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Commentary :: Politics
Bush's Hidden Majority
15 Nov 2004
Bush's Hidden Majority
Bush's Hidden Majority
by Alex Hogan

Yes, it actually happened. Despite presiding over the greatest job loss since Herbert Hoover, the full exposure of intimate contact with almost every sleazy corporate scandal of the last five years, and the continuing violent quagmire in Iraq, a war whose justification has been revealed as fully false, George W. Bush and his whole rogue gallery won another four years in the White House on Tuesday.

And the Democrats cannot blame the Supreme Court, Kathleen Harris, hanging chads or Ralph Nader this time. While their were many reports of electoral intimidation, with young Republican goons being bused into metro centers like Detroit and Cleveland to try to obstruct African-American voters, not to mention some funny business with those electronic vote machines, it is pretty much clear at this point that Bush won the majority of the popular vote in the U.S. Not a landslide to be sure, with Democratic nominee John Kerry pulling off 48% percent of the vote and taking almost every state Al Gore did in 2000 with the close exceptions of Iowa and New Mexico which went for Bush, and New Hampshire, which swung into the Democratic column. But as much as you can win an election in the U.S “fair and square”, Bush managed to pull it off. By about 3.6 million votes actually.

Not only did Bush pull off a second term but a gang of some of the most reactionary troglodytes ever to enter electoral politics—including new Okalahoma Senator Tom Coburn who said during his campaign that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom,” and new South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint who argued that single mothers should be not allowed to teach—managed to win seats in the House and the Senate, giving the Republican Party tight control of both Houses and establishing the party as the firm majority in Washington with the Democrats smaller and weaker than ever before.

What Went Wrong?

It’s not like the Democratic Party did not try. While Kerry was not a particularly exciting candidate, invoking more Michael Dukakis than Bill Clinton, there was an enormous amount of grassroots organizing unseen in the Democratic Party for decades. There was the broad level of anger at the most right wing administration in history combined with the energy from the Howard Dean campaign which mobilized thousands of new activists, the internet based groups like Move On and others “blogs” and “527”s like the union backed America Coming Together which ran one of the most intensive voter registration drives in recent history. Throw in a bad economy, a very bad war and lack of voter mandate for Bush left over from 2000 and it seemed obvious that it was Kerry’s election to lose. Thanks to the revolution in internet based fundraising pioneered by Dean, the Democrats managed even to achieve parity with Republican fundraising. Despite their best efforts, however it all went to naught the night of Nov 2nd. Why?

There is the conventional left analysis that goes something like this: by running as Bush lite and refusing to distinguish himself in any real way from the major policy snafus of Bush and the Republicans, Kerry and the Democrats undercut their own appeal and when presented with a choice between the real thing and a tasteless lite version, the blue collar swing voters will go for the real deal every time.

And to a large extent this is true. Both John Kerry and John Edwards voted for nearly every Bush initiative that most Democratic voters found repulsive. An unprovoked war on Iraq based on faulty and non-existent evidence. The US PATRIOT ACT. The No Child Left Behind Act, which will end up denying most public schools Federal financing within 4-8 years.

It is clear that Kerry was unable to formulate any kind of clear alternative to Bush, regarding the war in Iraq, free trade or on a host of others of direct concern to working people in this country, which could have created a wedge to draw away blue-collar voters from the religious right. While the grassroots of the party was aching for a genuine populist alternative to Bush, the “New Democrat” DNC chose to package Kerry in the way they always have; a mushy centrist meant to speak to semi mythical “wired” workers who were supposedly not interested in economic populism or old New Deal style rhetoric and the like.

Since they also got the chance to market a Vietnam veteran they went all out to show that the Democrats were as militaristic and wild about guns as the Republicans, shutting out any public display of anti-war feelings at the Democratic National Convention despite the fact the the overwhelming majority of delegates considered themselves anti-war. And once again, they felt flat on their face.

