global effort- not just the President's "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq (which Hungary has now announced it is abandoning) but a "Coalition of All the Threatened" everywhere. But this then means the vagaries of Diplomacy well coming into play in order to better gather the support of our more recalcitrant Allies, Allies which "red" State Middle America sees as not at all deserving of such "reward" after they so thwarted our attempts to get U.N. support for our invading Iraq:
for the Nation's Heartland sees that France and Germany, in particular, chose to stand on the sidelines while Americans shed blood toppling Evil in the form of Saddam Hussein (an action which seemingly forced Libya's hand, causing Muhammar al-Qaddafi to willingly give up his nuclear weapons program)- on behalf of the safety of these recalcitrants, let alone the betterment of ordinary Iraqis and the Middle East in general. The Northeast 'Confederacy', rubbing shoulders with the United Nations Headquarters, is at least somewhat more forgiving-- not so Middle America... thus, in this context, President Bush's denying post-Invasion contracts to countries not so willing to join the "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq makes perfect sense-- at least to those in the "red" States of Middle America.
But here we have to bring back the split in the President's own Party between Right-of-Center and Right. Take the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: President Bush clearly wants to resolve it, if he can (an ultimately democratic Palestinian Arab state would be a feather in his cap at least the equal of the democratic Iraq he yet hopes to build)-- but, here again, the more conservative Evangelicals who helped him get re-elected are so heavily pro-Israel (if only because at least some of them see the Jewish State as the "new Israel" of the Book of Revelation/Apocalypse of John: they enthusiastically support Israel because its struggle and survival will, so they hope, soon bring about the "final dispensation" [in my Commentary written the day before the 2000 Election- entitled 'WHAT IT ALL COMES DOWN TO'- I defined this, in an admittedly completely different context, as postmillenial dispensationalism (in which the World has so improved that God will bring an end to History, and the millennium- 1000 years of peace and prosperity for Mankind- will then ensue, culminating in the "final dispensation"- Christ's eternal reign on Earth) and premillennial dispensationalism (in which- with a "world gone mad"- Christ's Second Coming is imminent, at which time he will personally institute the millennium and, with it, the "final dispensation") [hey, we talk about all kinds of stuff on this website! ;-)])]) that there is ever the temptation for the Right to press the Bush Administration to itself push events so as to bring about that Civilizational Conflict between the Judeo-Christian West and the Muslim World that Al-Qa'eda, interestingly, is also seeking and, like Al-Qa'eda (though, obviously, from the other side), directly link the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to it as well as the broader War Against International Terrorism.
Osama bin Laden, in his latest videotape, claims to be on the Palestinian side and this, obviously, so well dovetails with the views of at least some Evangelicals that the Palestinian cause is, in fact, so inseparable from the overall cause of Al-Qa'eda that, therefore, strong support of Israel- in addition to perhaps bringing about that "final disposition" the Evangelical in question most sincerely seeks- is also seen as just another form of further supporting the War Against International Terrorism (though, as I point out in my 30 October 2004 Commentary <<but, in the end, Al-Qa'eda cares not one whit about Palestinian nationalism (though they will certainly use its extremist form to foster its own goals), for Al-Qa'eda itself only recognizes a pan-Arab Sunni nationalism that is hoped will, one day, create a theocracy over all the Muslim world (just ask those who lived under the Taliban-- Afghans all, protecting Al-Qa'eda and willingly doing Al-Qa'eda's bidding- but it was the Arabs leading Al-Qa'eda calling all the shots-- if you want to see a "preview" of what living in this "restored caliphate" will be like): to Al-Qa'eda, an "Iraq", a "Sa'udi Arabia", an "Oman", a "Kuwait"- yes, even an "Iran" or an "Afghanistan"- or, for that matter, a "Palestine" (even one including all that is now Israel) are, every one of them, artificial constructs- a post-World War I Western imposition on the map of Islam. No, Al-Qa'eda's hatred of Israel is not engendered by concomitant unwavering support for the Palestinian cause but, rather, by the fact that an avowedly Jewish nation-state would be anathema in the midst of the lands a restored Arab caliphate would, by definition, have to claim. That this nation-state, further, proclaims the concept of Republican Democracy as its theory of governance (a theory of governance not at all conducive to the one of rule through Law based on extreme Koranic exegesis that is Al-Qa'eda's own theory of governance) only adds to this hatred>>) . Thus, again, is President Bush (as in the case of controversial domestic sociocultural issues, such as those I discussed earlier in this piece) likely to be pulled in two rather contradictory directions (a contradiction which will not at all help the President heal the divisions in this country or "make nice" with those who did not vote for him in this election, if not in both of these most recent presidential elections).
