Ah... so Bush won.... The French reaction, that I saw here, wasn't so much anger as smacking their heads, asking why, sighing, and then saying, "well, here we go for another four years..." The French just don't understand how someone they see as so, seeming to them, unfit for the job could be reelected. On election day, I watched a documentary of a side-by-side contrast of the histories of John Kerry and George Bush, i.e. 'while Bush was dropping out of Harvard, Kerry was running for his first political office,' etc. They just don't have the long-lived and well-loved image of John Wayne to add that special something Americans see in the way Bush goes after the bad guys and flashes the camera that lovable smile. But that's, of course, all supposition, since personally, I have no idea what Americans see in Bush either. The reason I heard most often for voting for Bush, and the one that pissed me off the most, was: "I don't agree with everything Bush does, but that Kerry flip-flops all the time." As a Public Relations major, I know and can understand how people just sit around in a room, with all their education of how to manipulate people's opinions, and come up with something totally insubstantial like that. But that people repeat it, as if it makes any sense and is a viable reason not to vote for Kerry just drives me nuts. Of course with 20 years of governmental positions he's going to change over time. Worse is when someone knows something they did is wrong, or will not work in every situation, but continues to do it anyway. Human beings were born to learn and adapt. That is our, perhaps only, strength. ************** I watched a news program here the day of the elections, kind of like The Jim Laher Hour on PBS. The topic was "The longest day." Questions included: "One has the impression that Bush is for the layperson and Kerry is more cultured and refined. Is that true?," "Why don't the Americans vote for their president directly?" (a question that perennially confounds the French), "Can Electors in the Electoral College be bought?" (an interesting question that illuminates a concern that Americans don't think about. Techinically the president isn't voted for until Dec. 6th when Electors gather in state capitals to vote. What would happen if suddenly a few, but substantial enough number, switched sides?), and "What happens if there's a tie?" (Statistically highly unlikely, but it would go to the House to decide. Did you hear that Supreme Court?) *************** Another common theme I found in the press here was how much the rest of the world dislikes Bush. The French press report often that almost all country leaders, except Vladamir Putin (Russia) and a few others, detest Bush. If I may dare to translate an article from Le Monde (perhaps the premier French newspaper) on 2 Nov. 2004:
"The image of the US is very degraded in Europe and in Arabic and Muslim countries:
Never has the issue of an American presidential election been awaited with so much impatience by the world, and never have we ever wished so much that the voters will 'oust the outgoing" from the White House. George Bush acheived, as far as his impopularity outside the States, a ranking unequaled in the history of the United States.
This popular disavowal is confirmed, except in a few very rare countries, by all the surveys. It is essentially linked to the war in Iraq and it's subsequent downfall."
************** Republicans have a lot of political capital now, even putting aside the Presidency. They picked up 5 seats in Congress and about four Supreme Court Justices will come up for appointment during W.'s term. That combined with what Republican lawmakers see as a mandate from the American people is going to mean some deep-digging, long-lasting repercussions. Someone told me, "Yeah, we'll see how much they get done. The Democrats used to have that much power and they didn't do much." Unfortunately, the Democrats aren't as coordinated as Republicans. When the world can be seen in black and white, good and evil, goals are simpler and clearer. But when you get a bunch of liberals together, they say, "yeah, but, what about the environmental repercussions? what about the labor market? what about..." and nothing gets done. There are useful aspects to both approaches, but neither works incredibly well on its own. ******************* I heard a rumor that when asked if he was going to reach across party lines, Bush replied, "I'll reach out to people who see things my way." I'm not sure if that's what he really said or not, but given the last four years, I'd say it's pretty accurate anyway. However, obviously the American people want what Republicans promise, so it's only fair that they get it. But too much of what Republicans promise could, I believe very seriously, mean the downfall of America as the world's superpower. There isn't a single policy of W.'s I can think of that is sustainable.