Sidney Blumenthal: Bush Unbound


Richard Moore


Bush Unbound 
By Sidney Blumenthal 

Wednesday 03 November 2004 
Winning on fear itself, the GOP is ready to take the country even farther right.

"This country is going so far to the right you are not even
going to recognize it," remarked John Mitchell, President
Nixon's attorney general, in 1970. Mitchell's prophesy became
the mission of Nixon's College Republican president, Karl
Rove, who implemented the strategy of authoritarian populism
behind George W. Bush's victory.

In the aftermath, Democrats will form their ritual circular
firing squad of recriminations. But, finally, the loss was not
due to their candidate's personality, the flaws of this or
that advisor or the party's platform. The Democrats surprised
themselves at their ability to raise tens of millions of
dollars, inspire hundreds of thousands of activists, spawn
extensive new organizations, attract icons of popular culture
and present themselves as unified around a centrist position.
Expectations were not dashed. Turnout vastly increased among
African-Americans and Hispanics. More than 60 percent of the
newly registered voters went for John Kerry. Those concerned
about the economy voted overwhelmingly for him; so did those
citing the war in Iraq as an issue. But the surge of the
Democrats was more than matched.

Using the White House as a machine of centripetal force, Rove
spread fear and fused its elements. Fear of the besieging
terrorist, appearing in Bush campaign TV ads as the shifty
eyes of a swarthy man or a pack of wolves, was joined with
fear of the besieging queer. Bush's announcement that he
favored a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was
underscored by referendums against it in 11 states, including
Ohio - all of which won.

The evangelical churches became instruments of political
organization. Ideology was enforced as theology, turning
nonconformity into sin, and the faithful, following voter
guides with biblical literalism, were shepherded to the polls
as though to the rapture. White Protestants, especially in the
South, especially married men, gave their souls and votes for
flag and cross.

The campaign was one long camp meeting, a revival. Abortion
and stem cell research became a lever for prying loose white
Catholics. (Rove's designated Catholic leader, his own
political pontiff, had to resign in disgrace after being
exposed for sexual harassment, but this was little reported
and had no effect.) To help in Florida, a referendum was put
on the ballot to deny young women the right to abortion
without parental approval, and it galvanized evangelicals and
conservative Catholics alike.

While Kerry ran on the mainstream American traditions of
international cooperation and domestic investment, and
transparency and rationality as essential to democratic
government, Bush campaigned directly against these very ideas.
At his rallies, Bush was introduced as standing for "the right
God." During the closing weeks of the campaign, Bush and
Cheney ridiculed internationalism, falsifying Kerry's
statement about a "global test." They disdained Kerry's
internationalism as effeminate, unpatriotic, a character flaw
and elitist. "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a
pig," Vice President Cheney derided in every speech. They
grafted imperial unilateralism onto provincial isolationism.
Fear of the rest of the world was to be mastered with contempt
for it.

These emotions were linked to what is euphemistically called
"moral values," which is actually social and sexual panic over
the rights of women and gender roles - lipstick traces,
indeed. Only imposing manly authority against "girlie men,"
girls and lurking terrorists can save the nation. Bush's TV
ads featured digitally reproduced crowds of cheering soldiers,
triumph of the leader through computer enhancement. Above all,
the exit polls showed that "strong leader" was the primary
reason Bush was supported.

Brought along with Bush is a gallery of grotesques in the
Senate - more than one of the new senators advocating capital
punishment for abortion, another urging that all gay teachers
be fired, yet another revealed as suffering from obvious
symptoms of Alzheimer's.

The new majority is more theocratic than Republican, as
Republican was previously understood; the defeat of the old
moderate Republican Party is far more decisive than the loss
by the Democrats. And there are no checks and balances. The
terminal illness of Chief Justice William Rehnquist signals
new appointments to the Supreme Court that will alter law for
more than a generation. Conservative promises to dismantle
constitutional law established since the New Deal will be
acted upon. Roe vs. Wade will be overturned and abortion

Now, without constraints, Bush can pursue the dreams he
campaigned for - the use of U.S. military might to bring God's
gift of freedom to the world, with no more "global tests," and
at home the enactment of the imperatives of "the right God."
The international system of collective security forged in
World War II and tempered in the Cold War is a thing of the
past. The Democratic Party, despite its best efforts, has
failed to rein in the radicalism sweeping the country. The
world is in a state of emergency but also irrelevant. The New
World, with all its power and might, stepping forth to the
rescue and the liberation of the old? Goodbye to all that.

About the writer: Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and
senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of "The
Clinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian
of London.

© : t r u t h o u t 2004 

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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