Los Angeles Times
November 9, 2004
It's time to get over it.
We've had our week of mourning, and there is no shame in losing a presidential election by .001% of the national electorate — the equivalent of 136,483 misguided Ohioans. More important, there is no room for a crippling depression on the part of Democrats while the nation remains in irresponsible hands for another four years.
The good news is that unless George W. Bush is hoping to provoke Armageddon, life will go on. In fact, there is another national election a mere two years from now. By then, some of the far right now chortling about the possibility of flat taxes, repealing Roe vs. Wade and privatizing Social Security will have found that winning control of a nation on the skids isn't everything it's cracked up to be.
After all, at some point the Bush White House will have to stop blaming the Clinton administration for its own mistakes. If the Republicans running all three branches of our government continue to pile up outrageous debt, shackle scientific progress with religious fundamentalism, erode civil liberties and thrash about uselessly abroad, the responsibility will be all theirs.
The GOP has met its old bugaboo, incompetent Big Government, and it is them. No doubt Rush Limbaugh and friends will continue to blame us liberals for everything that goes wrong, but that old scapegoating game won't fly with the American public forever.
As we family-values folks like to tell our children when they qualify for their driver's licenses, with power comes responsibility. "Watch where you're going" is the main advice I would offer the president, reminding him that during the last four years his steering has been erratic and his vision blurry. We don't need any more bloody wrecks like Iraq.
That John Kerry didn't make this case more clearly was the one glaring mistake of his campaign. But I don't want to get down on Kerry, an honorable and thoughtful man who eventually got around to making a strong critique of Bush's handling of Iraq. I don't think any candidate would have had a much easier time cutting through the pseudo-patriotic blather that Bush has exploited since the 9/11 tragedy.
The reality is that most Americans believe we are in an epic war that compares to those fought by generations past. History tells us that sitting presidents in those circumstances have something akin to political immunity. Bush also cynically put the tab for this war on the nation's credit card so he could buy votes among the wealthy with his regressive tax cuts — take voters who make more than $100,000 out of the equation and Kerry wins, according to CNN exit polls.
Taken in this light, the fact that the somewhat phlegmatic Kerry secured almost half the vote doesn't look so bad. And since when is it shocking news that an incumbent president can get away with massive lying during wartime? Or that bold strides forward for human rights, like the gay marriage initiatives, initially produce intolerant reactions?
Don't get me wrong: With an ideologically radical party in control of all three branches of government, the capacity for mischief — and misery — during the next few years is frightening. If Bush can place more ideologues like justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, things could be very ugly. The religious hucksters who skirted the limits of federal law with partisan political proselytizing believe that they now own this president and will want changes — beginning with overturning Roe vs. Wade — in return.
But, as we've learned from science, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Because exit polls showed that a solid majority of voters part ways with the religious right on choice and some form of legal recognition of same sex unions, victory on the social wedge issues will backfire on the Republicans. Abortion, for instance, may work as a divisive electoral strategy to energize the base, but party insiders know the GOP will suffer long-term damage if we return to the days of illegal, back-alley abortions. The same applies to attempts to wreck Social Security and other progressive programs, while driving up the deficit.
Barring another major terrorist attack of the sort that saved his first term, I would predict that in an amazingly short time Bush will be quacking like the lamest of ducks.