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American Election Afterthoughts

Friday, November 12, 2004

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Written by Kyle Lambert

In the aftermath of the American election the consensus seems to be that American right-wing conservatives have gained full control of the country and will use that power to push an extreme agenda. Most also that the Democratic party has “lost its way” and needs to regain the faith of the American middle, otherwise known as American moderate conservatives.

In order for Canadians to fully understand what happened on November 02, we must first realize that American voters, on the whole, are much more conservative right-of-centre than their Canadian counterparts. In terms of actual political policies, the American Democratic party and the Canadian Conservative party (save for a handful of extremists from out West and one from Lanark County) are not much different. Just the same, many Canadian right-wing pundits, the Margaret Wentes and David Frums of the world, are sounding the trumpet of victory for all conservatives, as if those in Canada and the United States are not at all different. Thus, many Canadians either are, or should be concerned about what George Bush the second plans on doing with his power over the next four years.

Those reveling in the Republican victory continue to congratulate themselves for bringing out the support of Karl Rove’s infamous 4 million fundamentalist Christians. One must first point out the irony that Republicans, so willing to bomb the pants off of fundamentalist Muslims, are seeking the support of a bunch of very similar extremists. However, once one gets over the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, a dissection of what really happened on November 02 isn’t all that difficult.

I must first admit one thing. I do not think the Democrats will win control of either Congress, the Senate or the White House until they become the party that people believe best represents national security interests. At the moment, the Republican Party has a monopoly on all security-related matters, and they will continue to run the United States like a dictatorship until that changes. Their monopoly on security as a platform issue is precisely what won them the election. Why? Here goes:

I do not dismiss the impact of extremist Christians in the elections. However, their impact was nearly, if not completely matched by the increased number of urban voters that the Democrats got out to the polls. Coupled with many Nader supporters of 2000, the Democratic Party also brought a lot more voters this time around, likely enough to cancel out the Christian influence on the polls. Many pundits are pointing to exit polls in which a large percentage of voters said the “morality” issues most influence their vote. Are these the same exit polls that predicted Kerry wins in Florida and Ohio? Apparently exit polls aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Either that, or pollsters are, gasp, biased.

What, in my opinion, really made the difference was security. The Republicans did a great job of painting John Kerry as a weak-kneed leader. People believed the GOP party line to the point that everyone and his uncle started calling John Kerry a “flip-flopper”, as though it was an original and insightful comment. Most totally forgot that they were spouting a phrase written by Republican Party propagandists. While I’m no fan of Republicans, I must admit that Karl Rove and his cronies did one hell of a job convincing the electorate that Kerry couldn’t win a war. That is why he lost. Most polls suggested that the most pressing election issue for middle class American voters, the ones who live in suburbs and shop at Wal-Mart, was national security. A strong majority of those same voters believed that George W. Bush best served the interests of national security.

I don’t need to explain to most readers why Bush has made America the most vulnerable state that it’s been since 1962, but American voters apparently couldn’t understand what the rest of the world so clearly sees. Thus, more soccer moms and Nascar dads voted for George W. Bush in 2004 than did in 2000, giving him 51 per cent of the popular vote and winning him the election. I actually think that Republican strategists are doing a fantastic job of convincing everyone that religion won them the day, keeping eyes closed to the real ways in which they won this election.

So what do Democrats do? They have no official control of any national office, so that must mean they are dead in the water for at least the next four years, right? Well, sort of.

Before leaving office in 2008, George W. Bush and his cronies will likely wreak havoc on American civil liberties, the Supreme Court, the lives of most Iraqis and the jobs of a few million more Americans. That, however, doesn’t mean the Democrats should sit back and complain about the ride. As the saying goes - don’t get mad, get even.

The one massive advantage that the Democratic Party has is that it has absolutely nothing to lose. In terms of real power, the Dems have hit rock bottom. That should leave a whole lot of room for populist action from senators like Barrack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Democrats can now say what they want, when they want in public without risking much at all. I’m not talking about being crude or slandering Republicans, but I do mean getting down to the hearts of issues, something they didn’t have time to do in a more competitive senate.

Iraq should be the top priority. Americans have shown they don’t care about the poor losing jobs and health insurance. But they do care about their perceived safety. Democrats need to start blaming every single problem with that war, from casualties to over-spending, on the Republican Party. Everything that is wrong with America must be pointed out loud and clear in the media. Democrats will still have media access. Largely thanks to a backlash against Fox News’ pro-Republican agenda, outlets like CBS and CNN will continue to provide Democrats with equal, if not increased coverage. This will be helped by a search for sexy scandals that the Republicans are sure to find themselves involved with. The arrogance of the GOP is at an all-time high, something that, in politics, only helps to serve the cause of the opposition.

Until late 2007, when the Democrats must choose a new presidential candidate and begin leaning to the centre-right to attract voters, their representatives can hammer away at issues like jobs and security that concern America’s middle class majority. Trying to sway fundamentalist Christian voters is a waste of time since they’ll never vote for the party of Bill Clinton and JFK. However, the soccer moms and Nascar dads can be brought back into the fold. Three years of relentless attacks on the GOP and a moderate 2008 Democrat candidate are they ways to do it.

Much like the success had by the Conservative Party of Canada, the Democrats in the United States can be successful if they put up a constant fight. They will eventually find their sponsorship scandal, it will simply be in another form. After that, 2008 is anyone’s guess. Even if it goes Republican, the GOP will likely be forced to run a much more moderate candidate such as Guiliani or McCain. Given the state that American politics will likely be in come 2008, that would be a huge victory in itself.


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