I agree that unless progressives learn to speak in real language about class issues and take principled stands against the right, culture war issues will continue to triumph. However, I do not think it is as simple as saying that if only we had a Howard Dean, Ralph Nader, etc. running, than Bush would be moving back to Crawford, Texas right now. Snooty “I told you so” denunciations of the rampant Anybody But Bush sentiment that swept the left are not very helpful.

Moreover, Bush did not win because voters were so uninspired by Kerry that they decided to sit this election out.

Bush won this election because he was able to energize and motivate his base in an unprecedenceted way, revealing a semi hidden majority bloc of evangelicals who are intent on pressing their agenda on the rest of the country. Exit polls have shown that the vast majority of Bush voters voted on the basis of “moral issues.” It is damaging to the English language to say that a man whose lies have cost the lives of over 20,000 Americans and Iraqis, who is buddies with men who steal the pensions of old women, and who has made a career out of trading in on his last name for material gain at others expense is a “moral” character, so lets cut the spin.

The “Values bloc” is voting on the basis on a very narrow and Southerizined interpretation of Christianity: the singling out of gays, lesbians and other “deviators” from their lifestyles, distrust of public education and other remnants of the Progressive Era, and a fervent hope for the overturning of Roe V. Wade. Most also share a messianic view of world where the US is “God’s Chosen Land” which by divine right is meant to enforce its and, by extension, God’s will on the rest of the planet, an agenda that dovetails nicely with the neocon one, even if the largely secular and Jewish neoconservative intellectual elite might snicker at them behind their backs. One Kansas GOP leader summed it up nicely for the Wall Street Journal when he told them his objective was to create “the Kingdom of God” in America. A Kingdom minus all those pesky environmental and energy regulations of course.

This subjective factor is very real, and it was unlikely that all the “people vs. the powerful” talk in the world could have cut substantially into this bloc, at least for this year. While this is not true of all Bush voters, the sad reality is that well over a quarter of the US population fervently looks to Bush as their standard bearer because they see him as one of them, even if it is fully against some of their blue-collar interests to do so. The old institutions that gave the Democrats their base in the Heartland, the union halls and ethnic clubs, have been replaced with conservative talk radio, evangelical churches and Fox News.

The reality is that a major chunk of this country is firmly part of “Bush Country” and no amount of trickery, cajoling or pocketbook appealing will snap them out of it anytime time soon. Twelve months of intensive get out the vote and voter registration drives were unable to overcome thirty years of base building and organizing by the Christian right, nor three decades of broken promises by the Democratic Party to working people.

We can take some comfort that despite winning the popular vote, Bush received a much narrower margin than either Reagan or Nixon, but 2004 is a wake up call that there is in fact a large audience for Bush’s ultra-right policies in America today, something left unclear by the 2000 elections.

What to do

There is no question that the next four years will not be pretty. "I earned capital in the campaign -- political capital -- and now I intend to spend it”, Bush told the press soon after his reelection. Considering that he entered his first term somewhat capital starved one can only imagine how far Bush will go now. Under the new Bushite rubric of “the ownership society”, we will most likely see the hammering of the last nails in the coffin of the New Deal and the Great Society, while revamping the tax codes that will further reward the top income brackets while the deficit will continue to balloon to disastrous levels. He will reward his loyal Christian right base, who proved to be key to his victory and potential further victories in 2006 by pushing forward on his Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage and throwing the Supreme Court to like minded judges. It is very likely that Bush will get the chance to fill up to four spots on the bench over the next four years. There will also likely be a further escalation of the war in Iraq and potentially its expansion to Iran and Syria. One can take little solace in the fact that both of the last two term Republican Presidents have got tangled in major scandals a la Watergate or Iran-Contra. In both situations the Democrats retained a healthy majority in the House, so chances that Bush will face impeachment or censure is remote. Things will get a lot worse before they get better.

The Republican victory however is unlikely to see the death of resistance. Far from it. There is very likely to be a flowering of it in the months to come. Peace organizations, feminist groups, gay and lesbian rights organizations, immigrant rights, the global justice, environmental and labor movements are likely to start digging in and mobilizing for a long four years. Street protests, which largely went on hiatus for the election will most likely return with a big bang, and will likely reach out to an even broader array of progressive forces that reject Bush and his policies.

