Much of the nation is suffering from sleep deprivation today, half of us buoyed by the news of a George Bush victory, and others depressed by that and the broad Republican thumping of the Democrats nationally.
Initial Thoughts on the Election
Much will be said about what was a remarkable election. Here are a few early thoughts:
1. Victory of the Cultural Conservatives: As a member of the conservative evangelical community, I am pleased by impact of this community on the election. The difference between 2000 and 2004 is probably the response of evangelicals, and their dominant part in the high turnout. The story became the evangelicals, not young people (their 17% was the same as in 2000).
2. Emergence of Moral Values: We are also pleased by the emergence of moral values as a rationale for voting choices, but we are shocked by it. Neither of the candidates talked all that much about moral values, certainly not as much as Iraq, terrorism, or jobs, yet exit polls showed that Bush supporters had moral values in mind just as often as those issues.
Since discussion of the interplay of faith and values with the institutions of government and the media is the stated purpose of The Rooftop Blog, we are delighted by the reemergence of these issues.
3. Unexpected Popularity: What a great surprise to see the popular vote going to Bush in such large numbers. Zogby and many others were wrong (a few others predicted a three-point Bush lead). Trashes all the talk of the illegitimate presidency.
4. A Little Courage at NBC (But Not Too Much): We switched from Fox News to NBC for most of the night, to get a sampling of what the broadcast networks were saying. We felt Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert were terrific, and loved the electoral college map on the ice at Rockefeller Center. NBC was the first network to give Bush Ohio; then they appeared panicked when the Kerry camp objected and worked hard to justify their decision (later affirmed). NBC officially gave it to the president at 11:40 a.m. Wednesday, about one half hour after Kerry called Bush. At that time, NBC gave Nevada to Bush–but during the night they said that they would not call any more states for Bush until the Ohio issue was resolved because it would force them to announce the presidency for Bush. The courage only went so far.
5. The Call for Unity: As soon as it was plain that Bush would win, the Democrats began somberly requiring that Bush reach across the great expanse of the parties (after all almost half of the nation voted for someone else), and seek to unify the parties. Bush has that impulse, but after he kicked Kerry’s butt all across the country, and the Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and the Senate, the conciliation needs to start on the other side of the aisle. More on that soon.
6. What Are the Democrats Going to Do?: When they look at sea of red on the electoral map, so similar to 2000, what are national Democrats thinking? It might be they should nominate someone from the Midwest or the South again, not Massachusetts! But more than that, they need to listen to reasons people voted for Bush. People want strength and moral values; there are a lot of cultural conservatives in America. Imagine that.
Kerry had hardly completed his concession call to Bush when Dee Dee Myers was on the tube explaining how moderate Hillary Clinton is, and how she is strong on moral values. The sprint to the right begins—with Hillary in the lead.
Reflecting Early on the Possibilities of Defeat
As we started election night listening to Sean Hannity and then watching Fox News, Sean’s optimism felt hollow and the underlying mood at Fox was somber, as they sought to explain away the early exit polls that suggested Kerry strength.
It seemed grim for the President, when polls showed that the Bin Laden tape had not provided a bump for Bush over the weekend, and Zogby was turning against him because of youth cell phones, and then the state polls were marginal, and on Tuesday Zogby put Virginia in the toss-up category.
At that point I thought about what should be said about President Bush the morning after his defeat. No need to do that now, but what I would have said is that President George W. Bush would be remembered as a great president because he lifted America from the ashes of 9-11-01 and demonstrated the strength and resolve to bring us through the fear and uncertainty to a place where we believed that the nation would recover and would exact justice. The clip of Bush speaking to workers on the rubble of 9-11 remains the symbol of his presidency. He nearly lost his bid for re-election because he had the courage to be unpopular and to persevere in a war that became more difficult than anyone had anticipated.
It is good Bush does not have to campaign for himself again, for he is a flawed politician because of his personal limitations but also because he is a good man, which often does not produce the characteristics necessary for political success.
It may take a few more cups of coffee, but soon it will be an extraordinarily bright day, indeed.