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New York, NEW YORK, USA - It's now a few weeks after the noise about the mid-term elections. Republican pundits have had their chance to chortle. Democratic consultants have scurried about cockroach-like trying to craft answers for their marked failure - not only to make wins but to establish an agenda that didn't lead to internal paralysis.
The media joined the fray with every commentator trying to make the obvious profound statement before anyone else has as to why the many prognosticators got it wrong. Even Republican stalwarts were pretty surprised with the degree of the rout. Taking both the Senate and increasing a hold on the HouseŠwas this a mandate for Bush and his policies?
Has this country shifted more right of center than before? Have Bush and his advisors - particularly Karl Rove - masterminded the dominance of the Republican Party even though the country seems evenly divided?
Did the sweep mean an affirmation of Bush's fundamental outlook or a rejection of values for the Democrats? The Democrats did not have a message to hold forth, much less present one affirmatively.
As with so many things, it was all about what did not happen.
While the Democrats did not define themselves, George W. Bush did not let truth - or subtle complexities - get in his way. His goal was to Keep it Simple, Stupid. And keep quiet about the rest (like the Know-Nothings of the mid-1800s?) :
- Why haven't we got Osama?
- How are we going to fix the Afghani mess this time?
- What if we don't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
- And what about the economy, the growing gap between rich and poor and for that matter, that global warming does exist?
While Bush stayed on message, the press and the Democrats floundered.
About a month before the elections, New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg kicked off an essay with this statement:The world is not a place that George W. Bush was terribly familiar with until recently. Any college student who has done a semester abroad has logged a lot more time under foreign skies than he has; and, as he has told Jim Lehrer, of PBS, during the campaign, "I'm not going to play like I've been a person who spent hours involved with foreign policy. I am who I am."
Hertzberg went on to describe Bush's eventual awareness since 9/11 of the world and how he has been forced by his job to grapple with the world. Though he has not made some profound turnaround, Bush has looked beyond the Oval Office to realize he must make a response.
So what better response could there be but to make one informed not of complexities or depth of analytical knowledge but of moral certainty. As Hertzberg said of Bush's driving philosophy, "It's a vision of a world in which it is American policy to prevent the emergence of any rival power, whatever it stands for - a world policed and controlled by American Military might."
Once Bush established his support for candidates who would let him carry the ball, then everyone caved in and gave themselves up to the simplicity of his message - "Hey we're the good guys."
In establishing such a vision, responsibility for analysis or political philosophy went out the window. As long as Bush, the Democrats and the media stayed focused on the information that served the Republican cause best - we're at war (even though we really are managing an international police investigation more than a war) - we really are expressing a philosophy of be simple, stupid; and then we don't have to have a position.
Bush and his handlers have understood that this win wasn't about philosophy or criticism, it was about certitude. Until the Democrats or media understand that, they won't get the answers right as to "why." Nor will the loyal opposition ever offer more than opposition instead of a real alternative. Maybe Al Gore has it right in talking about foregoing the pundits, polls and strategists and going with his gut.
George W. Bush certainly has, and stayed on-point through it all.
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