Interpreting the Returns of Election ’04

All that razzle-dazzle can’t fool average Joe.

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

Now that, as Hank Williams might put it, it’s all over but the Democrats’ crying, what are some preliminary conclusions we can draw from this election?

The most obvious is that the Democrats are increasingly out of touch with the majority of Americans. Sure, over 50 million Americans voted for Kerry, but that was to be expected given the combination of a nasty guerilla war in Iraq and the irrational hatred of George Bush stoked by the lingering resentment over the 2000 election and the antics of partisan clowns like Michael Moore and Dan Rather. If not for those factors, this election would’ve been a repeat of ’72, ’80, ’84, and ’88, other elections in which Republicans shellacked programmatic liberal Democrats.

Indeed, what is mystifying is that despite those previous debacles, and despite Bill Clinton’s success at running as a moderate Republican, the Democrats once more put forward a Northeastern pacifist liberal, this time a rank opportunist who had jump-started his political career by slandering his fellow soldiers while they were still under fire in Vietnam, consorted in Paris with the enemy while still in uniform, and then spent 19 years in the Senate playing Costello to Teddy Kennedy’s Abbot. The Democrats’ penchant for picking losers reminds me of that fable about the frog that gives a scorpion a ride across a river. Halfway through the scorpion bites the frog, and then says as both drown, “It’s my nature.”

Once again the Democrats have loaded on their backs a poisonous candidate whose political nature is toxic to most Americans. The problem with the liberal elite and those who share their sensibility is that deep down they don’t trust the average person. Liberals believe they alone possess some higher knowledge and superior insight lacking among all those church-going throwbacks with their quaint moral values and traditional ideals like patriotism, family, hard work and self-reliance. Instead, the elite believe, with all the fervor of the fundamentalist, that all those ideals are mere illusions (see Marx, Darwin, and Freud) and that government social technicians are better equipped to run things than the average Joe with his baggage of racism, sexism, homophobia, and addiction to fast-food, talk-radio and trashy television.

So when such a candidate and his minions talk to the people, despite donning populist garb–one particularly threadbare when it’s worn by a Beacon Hill billionaire with five mansions–they can’t help coming off as condescending and patronizing. And say what you will about the masses and their presumed oafish lack of subtlety, they do know when they’re being talked down to. And they don’t like it.

They also know when they’re being lied to. They could see through Kerry’s “eat-your-cake-and-have-it” political principles: “against abortion” yet a stalwart, absolutist defender of abortion’s creepy outer limits, such as late-term partial-birth abortion; a “believer in traditional marriage” yet unwilling to lift a legislative finger to defend it; a “fiscal conservative” who wanted to create a gazillion-dollar health-care entitlement; a “tough warrior against terrorism who voted to remove Hussein,” and who then had a conversion on the road to the Democratic primaries and spent the rest of the campaign decrying and subverting the war he had voted for.
And don’t forget, Kerry had the active support of powerful institutions in our society: popular culture’s rock-stars and actors and propagandists like Michael Moore; and the mainstream media that helpfully offered up a steady diet of disaster, second-guessing, and Chicken-Little prognostications. But a majority of the people weren’t fooled: they could hear Michael Moore’s swamp-fever fantasies in bin Laden’s election eve video; they could see the hypocrisy of Dan Rather eagerly accepting clumsily forged documents critical of Bush while reflexively dismissing the Swift Boat Veterans’ charges against Kerry; and they had enough sense to realize that the media-generated hysteria over some 400 tons of munitions that might be missing was partisan bombast given that 400,000 tons had already been secured and destroyed. And most of all, they realized that despite his occasional verbal stumbling and grimacing in the debates, the President knows a simple, powerful truth: that America will be safer against terrorism as long as America is on the offensive against terrorism, and that Americans–not the U.N., not NATO, not the European Union–are the best judges of when to use American power to defend America’s interests and insure her security.

The President won reelection because he’s unashamed to say what he believes and to act on his beliefs. He has a moral center shared by a majority of Americans, who know that this country is and has been a force for good in the world. If there’s one conclusion about this election that should hearten us all, it is that our moral center has held, and that despite all the passionate intensity of the worst, the best still have conviction.

©2004 Victor Davis Hanson

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