But the Democrats themselves now have their own cross of division to bear: for the defeat of John Kerry- when combined with the Republicans having gained 4 seats in the Senate (bringing them back up to post-1998 levels in that body) and gaining enough seats in the House to have them at just ahead of where they were after the GOP's big victory in the Congressional Elections a decade ago- is a devastating blow for the Party. Now the Democrats find themselves at a crossroads: after two terms in the White House in the aftermath of the Reagan Revolution, they failed to elect Bill Clinton's Vice President and take control of the House of Representatives when they were still within striking distance of doing both back in 2000, they then failed to take control of the Senate when that was still doable in 2002 and now- in the third two-year Federal election cycle in a row- this!
Like President Bush's Republicans, the Democrats have two possible paths: they can try to cease being the regional Party they have largely become over the last four years and attempt to break out of the new Northeast 'Confederacy' (and its "allies" on the rim of the Pacific and in the Upper Midwest [an Upper Midwest, by the way, that seems less and less Democrat-friendly]) in some form or fashion... the problem with this strategy is that a.) the only Democrats who have been able- since the halcyon, headier days of Liberalism in the 1960s into the early 1970s- to connect with "red" State Middle America have been two residents of the South that is now so solidly "Bush Country": Jimmy Carter (eventually rejected by Middle America in the Reagan landslides [the second burying Carter's Vice President, Walter Mondale]) and Bill Clinton (who, besides wearing the "scarlet letter" given him by Monica Lewinsky and Impeachment, has joined the new Northeast 'Confederacy' by virtue of being married to the junior Senator from New York- the very fulcrum of the new 'Confederacy'!) b.) if the Democrats try too hard to be more like the Republicans (by more fully embracing the Puritans' Holy Bible, Common Law and guns ["whom amongst us doesn't like NASCAR!" ;-)]), they 1. simply degenerate into a "me, too!" Party (a reverse of the position 1940s GOP presidential candidates Wendell Willkie and Thomas Dewey were in against Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman) and, further, 2. risk alienating the liberal wing of the Party that produced the Nader voter of 2000 and the "Deaniac" of 2004 that will never accept that a "shining City on the Hill" is solely a conservative Republican possession.
The other option is to just continue to be Democrats: to stop letting the Republicans define Liberal as just another dirty word that, perhaps, should not at all be uttered in front of the children by being so embarrassed to use it themselves ("No, no, we're Progressives!" [;-)]) and, instead, simply allow that being a Democrat- yes, a liberal Democrat- means being in favor of certain things, however unpalatable to the general electorate of late, in which Democrats have always believed.
The problem for the Democratic Party is that neither option is the shortest path to National Electoral Victory in the foreseeable future. Thus, all the Democrats can do right now is to stop all the Bush-bashing (the political equivalent of too much "scoreboard watching" on the part of a Baseball team in a pennant race) and take care of their own business (let the fans keep an eye on the "out-of-town scoreboard", the players should keep their eye on the ball!)
Will they? Hard to say, for there are obviously still quite a few angry Democrats out there (despite Senator Kerry's own conciliatory manner of conceding this Election). In the wee hours of Wednesday 3 November, 'The Green Papers' was actually one of the first organizations to report that George W. Bush had been re-elected (we had already called Ohio, not all that long after several other news organizations had also called the State for Bush- this brought the President up to the tie-clinching 269 Electoral Votes and then, using the same methodology with which we have called Elections all along, it was obvious to us that Nevada was for Bush, so we called it- giving Bush 274 and allowing him to retain the Presidency- this at a time when every TV network that had called Ohio for Bush [and there were some that hadn't yet] was still sitting on '269').
By the time we were prepared to do this, the first reports were already out about how the Kerry/Edwards campaign was not yet ready to concede Ohio to Bush/Cheney, despite all the media calls of that State for Bush, so we posted a cautious headline (because, although we had good reason to call Ohio for Bush, it appeared there might yet be a fight over it a-la 'Florida2000') in the "Red Zone" (the area atop the home page of 'The Green Papers' where we post Breaking News and recent links to other pages on the site)- something to the effect of "President Bush appears to have been re-elected to a second term; incumbent has 274 Electoral Votes, including Ohio; Kerry/Edwards not yet ready to concede Buckeye State"-- note that we did not, at that time, post the headline "PRESIDENT BUSH RE-ELECTED" which was later seen on our home page the following morning once we learned that Kerry had called the President with his concessionary phone call.
Within a minute of our having posted that rather cautious news of President Bush's apparent re-election, I received at least a dozen angry- in some cases, downright vindictive- messages in my e-mail Inbox: e-mails claiming that 'The Green Papers' was "obviously" an adjunct of the Bush campaign, messages attacking me personally, and the like- all because we dared to call the election for President Bush! What does this tell you?
