Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2004 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Jack Kelly

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The real reactionaries | "Vote for us, you greedy warmongering bigots, because we're smarter than you are."

I doubt this approach will win over the affections of the nearly 60 million Americans who voted to re-elect President Bush, but it is the tack many Democrats and their friends in the news media have taken.

For years, they attacked the intelligence and character of President Bush. Now they are attacking the intelligence and character of those who voted for him.

"America has always had strains of isolationism, nativism, chauvinism, puritanism and religious fanaticism," wrote Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

"Democrats are not going to get the support of people whose votes are motivated, above all, by their opposition to abortion and gay rights, (and, in the background, their opposition to minority rights)," fumed Dowd's partner in paranoia, Paul Krugman.

Another New York Times columnist, Bob Herbert, suggested that Democrats add teach-ins to their voter outreach efforts: "Anything that shrinks the ranks of the clueless would be helpful," he said.

But Novelist Jane Smiley, writing in the online magazine Slate, thinks Bush voters are beyond redemption. She blamed Bush's victory on "the unteachable ignorance of the Red states."

Red Staters, she said, "are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence."

Her own relatives back in Missouri (most of whom voted for Bush) weren't ignorant, she said, but "they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority."

Liberal commentators base their assumption that the election was decided by gay-hating fundamentalists on the fact that, according to exit polls, 22 percent of voters cited moral values as their primary concern. This was more than the percentage of voters who said they were concerned about the economy, or the war on terror.

It's emotionally satisfying to call those who disagree with you nasty names. But fact-free political analysis has its pitfalls.

Though their numbers were greater, the proportion of the electorate made up by evangelical Christians was no higher than in 2000, exit polls indicate. John Hagan, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, noted that the Cuyahoga County community of Bay Village voted heavily for Bush, but against adding a gay marriage ban to Ohio's constitution. In the heavily black Lee-Harvard neighborhood in Cleveland, Kerry got 96 per cent of the vote, but the gay marriage ban won big. In Texas, Dallas County went big for Bush, but also elected a lesbian Latina sheriff.

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Democrats do have a problem with values voters. George W. Bush, Methodist Republican, running against nominally Catholic John F. Kerry, got 52 percent of the Catholic vote. The real JFK must be spinning in his grave.

Democrats aren't going to solve their religion problem by calling values voters ignorant bigots.

An alternative comforting explanation for liberals is that John Kerry was a lousy candidate. That's true. But since five of the last seven presidents have been Republicans, Democrats seem to have a penchant for nominating lousy candidates. An introspective Democrat might ask himself why.

Bush has no mandate, snarled Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. But the last Democratic president to win a higher percentage of the popular vote was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The last Democratic president to lead his party to gains in the House and Senate while winning re-election was Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

The Democratic Party today is hopelessly reactionary, and is choking on its own bile. The Democrats' big idea this year was hatred of George Bush. Since Dubya will never again be on the ballot, this isn't something on which to build for the future.

Democrats call themselves "progressive," but every idea they have is chained to the 1960s. The war in Iraq is compared to the Vietnam war, with which it has absolutely nothing in common. Great Society programs are to be continued, unreformed, in perpetuity. In their ivory towers in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, Democrats imagine race relations in the South are still as they were when Bull Connor was turning fire hoses on civil rights marchers.

But the core problem for Democrats is epitomized by the large number of liberals who, since the election, have talked of emigrating.

"The party that hates America always loses," Virginia Postrel said. Mo Dowd, Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, Jane Smiley and E. J. Dionne should keep that in mind.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Jack Kelly