Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Bill Kristol might go too far in claiming that

The hair-pullers and teeth-gnashers won't like it, of course, but we're nevertheless inclined to call this a Mandate. Indeed, in one sense, we think it an even larger and clearer mandate than those won in the landslide reelection campaigns of Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1984, and Clinton in 1996. Needless to say, the Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton victory margins were much, much bigger. But that's in no small part because each of those preceding presidents could plausibly claim to be stage-directing a Morning in America, or building a Bridge to the Twenty-First Century.

George W. Bush could run no such smiley-face campaign. He is a war president. So he has run a war president's remarkably serious and substantive campaign. That campaign was not without its flaws; Bush had his bad moments, especially in the first debate. But he won the overall campaign debate. And because he won that overall debate--not because the visuals were nifty; not because it was the economy, stupid--he won the right to lead the United States for another four momentous years. George W. Bush's 2004 election is an accomplishment of ideological confirmation not unlike--obvious box-score distinctions notwithstanding--the one Franklin Roosevelt achieved in 1936.

But I'm inclined to agree that this is a bigger mandate for Republicanism than the 51% figure suggests (contra Josh Marshall et al. who emphasize that it was a close election). Academia, Big Media, Hollywood, George Soros, and tons of liberals' money were against Bush; so was the bad luck of inheriting a bad economy; so were setbacks in Iraq. And in some ways Bush was electorally weak for being too liberal, e.g. for spending too much and running a deficit, or for engaging in a "liberal" nation-building exercise, so that some conservatives turned against Bush. Mainly, though, the Democrats tried really really hard this time, and had a lot of special factors playing to their advantage.

And they put a lot of credibility on the line. The draft rumor and the Social Security benefit cuts rumor are small examples. If they had made Kerry president, no one would know. But now that Bush is president, people will find out soon enough that they're false, and that will hurt the Democrats' credibility. If Bush's second term is at all successful, those who trusted the MSM, academics, Hollywood, and so on will feel like they're waking up from a bad dream. And if these cultural elites start acting like the next Republican candidate is the End of the World, people will get a feeling of deja vu. Only the second time around, they'll know the bad dream is just a dream, and they'll pay less attention.

Hugh Hewitt has a good description of Republican dominance. Andrew Sullivan suggested not long ago that Hewitt was a right-wing hack. Well, the center has shifted. If they know what's good for them, Democrats and others will treat Hugh with more respect now.


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