Since then, I have received more than a few e-mails claiming all sorts of voter fraud to the benefit of the Republicans- not just in Ohio but elsewhere, though primarily in the Buckeye State (for instance, stories of electronic voting devices placed in heavily Democratic precincts purposely programmed to count "negative votes" [I presume this would mean that the machine would have been set up to subtract one vote, instead of adding one vote, every time a voter voted for a Democrat on the ballot]). I have no way of verifying the truth of these stories, of course-- I have to assume that, given John Kerry's and his running mate John Edwards' claim that they would have pursued such matters had there been a chance of winning in Ohio instead of conceding the election, these are either isolated incidents or not at all what they are claimed to be: if this last statement is wrong, then those who are angry should be angry at their own Party's presidential candidates no less than angry at those who allegedly would have perpetrated such things.
Having noted all this, I will here only say that- if the Democrats sink to yet a fourth round of abject Bush-bashing, of what I have called "confusing Action with Accomplishment"- then the Party is in even deeper "doo-doo" than even I right now suspect. It is in bad enough trouble as it is: for how can the self-proclaimed "Party of the People" be so where those very People seem to like tax cuts that put extra money in their wallets and bank accounts (even while they more swell the even larger bank accounts of corporate executives), like home-schooling their kids so they can read the Bible to them as a normal part of their school day, like owning a couple handguns and using them out on the firing range on weekends, like to think that the best way to support the troops is to also support the wars in which they fight and, more to the point, like President Bush enough to help re-elect him to a second term?
I will close this piece with one final thought: in my pre-Election 2000 Commentary written now nearly four years ago to the day as of this typing, I contrasted what I then saw as a key difference in vision between the two presidential candidates: then-still-Texas Governor George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore. I noted that <<there are two much larger- as well as very different- perspectives at issue here as we go further into this nascent 3rd Millennium Anno Domini: they are both in play in this Presidential Election and they are not merely American perspectives but Global ones!
One would preserve the concept of America (and the American interpretation of "the West") as continuing to be and act the "New Israel", the contemporary "Chosen People" promoting the virtues of Democracy and Market Economies of Scale to the World but not allowing the American "City on the Hill" to be tainted by that outside World which lacks the proper conditioning, the proper training, the proper Democratic and Market traditions- this one is essentially Governor Bush's ... the other sees the American/Western Civilization and its norms and values as not necessarily the superior ones, sees the West as inherently damaging to that outside World if not handled wisely and with great forbearance- this one is essentially Vice President Gore's... >>
Earlier in that same piece, I noted that <<Governor Bush talks of instituting a "responsibility era" based on certain core values; he talks also about how the American military should only be used when "national interests" are clearly at stake (keeping in mind that, with the United States being the center of a constellation of Western Nations [notably through NATO], "national interests" is clearly equivalent to "interests of the West" [at least as the United States would interpret these])... Vice President Gore, meanwhile, talks of well preserving the Earth for the benefit of all its inhabitants- regardless of Civilization or Culture- as a core belief of his own; he sees nothing wrong with using the military for purposes of peacekeeping or even "nation-building" even when the nation being built is not necessarily Western in Civilization>>
I concluded that <<[i]n the end, we are left with the words the Texas Governor often said in the course of the Debates: There's just a difference of opinion; however, does either major Party candidate- or, for that matter, the average American voter- see just how widely that "difference of opinion" might reach around this Earth?>>
As I now re-read these words of mine relating to a presidential election at the time not yet held- words written before the results of these last two elections could have been known, before the emergence of the Democratic new 'Confederacy' of the Northeast could possibly be discerned- I am struck by how, in the end, not all that much has changed. Yes, President Bush- both in the response to 9/11 (the attack on, and overthrow, of the Taliban in Afghanistan) as well as the invasion of Iraq, the deposing of Saddam Hussein and the aftermath of all this- has, however reluctantly or no, been dragged into using the American military for "nation-building"- yet the President's essential world-view has not at changed from what it was just before that last election before 9/11: to him and his most enthusiastic supporters, America- no less than Israel itself- is still the "New Israel", the United States is no less that "Chosen People" of whom I wrote four years ago. It is a world-view that disturbs, even frightens, those supporters of John Kerry whose world-view is not essentially different from that I attributed to Al Gore in the above quotations from my own words: ironically, in the context of Election 2004, a Democratic Party that- indeed- usually would see "nothing wrong with using the military for purposes of peacekeeping or even 'nation-building' even when the nation being built is not necessarily Western in Civilization" abandoned this world-view as regards Iraq and, in part as a result of that abandonment, lost the election!
I know I have written a lot here- that this one has gone on rather long- and that I have been all over the place in trying to delve into at least some of the ramifications of the re-election of President Bush in Election 2004. I ask for the reader's forgiveness, as well as his or her indulgence, as he or she has slogged gamely on through all this (or, for that matter, through anything else I might have written for this website so far). Then again, as I wrote in that same 6 November 2000 Commentary:
<<I have always been a "big picture" type of guy: someone who tries as best I can to take in the overview before delving into the specific.>>
In the end, I just can't do it any other way!