By J.S. Porter
I thought that Bruce Springsteen, Eminem and Michael Moore would be enough. I thought a war hero and a man of vision and integrity would be enough. I thought millions of new young voters would be enough. I thought a record deficit, high unemployment, the war in Iraq, Osama sticking his tongue out on American television, would be enough.
I was wrong.
They weren’t enough. Americans preferred a little man — who bailed out of Vietnam and has a track record of irresponsibility — acting the role of a big man to a genuinely big man. A lifelong cheerleader, the little man in cowboy clothes will continue rooting for billionaires and the corporation.
For a large number of Americans, denying gays marital rights was more important than the deficit. Denying women the right to choose what happens to their bodies was more important than the debacle in Iraq. Apparently, for many, it was more important to say you believe in the Lord and have a personal relationship with Him than it was to do what traditionally has been the Lord’s work: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, and attempting to bring peace to a troubled world.
As long as you’re going to heaven, let the other guy rot in hell. In fact, half the fun of being in heaven is knowing that your neighbour (some poor gay black woman with a Cherokee heritage and a liberal disposition) is burning in hell.
I stupidly assumed that if you put the facts to the public, the public would respond in a rational way. If you could factually show by voting Democratic, the minimum wage would be raised, medicare would be more broadly provided, misadventures in war would be curtailed, and the deficit would be reduced, then the public would overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
John Kerry put the facts before the public in a convincing and articulate way—he won all three debates by the judgement of most analysts—and large numbers of American citizens decided not to vote in their own self-interest or in the interest of their nation.
Large numbers of people voted for punishment (let’s punish those gays, those liberals, those feminists), for revenge (let’s restrict the rights of those hoity-toity women and put those smart-ass liberals in their place). Large numbers voted for a guy whose response to guys with box cutters bringing down tall buildings in New York was to militarize space and embark on a Star Wars defense shield against on-coming missiles. Never mind securing sea ports and borders, airports and nuclear facilities. Large numbers voted for a guy who responded to the Al Queda attack from Saudi nationals by attacking a country not involved in 9/11.
Bush said the word God more times than Kerry; he appeared to pray more, to worship more, to be more devout. His was the wife from Father Knows Best, the 1950’s ya-gotta-stand-by-your-man kind of woman— the Barbie Doll who’s seen and not heard. Teresa was clearly too independent, too intelligent, too kick-ass. She was too active in the world, too compassionate, too honest.
How does one understand America?
Go to the movies.
The re-election of George W. Bush is The Revenge Of The Nerds, the revenge of Karl Rove who has felt neglected and unappreciated since high school. Never hip or cool, super-nerd Karl gets his own back now for all the sneers he has endured.
Go see Deliverance again. America’s manhood was put into question by guys with funny names and small weapons. You have to take out your big guns and spray some serious buckshot just to show those foreigners who’s really the boss.
See The Passion Of The Christ. The just man being beaten by the unjust. (That’s really America being beaten.) See The Alamo. The last stand against the barbarians. Going down with honour and heroism is what counts. Both these videos were available in abundance before the election. I don’t have the stats, but I’m going to guess that more people rented The Passion and The Alamo just before the election than rented Fahrenheit 9/11.
There’s another reason why George was re-elected. It’s because he told folks that the world is simple. There are evil guys out there like wolves circling a campfire. The solution is simple: get them before they get you. No worries. As long as your penis, I mean gun, is bigger than the guy with the funny name and the funny religion, you win.
One last reason. Bush doesn’t read and he doesn’t want people to read crazy Canucks like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. As long as people stay away from The Handmaid’s Tale, they won’t see their society slipping into theocracy. They won’t pick up an Alice Munro interview and hear these revolutionary and society-threatening words: “The complexity of things—the things within things—just seems to be endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.”
John Kerry said the world was complex and you needed help to get on in it. George Jr. said the world was simple and you didn’t need anybody.
Simple won. Alone won.
- For more of my political thoughts, see my piece on Iraq, “Who’s Gonna Take Away His License To Kill?”.