We have now seen Democratic explication of the election come full-circle from here to there and back again:
The campaign: “It’s the war (and Bush is stupid).”
Immediately after the election: “It was ‘values’ and organization.”
One week after the election: “If it’s really THOSE KIND of ‘values’ I’m leaving the country – get me the Canadian immigration office.”
Two weeks after the election: “Hey, those ‘values’ aren’t as consistent or clear-cut as they appear to be.”
One month after the election: “It was the war (and Kerry is stupid).”
The below exegesis of the election in Ohio from Sunday’s Washington Post by Democratic operative Steve Rosenthal is a perfect example of this. Steve opens (understandably) a bit defensively:
- When it came to getting out the Democratic vote in Ohio during the presidential election, we hit our target numbers. My organization, America Coming Together, along with our 32 America Votes partner organizations, the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry-Edwards campaign not only exceeded our turnout goals for the Buckeye State, but far exceeded anything the Democrats have done in the past.
And we still lost. President Bush won the election by fewer than 130,000 votes out of 5.6 million cast in Ohio, according to the state’s latest figures.
….The reason Kerry lost the election had much more to do with the war in Iraq and terrorism than the political ground war in Ohio. Terrorism trumped other issues at the polls — including moral values — and anxious voters tended to side with Bush.
• By 54 percent to 41 percent, voters decided that Americans are now safer from terrorist threats than four years ago, national exit polls said.
• By 55 percent to 42 percent, voters accepted Bush’s view that Iraq is a part of the war on terrorism. By 51 percent to 45 percent, they still approved of the decision to go to war (though a majority expressed concerns about how the war is going).
• Just 40 percent said they trusted Kerry to do a good job handling the war on terrorism, compared with 58 percent who felt that way about the president.
The Bush campaign was able to persuade some voters who supported Gore in 2000 to turn to Bush in 2004 on the issues of terrorism, strength and leadership.
…The other major factor was our side’s failure to win the economic debate. Despite an economy that was not delivering for many working people in Ohio, the exit poll results show that voters in Ohio did not see Kerry providing a clear alternative. Just 45 percent expressed confidence that Kerry could handle the economy, compared with Bush’s 49 percent.
Besides being pretty funny — that “values” had little to do with the election, at least in Ohio, after all — I am also relieved to hear once again that most Bush voters based their decision on the same issues I did: zeal (if not uniformly demonstrated competence) in persecution of the war on terror, seeing Iraq as part of that war (a position Kerry gave up when he began to denounce the war), and not seeing any overriding economic reason to go with Kerry.
So it wasn’t toothless fundamentalist zombie gay-bashers who won the election for Bush, but moderates who saw him as most likely to remain steady and aggressive in pursuit of the war on terror, a war they support even if a number of Americans (including Michael Moore and MoveOn.org, as very well explained by Peter Beinart) see that war, as a headline writer at the New York Times snidely put it, as “an obsession the world doesn’t share.”
And speaking of said essay by Roger Cohen, the tone wavers like a pre-school Christmas concert as he struggles mightily to be “fair” to the Bush/mainstream American perspective on the war on terror, while betraying a predisposition to the “internationalist” position of “who can care much about a few-thousand Americans being, unfortunatley of course, killed by some misguided souls, when multi-millions are living in abject poverty, starving and disease-ridden in the third world?”
Or as Cohen puts it:
- [The war on terror] is often portrayed abroad as a distraction from more critical issues – as an American attempt to impose a bellicose culture, driven by the cultivation of fear, on a world still taken with the notion that the cold war’s end and technology’s advance have opened unprecedented possibilities for dialogue and peace.
Hey, sometimes the world is really stupid: pretending the problem isn’t there doesn’t make it go away. Talk about clinging irrationally to the past, an outdated vision we (the U.S. in general, the Bush and previous administrations) too shared until September 11. But most of us here (other than Michael Moore, MoveOn.org and fellow travelers), Republicans and Democrats alike, grasped the enormity of the threat and the stark reality of the consequences of ignoring it.
Not that other nations or regions shouldn’t evaluate and pursue their own priorities:
- In wide swaths of the southern hemisphere, including Africa and Latin America, the central preoccupation is economic development and trade. In Asia, the main focus is on China rising, with India not far behind. In Europe, the bulk of political energy is still absorbed by the vast experiment in transnational governance and the banishment of war that is the European Union.
But why would these peoples hold it against us for pursuing our own, and at least in the case of Europe, our common concern?
I believe it is called hypocrisy (“We will pursue OUR self-interest but YOU are not allowed to do the same because you are the SUPERPOWER”) and self-delusion (“Islamic extremists aren’t really diabolical, highly-organized, fanatical and out to rule and/or destroy the world, they’re just misunderstood – more aid and policework will nip that little matter in the bud”).
Back to the presidential election: call it what you want, but I call it Americans getting their priorities straight and voting accordingly.