Well, we waited for the "big youth turnout" and saw lots of long lines, but there was no such turnout. The same ol' deluded people turned out, afraid of the alleged turnout by their opponents. It seems that no matter how angry and determined we were to oust President Bush, it made no difference. We actually lost ground. The right-wing has taken over this country, and I am loth to say that this is not what America wants. No amount of campaigning can change an election outcome. America is deeply divided, and the right-wing of that division has all the power and will not surrender it.
We hear, in fact, that Americans agree with Kerry or Gore on most issues like health care and jobs and the environment, etc. So why did they vote for Bush? Well, along with those economic trickle downers who don't agree with Kerry or Gore on these issues, there were two main reasons: "moral values" and "Bush's leadership in the War on Terror."
Let's cut to the chase. What are these "moral values," really? I boil it down to bigotry and chauvinism. What we need to understand is that people are hiding their social fears and prejudices behind "Christian moral values." They are repelled by gays kissing each other and getting married. In fact, a number of states had the issue of gay marriage on the ballot, and all voted to restrict it. They want families in which the man rules the roost, with wives who will agree to have their babies whenever the man wants it, and children who must be strictly obedient and not explore "deviant" ideas or lifestyles. Sexuality and drug use must be severely restricted, including censorship of the media, according to the moralists; and sexual dalliance is the worst possible behavior in a president. The Bible is the literal word of God and the 10 Commandments must be publically posted and prayer enforced in the schools. Immigration is something to be feared, and diversity is a code word for immorality.
What those on the other side of this issue need to understand, is that Republicans will continue to be elected by comfortable margins as long as people hold these "moral values." It will not be enough to recite the facts about incompetent leadership, economic policies, immoral wars, etc. The American people don't care about these things. They wish to maintain their prejudices at all costs. It does not matter if their leaders are hypocrites (which a long list of Republicans whose behavior is worse than the president they attacked suffices to prove beyond all doubt). They want to hold back the tide of social change, and this trumps all other issues.
It will be up to Americans themselves to give up these prejudices. I don't think the people whom they seek to convert, can be transformed into people which they are not. Gays will go on being gays, and will continue to form loving partnerships. They can't change who they are. Women will not all be forced to bear children. People will have affairs and take drugs. Many will continue to be agnostic, secular, or tolerant of other faiths. The vast and dominant right-wing in America will try to stamp out all this behavior with increasing fervour.
But the tide of change is rarely reversed as the bigots and chauvinists wish. They would like us all to become fundamentalist Christians and renounce our sins. Many people are doing this, there is no doubt. But I think this can be carried only so far. People are who they are. Once out of the closet, they will not be forced back into it. The moralists and bigots will just eventually have to get used to the fact that people are different from them, and that they will intrude on their community. Men will kiss other men, and women will kiss other women. People have different-colored skin and speak other languages. The "deviants" will not dissappear, and may even increase in numbers. Women won't all go back to the kitchen and the bedroom and give up their rights. Instead, they will go back to the back alleys for their abortions if necessary. They want their reproductive freedom. But America will not change, until the bigots and chauvinsts decide that other people can be tolerated after all. Perhaps they would like to go back to the time of slavery. If not, then they must recognize that racial equality could not be stopped forever, and we can't go back.
The other main reason for Bush's victory is, of course, the "war on terror." The people agree with the president that this war justifies attacks on many and sundry targets, whether there is any connection to the 9-11 attacks or not. Anyone considered an "enemy of America" deserves to be attacked-- and will be if the president wants. This is the "new reality" after 9-11. It is taken for granted that Iraq was a "terrorist nation," 200,000 innocent residents of which deserved to be massacred just because Saddam Hussein gave money to a few families of suicide bombers in Palestine. It doesn't matter; Iraq was a "terrorist nation" and "oppressed its people," and so had to be invaded and "liberated." Other "wars of liberation" will follow, as soon as this one is over-- if it ever is. Every one who voted for Bush, has the blood of 200,000 innocent people on their hands. I doubt if they are not proud of this. According to them, it is better to kill them than to allow babies to be killed in the womb by their mothers, even if these babies are only 1-month old embryos. Facts don't matter to Retro America; only "faith." Translation: prejudice and bigotry; religion as its justification.
The protection of Israel is a principle reason for our own national decline. We could have moved out of our national nightmare, had Robert Kennedy survived to lead us forward. But he was shot by a Mid-East terrorist upset over Kennedy's support for Israel. Since then, conservative retro policies have become ever more powerful. We lost our way, thanks to Sirhan Sirhan. The 9-11 terrorists made clear that they attacked the US because of our support for Israel and its policy of occupation and repression of Palestine. We pay a huge price for protecting this client state, despite all its brutality and repression. This is not to condone the terrorist methods of the Palestinians. But by not insisting that Israel make peace with its neighbors, we make ourselves a huge target for assassins and terrorists.
Quagmires don't seem to bother many Americans. To them, it is protests against our country by the left that are immoral, not the killing of innocent life. "God Bless America." They resented being told the truth that their country and their leaders were wrong in Vietnam, and Jane Fonda and John Kerry himself became the symbolic targets of their ire. For these Americans, loyalty to commander-in-chief is a reflexive prejudice, closely related to their other ones. We must be the strongest nation; the bullies on the block; any diplomacy or wavering is the behavior of "girlie-men" and sissies. This prejudice is closely-related to the hatred of gays and the suppression of women, which in 2004 the majority of Americans seemed to support. And even if this is only a 51% majority, it is a majority that allowed full control of our government.
The people preferred to back their leader in time of war, even though their leader was the cause of the war. Bush will therefore keep the nation at war, and pass the war on to whoever claims the mantle of Nixon and Reagan and Bush. It is good politically. Bush is "strong and steady." He continues in his course in the face of all facts and reason. Facts don't matter; only prejudices. We don't want to be girliemen and sissies, said Americans in 2004; we want women in their place, and queers in the closet. We kill hundreds of thousands of people abroad to keep ourselves "safe." Don't mess with America!
I don't know when this will change. When will Americans have enough of killing and war? When will other nations become able to restrain us? When will the price become too steep, if the cost of Vietnam had not already taught us how steep it is? America may only change after the war comes home. That may be the real significance of 9-11. The bigots and chauvinists of Red Retro America would like to believe that 9-11 makes it necessary for America to wage aggressive wars from now on. But the rest of the world will not forever refrain from attacking us and defending itself from our attacks, and 9-11 shows this. We will be attacked again, and the war will reach our shores. More Americans will die. This may be the only way in which America, like Europe before it, will learn the value of peace and the dangers of being the imperialist, chauvinist bullies on the block.
We can imagine, as John Lennon did, a different world without these walls of bigotry and hatred. Europe is moving there; America is moving backwards. We will have to be taught the hard way. That is the lesson of November 2nd, 2004. America has indeed spoken.