Ohio is settled. Now let’s flatten Fallujah.
“Islam” is just a code word. The Bush armies view the world as a supreme menace. Realpolitik practitioners who dream of the return of post-World War II alliances are flawed: George W. Bush’s US and Western Europe are now two separate universes, as much as the blue (Democratic) states of the US west and northeast coasts, plus the industrial Midwest, are confronted to the alternative universe of the red (Republican) states of the Confederacy and the Old West.
Considering the Bush administration’s track record and the way strategist Karl Rove’s negative campaigning was conducted, there’s no reason to believe in Bush II’s new mantra of “reaching out” for “broad support.” The Rove-Cheney-Bush machine simply does not need it. The proof: Vice President Dick Cheney, in his introduction to Bush’s victory speech, claimed a broad mandate. A 51% majority is not a broad mandate. It’s a narrow mandate – because it excludes the wealthy and progressive northeast and the west coast plus the industrial Midwest.
I’m a believer
During the long, bitter presidential campaign there was never a national debate over an economic program – only the obsession with security, the logic of fear. The Rove-organized machine smashed any possibility of unity by bombing the electorate with its usual weapons of mass destruction: fear, ignorance, intolerance and religious righteousness. The US corporate media played along with this strategy and are now repeating the mantra that “moral values” gave the election to Bush. There’s no effort to analyze how cynically these values have been instrumentalized.
William Faulkner wrote that in the American south the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. The south would never elect a Yankee president to begin with. That’s a key reason for the Democratic defeat, apart from John Kerry not deciding what he really stood for and his campaign doing nothing to counteract the Bush machine.
As the much-documented negative campaigning worked its marvels, it also managed to convince millions of farmers, factory workers, carpenters, shop clerks and waitresses all over the dreary wasteland of rural red states to vote for Bush – against their own economic interests. It’s a remarkable feat, to persuade the poor working class and the struggling lower middle class to vote for tax breaks for billionaires. How to fool them? Simple: by promoting “moral values.”
In Ohio for instance, a number of sources have confirmed to this correspondent that support for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage – included in the ballot – was essential in drawing the “values” armies to the polls, thus carrying the state for Bush. The amendment was approved in all 11 states where it was submitted.
With approximately 40% of Americans declaring themselves evangelicals or born-again Christians, according to a series of Gallup polls, the heartland and this composite of the Confederacy and the old West is a right-wing wet dream: God, guns, gays. The Democrats never stood a chance in rural, working-class areas – even though these people would benefit from the Democratic platform on taxes and better health care. But as this correspondent recently saw in Arkansas, Oklahoma and northern Florida, for instance, they all see Democrats as an arrogant East Coast elite. The perception of course has been mercilessly reinforced for years by the Republican machine and its media surrogates.
God, guns, gays
The Republicans bet that in the battle to win the cultural war, ordinary people don’t relate to issues (it’s too abstract, it requires reflection) … they prefer “values” (it’s so reassuring in such a complex world). God, guns, gays. That’s it. The environment is also a no-go in the heartland: most ordinary people view it as another elitist game. Game, set, match. Oregon’s governor, Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, may have touched the heart of the matter when he said the Republicans have created ” … these social issues to get the public to stop looking at what’s happening to them economically. What we once thought – that people would vote in their economic self-interest – is not true, and we Democrats haven’t figured out how to deal with that.”
Rove was right when he confidently predicted – based on field data collected by his formidable regimenting machine – that the high turnout in this election would concern most of all the evangelical right. The church-regimented Bush armies literally stormed the polls. So the evidence seems to be clear: by applying a brilliant diversionary tactic of mass manipulation, you can make people vote for “values” against their own pockets. Especially when they fear a world they cannot understand.
Even on a purely technical level Rove had the upper hand. He calculated that the demographic shift in the US population from 2000 to 2004 represented seven precious, additional electoral votes to the red states. So to start with Bush only had to keep the states he won in 2000 – which he essentially did. Kerry started with the disadvantage of having to capture at least one significant red state. It could have been Ohio – but the Rove “storm the polls” machine was prepared.
As Bush is on a self-proclaimed mission from God, the Bush armies in the red states just had to transfer from the churches to the polls. Political scientists will spend generations analyzing how a mobilized God-fearing minority managed to take over a major political party, marginalize Republican moderates and capture 51% of the electorate – even while the economy is going down, there’s no end in sight for the Iraq disaster, and al-Qaeda is openly acknowledging its long-term strategic goal of bankrupting the US. “Fear” is the unifying theme. Fear of “terrorists” – and fear of gays.
The new ‘civil war’
The 51% majority who voted for Bush fully deserve what they’re going to get. But not the other 48% – and much less the rest of the world. Among the overwhelming output of the news networks and the blogosphere, among the torrents of e-mails circulating the world and examining every single angle of the most crucial election in the post-modern era, one voice seems to stand out. He describes himself as Aris, a solitary American face-to-face with his computer – and himself:
The unavoidably obvious explanation is that Americans are by and large morons. Simple-minded, uninformed and under-educated, intellectually lazy and proud in their ignorance to boot, self-important and self-righteous, arrogant and benighted idiots. They are a reflection of George W Bush, and in him they saw themselves. That’s why they love him and trust him so. Their reality is the faith-based myth that America is blessed and always right and great and perfect and freedom is handed down by God and not man-made constitutional governments and cultures of tolerance and inquiry. They are certain that the “real” America is in the unpleasant, xenophobic, homophobic, red states in the middle, where everybody has a white picket fence in the brain and they don’t seem aware of their own squalor and the fact that they make ends meet only because the far more prosperous blue states continue to subsidize their light-beer guzzling.
But of course the 51% is not totally made of “morons.” As this correspondent has seen first-hand – the standard greeting: “You’re not from around here, are you?” – they learn about the world “out there” from fake news, staged events and sound bites. They might even suspect something is wrong with their alienation, but they are too scared – too lazy? – to contemplate the implications. And most crucially, they are often decent people who want to do the right thing. But they are not provided the instruments for it because nobody, certainly not America’s corporate media, is showing that they have been taken for a painful ride by the Rove-Cheney-Bush machine.
There’s a form of a new “civil war” going on in the United States. It’s up to the rest of the world and world institutions to give full support to the 50 million-plus American voters – plus the millions of forgotten, invisible faces of America who didn’t even bother to vote – who are now engaged against Bush’s “jihad.” Bush’s “jihad” terms are well known. The matter of Ohio has been dealt with. Now it’s on to the flattening of Fallujah – and then the bombing of Iran, Syria, the whole hit list. That’s exactly what al-Qaeda – and the neo-conservatives – want. That’s a jihad our world cannot afford.