Saturday, November 06, 2004

Some quick thoughts on the US election

OK, I'm somewhat disappointed. I'd hoped Kerry would win - I fear how far Bush may try and carry out his neoconservative foreign policy; his fiscal irresponsibility could be seriously damaging to the world economy; I personally oppose his stance on stem cell research (speaking as a diabetic, I think that almost any methods of research that can alleviate the problems caused by this disease are worth pursuing).

However, unlike most of the Kerry supporters in the UK, it seems, I am not totally shattered by a Bush victory. Launching war in Iraq was inadvisable, for, as I have stated before, it is impossible to force democracy on people at the point of a gun (although the continued war in Iraq has masked the success of introducing democracy in Afghanistan). Stories of the world's demise are greatly exaggerated. Accusations that the terrorists wanted Kerry to win are probably accurate; it gives them the confidence that they can genuinely affect the democratic process through terrorising countries. That alone would not be a reason to vote for Bush, however, and it is still worrying that his actions in Iraq are encouraging the growth of insurgency there. However, it is doubtful in the extreme that Kerry would have provided different leadership to Bush in Iraq - the major fear must be if Bush turns his attention elsewhere. Sadly this is unprovable.

Admittedly, one of the reasons that I am not totally shattered by a Bush victory is that it has been tremendously amusing to see the hard left squirm. They have lost their favourite argument, that Bush should not have been elected in the first place, that he had no popular mandate. Yet more than that, they have shown the intellectual vacuousness of their position, as their beliefs are based far more upon a crude and uninformed anti-Americanism than upon a constructive criticism of Bush's foreign or domestic policy. In particular, I focus upon the argument that evangelical Christianity and Bush's social conservatism was what cracked the election. Yes, Karl Rove did deliberately target this constituency, and it served him well. But many of the states in which this constituency voted were locks for Bush in any case; it will not have made a great deal of difference in Ohio where the election was ultimately decided.

Ah, I hear the critics say, but the exit polls kept showing up that religious issues were paramount in the decision making process of those who voted. Are those the same exit polls that showed up that Kerry would win reasonably convincingly? Having travelled in (admittedly Blue) America this summer, my belief is that those who consider specifically religious issues to be their main motivation is small, probably about 2-3 %. Bush was very clever in managing to give enough of a public impression this was a major concern early in the campaign so it did not become a distraction in the latter stages, where Bush was able to play his strong suits. I dislike intensely the dirty tricks campaigns almost inseperable from Bush candidacies, but despite their odiousness, he is a smooth operater in these matters. And if evangelicalism was such a big factor, then it would have been a much clearer plank of the campaign than it was.

If, on the other hand, you were to say to me that an evangelical culture explains the difference between support for Kerry and support for Bush, then I would be far more inclined to agree with you. Kerry looked statesmanlike in the debates; but the one thing about Bush is that you know where you stand with him. When he speaks, it is usually clear what he means. He has a direct clarity in abundance - something which Kerry lacked significantly. If the certainty and the clarity of belief that is represented in evangelicalism is seen as a broader cultural factor, then talking about religion is valid. Blaming it on social conservatives who lack the intellectual finesse to understand the economy is sour grapes from people who do not understand what they are talking about.

One last comment - please, God, do not let Hillary Clinton win the 2008 elections. In my nightmares, we are seeing another Clinton-Bush election. NOOOOO!!!!!