When I began my list of phony campaign issues back in March, I did not fully appreciate the actual influence they would have on this campaign, or the extent to which a majority of Americans are willing to be misled in order to stay in their comfort zone... A possible outcome to this campaign is the election of a candidate for all the wrong reasons, on the basis of phony issues. By allowing a make-believe campaign, we will end up with a make-believe President.
—Barnabas, The Partial Observer, September 22, 2004
The strategy devised by Rove recruited millions of new conservative voters to cast ballots for Bush... "The country is still close, but it has moved in a Republican direction. This election confirmed that," Rove said.
—Sierra Times, November 7, 2004.
The re-election of President Bush was indeed a tremendous political achievement, so it’s understandable that those who share the victory will see the partisan fruits of it in the most optimistic light. The Democrats would have done the same if they were now standing in the winner’s circle after unseating the President. Karl Rove may be right about the country moving in a Republican direction.
More likely, it is much too soon to say that the voters who voted conservatively are going to count as "new conservative voters." There were so many reasons to vote one way or another in this election. We don’t know how many Democrats were absolutely turned off, for example, by their party’s lemming-like commitment to radical sexual ethics. Equally, we do not know how many Republicans defected because of the President’s military and fiscal policies or because they seriously doubted his competence.
Tradition is usually much thicker than the compelling issues of the day. Those Democrats who voted for Bush are likely to remain Democrats, and the Republicans who voted for Kerry to remain Republicans. It’s not too unlike mainline Protestants who, feeling an exceptional need, try Pentecostalism. Though grateful for the experience as part of their authentic spiritual biography, many return to the church of their fathers because that is where they belong. "Aberrational," as it is used in human relations, is too strong a term for this behavior. The word is often taken to imply that the behavior "shouldn’t have happened." A temporary, self-understood decision perhaps should have happened; in any case, it is temporary, not alien. In the election of 2004 we may indeed have had millions of voters who "voted for the man, not the party."
George Bush is the President. He is the President of all Americans. We must respect his person, his office, and the honor accorded him by majority decision.
Acknowledgment of these rights does not mean, prima facie, that bad ideas have become good ones. There is more to a good idea than political enforceability, and to say that all of the President’s ideas are good ones is willful blindness. That has never been true of any President of any party.
The most that can be said at present is that President Bush has been given a renewed opportunity to show what he can do. I will take another look in the midterm elections. If the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in 2006, then I will reassess Rove’s claim that the country is indeed moving in a Republican direction. I will also withdraw my September 2004 suggestion that the country might be led by the power of phony issues to elect a make-believe President.