George W. Bush almost certainly will win another term as president of the United States, as I have predicted all along (Careful what you Bush for, August 3). That surprises outside observers of US politics, who can see that the Democrats are cleverer, better dressed and better-looking. It is just the sort of Americans who know they are neither clever nor good-looking who will vote for Bush.
Bush supporters are the sort of American one never meets. Through the media as well as through personal contact, Asians and Europeans meet the United States in the person of its coastal elite: academics, journalists, clerics, entertainers, and the technological avant garde. The sort of American traveler one meets in Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok probably will vote for John Kerry in November. Fewer than one in six Americans owns a passport, and those are found disproportionately on the US coasts, colored Democratic blue on the electoral maps. The elite enjoys the frisson of cultural difference and will travel thousands of miles to patronize quaint foreign cultures. By contrast, provincials from the inland states (colored Republican red on the electoral maps) take their holidays in Las Vegas or Disney World. For them the gambling-casino replicas of the Eiffel Tower or the Venetian canals are just like the real thing but without the inconvenience of strange tongues and customs.
Bush voters really do look worse (obesity is an inland disease in the US), dress worse, and are less likely to have attended a university than Kerry voters. But Bush voters are the sort of people who believe in their heart of hearts that America was founded to protect the likes of them – unlikely the clever and attractive people who can fend quite well for themselves. That is the source of their patriotism.
Outside the United States, Senator John F. Kerry reportedly enjoys a 5-1 preference over President Bush (If the world could vote, it’s Kerry in a landslide, by Jim Lobe, September 10). That emphasizes how great a gulf separates Americans from the rest of the world.
Political tourists who wish to understand the United States should seek out a medium-sized city somewhere in the country’s interior, the sort of place no tourist ever would visit, and attend its Fourth of July festivities. There they will encounter a passion for country unknown on the other side of the Atlantic, and unimaginable in the Southern Hemisphere. Government, in the experience of the peoples of the world, has been an instrument by which the wealthy and powerful oppressed the weak. The passionate patriotism of ordinary Americans springs from their conviction that the American state is the shield of common folk.
To Europeans, patriotism implies a near-racialist nationalism of the sort that sent hordes of soldiers to butcher their fellows during the two World Wars of the last century. American patriotism belongs to a different species. Governments, in the experience of most of the peoples of the world, exist to help the rich and powerful oppress the weak and helpless. Whenever the representatives of the weak have taken power, they turned into oppressors. Europeans never have loved their governments; love of country means love of one’s race and culture, the narcissistic self-worship of tribalism.
The United States, by contrast, is populated by the descendants of individuals who decided to cease to be Europeans (or whatever) so that no one would be able to push them around. That is why Americans own guns. By some accounts the number of guns in circulation exceeds the number of Americans. Americans do not use their guns, contrary to popular myth. If the violent behavior of certain minority groups is excluded, Americans commit the same proportion of violent crimes as do Europeans. But an armed population will accept only so much abuse. Gun control, by the same token, is a liberal obsession (the Drudge Report observed that Kerry sponsored legislation that would have banned the make of shotgun that he accepted as a gift from trade-union supporters in Pennsylvania).
Among such people, the president’s simple message resonates mightily. Two World Wars taught Europeans that there is no good or evil, only the insidious jealousies of contending peoples. God therefore is on no one’s side, and the alternative to mutual butchery is negotiated compromise. Senator Kerry and the US coastal elite believe the same thing, namely that enlightened specialists can interrupt the tragic destiny of peoples and save the world from itself. That is an alien intrusion upon the American world view, which began, almost biblically, by separating good and evil. The oppressive English monarchy was evil, while the self-governing English colonies were good; slavery was evil, while the system of free labor was good; what immigrants left behind in the old country was evil, and what they found on American shores was good. Nazism was evil, democracy was good; the Soviet Union was evil, while America was good.
Attacking President Bush for his failure to win European support for his Iraq venture may be the stupidest idea ever advanced by a major-party presidential candidate in a US election. Jokes about French cowardice were standard in the American repertoire for half a century before the US invasion of Iraq. “What’s the salute of the French army?” (Raise both hands in token of surrender.)
After the end of the Cold War America’s strategic interest in Europe withered away. As Muslim immigrants replace the infertile Europeans over time, European and US interests will diverge. It is meaningless to speak of America’s “European allies” at this juncture. It is much more likely that the Europeans will become America’s enemies a generation from now as Muslims emerge as a new majority.
Once attacked, Americans want to fight back. George W Bush may have attacked the wrong country (which I do not believe), and he may have mistaken the US mission after the initial fighting was over (which I do believe), but Americans are quite willing to forgive him. They understand that it is hard to track down and destroy a shadowy enemy, and do not mind much if the United States has to trounce a few countries before finding the right ones.
The attractive, witty and affluent elite who support John Kerry cannot bear the idea that the overweight, dull and impecunious commoners of Middle America will give Bush a second term. I am reminded of the fictional Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie The Producers. Brooks’ slapstick Nazi complains, “Hitler was a better dancer than Churchill; Hitler was a better dresser than Churchill; Hitler was a better painter than Churchill: he could paint a whole apartment in one afternoon, two coats.”
As for the other countries of the world, it is an inconvenience that George W. Bush will pursue the “war on terror” to its bitter end, namely civilization war. It doesn’t matter. They don’t vote. My advice: suck it up and prepare for the second Bush administration.