Having finally been elected president, after four years in office, George W. Bush is entitled to celebrate, though not to claim a greater victory than was actually his. When Bill Clinton was elected — twice — conservative pundits continually whined that his margins of victory weren’t as big as they might have been. We on the losing side this time can hardly do less for Bush.
While the president and the conservative media have agreed that he won a “decisive mandate,” the Progress Report, an on-line publication, has looked at the numbers more skeptically. “In fact, the president’s popular vote margin was the smallest since 1976,” the Report said (excepting 2000, when Al Gore actually won the popular vote though Bush was given the presidency). “Percentage-wise, Bush’s victory was the narrowest for any wartime president in American history. And while President Bush did win more votes than any presidential candidate in U.S. history, Kerry’s vote total — 55.7 million — was still greater than any U.S. presidential candidate in history prior to 2004.” More Americans cast their vote against Bush than against any other president in U.S. history, and we’ve had some pretty bad presidents. Admittedly, this sort of rationalizing is not very satisfying. No wonder the Clinton-haters stayed in such a bad mood for eight years.
Whatever the size of the mandate Bush is carrying, Democrats in Congress have no honorable choice but to resist most of his domestic program. Privatize Social Security? It would be a windfall for the big securities houses promoting the deal, and a disaster for the vast majority of Americans who desperately need the retirement benefits they’ve been promised. “Tax reform” in the nature of a flat tax or a national sales tax? It would shift even more of the tax burden from the undertaxed rich to the middle and lower classes, already punished by the tax cuts Bush gave the very wealthy in his first term. “Tort reform”? It means taking away ordinary Americans’ only recourse against the giant corporations who wrong them. (No president has used the word “reform” more carelessly than this one. In Bush’s mouth, “reform” is practically a synonym for “theft.”) The appointment of more judges committed to overturning Roe v. Wade? Women would become second-class citizens again. More mingling of church and state? Deliberately weakening the First Amendment would make this country more like its enemies. Talk about the terrorists winning. More smirking? Well, we can live with that.
Bush wasn’t elected because of support for his domestic proposals — except, perhaps, for gay-bashing, which some Americans seem to have developed an unfortunate taste for. War in the Middle East is a different matter. The majority of Americans have yet not turned against Bush’s policies here, evidently. They will, eventually, unless there’s a great change for the better.