Even on the electoral front, all is not lost. The Green Party, which quietly flew under the radar this election cycle by refusing to join up with Ralph Nader, is still slowly growing, scoring small electoral victories and in some locations developing a pretty high level of political sophistication.

There is also the grassroots of the Democratic Party, largely the only credible section of the party left, including organizations like Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, Progressive Democrats and MoveOn who are, based on the discussions in the blogsphere feeling somewhat vindicated right now and are already getting geared up for 2006 and 2008. They will face a major challenge from the centrist establishment which is arguing that the results of the election prove that the party needs to move further to right by dumping Michael Moore, gay marriage and picking up Bibles. Nevertheless, it is clear that the positions of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich have been greatly strengthened in the party. One major Democratic blog the Daily Kos has already started a petition campaign to dump DNC chairman and swing to the right architect Terry McAuliffe. Spouting some newly memorized bible quotes, while refusing to tackle the issues of class, in particular the ravages of “free trade”, a discussion that is off limits to the leadership of both parties, will gurantee future Republican domination as their faux-populism has shown to be a much better base-builder than messageless Democratic Leadership Council language.

The left will face a hard four years; there is no question about that. However we have a responsibility, not only to the world and the 48% of the electorate that voted against Bush but also to those blue-collar voters who voted for W against their own class interests, to continue to resist and organize. As the horrors of Fallujah devour more of the children of working class voters, while their jobs are sent overseas and stacks of medical bills they can not pay pile up, the left has the opportunity to speak to them in a real way and about real issues concerning their lives. Organizations like Military Families Speak Out, campaigns for local living wage ordinances, and our critique of corporate globalization can be our “wedges” that can start to rebuild a progressive base in the heartland.
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Re: Bush's Hidden Majority
15 Nov 2004
You said:

'Tom Coburn who said during his campaign that "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom,”'

Does that make him a troglodyte? If it was a true statement, is he a troglodyte for uttering it? What about the First Amendment? Is high school even an appropriate place for gay sex? Sex at all?

You said:

"by running as Bush lite and refusing to distinguish himself in any real way "[--Kerry lost.]

It stands to reason that Kerry would have lost by more had he posed like more of an anti-Bush. Bush was elected, meaning Bushlike values were elected. Kerrylike values were not wanted. Concurrently Kerry had no Kerrylike values anyway.

You said:

"denying most public schools Federal financing within 4-8 years."

The problem is not failing funds, it is failing students, and the teachers who fail on a larger scale. Americans do not want to pay for bad teachers and lazy students, no more than they want to pay for potholed roads and broken highways. They want proof of service.

You said:

"revealing a semi hidden majority bloc of evangelicals"

You fail to acknowledge that Bush won mainly by the nonevangelicals who sare their values. Evangelicals are merely spoilers like Nader-- a fragment of the overall support base. Many far suburban white nonevangelicals voted for Bush, eg persons more interested in lawncare than in the progressive mission.

You said:

"a man whose lies have cost the lives of over 20,000 Americans"

You forget that members of our military enrolled voluntarily and even enjoy killing people, while maintaining a sense of duty to familty and nation.

You said:

"start to rebuild a progressive base in the heartland."

Not practical, domestic, or even possible. If so it would have been done already.
Re: Bush's Hidden Majority
16 Nov 2004
"If it was a true statement, is he a troglodyte for uttering it?"

If it was a true statement- ay, there's the rub.

It used to be that making a positive claim carried with it the obligation to provide evidence in support of that claim, an obligation which Coburn has not met.

Unfortunately, such basic principles of critical thought as keeping track of the location of the BOP have been jettisoned in favor of deicding credibility on the basis of whether or not a claim comports with one's political preconceptions.

The evidence which I provide in support of this claim is simply a recommendation to spend a bit of time reading the discourse on any moderately active IMC site; observe how the commentary falls into party-line categories irrespective of the plausibility or source credibility of a given peice of "news"