How could it have happened?
Four years ago, George Bush didn’t have much of a record to run on. As governor of Texas he’d been relatively moderate and able to work with Democrats in the Legislature. He preached against “nation building” and accused challenger Al Gore of using “fuzzy math” when the vice president claimed that it would be the very richest who would benefit most from the Bush tax plan. In other words, we didn’t know that much about the guy.
Gore, tainted by the sleaze of Bill Clinton and changing personas from week to week, was a less than perfect candidate. And there was the Ralph Nader factor. Even so, Gore took a majority of the popular vote. And Bush, assuming office with the help of the Supreme Court, immediately set to work dispelling his own campaign claim to be a uniter, not a divider.
You would have thought that, taking the presidency under the circumstances that he did, Bush would have felt compelled to steer a moderate, middle path. Instead, he took off running for the far right. With a Republican House and Senate, he pushed through a tax bill that, once the “fuzzy math” got clarified, did exactly what Gore had said it would do — disproportionately benefit the very wealthy to an obscene degree.
That right there should have been enough. The 97 percent of us who got screwed in that deal should have been up in arms.
But that was just the beginning.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush launched a war in Afghanistan to ferret out Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida brethren. Bush never even bothered to pretend that mission had been accomplished. But then, with the administration claiming weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat and not-too-subtly implying that Sadaam Hussein abetted the 9/11 attacks, our president defied the world community and launched a pre-emptive war on Iraq.
Ooops. Seems there are no WMDs, and Hussein had no collaborative ties to al-Qaida. So we were led to war under false pretenses. Our soldiers are dying there daily. Untold numbers more Iraqis are being killed by our bombs and bullets. Billions of dollars that should be spent to improve education, heath care and any number of other areas of dire need are instead being poured down a sinkhole in Iraq. It seems like this election should have been decisively decided by that alone: You fuck up that badly as president, you get fired. Period.
Instead, we have four more years of George Bush.
How can it be? Is it, truly, that the Christian right sees Bush as a more moral man? We don’t understand a morality that demands protection of fetuses yet accepts without a note of protest the bloodshed of an unnecessary war. And are there really that many people so blinded by bigotry that they consider the issue of gay marriage more important than matters of war and peace? God help us if that really is the case.
Or is it that a significant number of voters believed Bush will do a better job of keeping us safe from terrorism? Are people really so blind that they can’t see the terrible reality that our invasion and occupation of Iraq is creating legions of new terrorists more determined than ever to cause us harm?
We just don’t get it.
Character? The way we see it, John Kerry acted with honor twice during the Vietnam era. He enlisted to go fight, and then fought with valor. And then, having learned of the atrocities being committed, came home and stood up to be counted, putting any consideration of political aspirations at risk by opposing a war that still had the support of the American mainstream. George Bush, meanwhile, used his daddy’s political influence to avoid ever setting foot in Vietnam.
And yet, in a time of war, we choose the shirker to lead us.
We really don’t get it.
So, we went looking for answers in a desperate attempt to understand what, in all honesty, defies logic. A strong case can be made that Bush II is the worst president since Herbert Hoover. Perhaps the worst ever.
How could he have been re-elected?
There is, of course, the possibility that this election was stolen. And while there is certainly plenty of smoke, we’ve yet to see conclusive proof of electoral arson. And so, we turned our attention elsewhere, seeking out an array of perspectives in an attempt to make some sense of this election. From a progressive standpoint, doing so is vital. Unless we come to grips with what went wrong, and then make changes, the left is going to keep losing.
The Religious Left