Tuesday, November 23, 2004


It's the Stupidity, Stupid

There's a fine little debate going on at my friend Mark's blog, The Decembrist.

Feel free to join in a mix it up. But keep it clean and don't be stupid

The thread weaves its way through some interesting topics such as secret handshakes, spiteful bumper stickers, Social Security reform, and the nature of President Bush’s mandate.

My position is that winning a majority of the 120 million votes cast by a margin of 3.5 million constitutes a powerful mandate to realize the vision that Bush articulated during the campaign.

Mark’s position – and I’m taking a chance here by defining it for him – is that Bush articulated no vision whatsoever unless you count a series of vicious attacks on John Kerry as a vision.

In a narrow sense, yes, many voters made their decision based on superficial personal characteristics of the candidates themselves. But most of the electorate had made up their minds months and weeks before November. That makes me think that individual policy positions played less of a role in this election than did gut feelings about large issues such as war and peace, the role of government, the trajectory of our culture.

If that’s the case then Americans by a convincing majority ratified George Bush’s approach to the war on Islamofascism and rejected the approach that would have us treat Islamist terrorism as a criminal matter rather than an existential threat. Voters gave permission to the federal government to aggressively intervene in the private sphere to forestall another 9/11-magnitude attack and rejected the arguments of those who oppose the Patriot Act and a unilateral surrender of civil liberties. And, if exit polls are to be believed, voters are uncomfortable about treating homosexuality as an entirely ordinary rather than vaguely dysfunctional reproductive strategy.

This doesn’t mean the conclusions of the electorate on these issues are unassailably correct. It means that the political dialogue has moved in some distinct directions.

It means the Deaniacs carrying Bush=Hitler signs and shouting “No Blood for Oil” are wasting their breathe. It means Michael Moore claiming that the Patriot Act is merely the tip of the great fascist iceberg lurking in the path of the ship of state is talking to an empty auditorium. It means gay rights advocates are going to have to make their case in ways that are less polarizing, less threatening, and less condescending to people of good will who have valid philosophical reservations.

Ultimately, the election is not about individual policy decisions. It’s about granting one candidate or the other a certain amount of political capital. The voters gave George Bush a flush bank account on November 2 and he now has the prerogative to spend his political capital any way he chooses.

My hope is that he spends it boldly and wisely.

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