I have received thousands of letters (all right, three letters, but I’m rounding up) asking me to explain the election. Bending to the public will, I’ll try.
The way it looks to me is coastal snots against the heartland. The wine-and-cheese folk against pickups with gun racks. Texas against Massachusetts. Maybe that’s too simple, but I’m not going to admit it. I don’t have to. I’m writing the column.
Put it this way: If Kerry had worn a cowboy hat, he’d be president. Yep, he was a hat away from the brass ring. About size three, I’d guess.
It was the cultural divide. The coastal snots have enormous contempt for Texas, Oklahoma, the South, and any other place where people can change a flat tire. Along the Northeast Corridor the snots talk of rednecks, express wonderment that some of them can read, and regard them as barbarians inhabiting blank spaces on the map with dragons drawn in them. For snots in Massachusetts, most of the country is just an inconvenience in getting to the other coast. Flyover Land. They think that people in Alabama live naked in the forest and eat grubs they dig out of stumps.
The pickup people are tired of it. And the cheese people just found out.
A lot of columnists and talking heads on the coasts thought that the election was going to be a referendum on the war in Iraq. I doubt it was. Nobody in the middle of the country knows, or cares, anything about the world outside the United States. Nobody in Massachusetts knows anything, or cares much, about the world inside the United States. The Bush people have never heard of the Crimea. The Kerry people have barely heard of Texas.
This is why I’d like Texas to make my domestic policy, and Massachusetts my foreign policy. Or maybe have both of them just go away.
People in Oklahoma, I’ll bet you, are tired to the eyeballs of coastal, septic, hypersexual sludge forced on their children by Hollyork, of music so foul that you wouldn’t clean a toilet with it, of galloping repression of a religion that matters to them, of abortion without representation, of the constant pressure to give up their guns, which they enjoy, because subhuman inner-city savages back East kill everybody who goes into a Seven-Eleven, of the Latinization of America, and of schools run by federal fools so meddlesome and perverted that they would defile a landfill.
It’s as obvious as warts on a Prom queen (sez me, anyway) that a whole lot of people are sick of having their lives controlled by people they can’t stand, sick of being messed with from afar, sick of affirmative action and racial preferences and partial-birth abortion, the old Sandy Day O’Connor Brain Suck. Well, they just said so.
Me too, by the way. If Bush had campaigned on a promise to toss the Supreme Court into an industrial grinder, I would have voted. For him. And I can’t stand him.
Which brings us to the Feddle Gummint. Between the coasts it’s seen as the enforcement arm of the coastal snots—a gray, repressive, stupid, intrusive, and alien force, as degrading as having your leg humped by the dog in somebody else’s living room. To a lot of people, Washington isn’t the capital of their country. It’s The Enemy. It pushes on them everything they loathe. They hate it.
Bush somehow feels as if he were with the people against Washington’s inroads, though he isn’t. In fact he favors bigger and more intrusive government, and spends as Hillary could only dream. But he’s against gun control and abortion, the emotional hot issues. That’s enough.
When you have seen a thousand impassioned sheep waving witless placards at a political rally, you realize that facts don’t matter. Look and feel are everything. Bush and Kerry are both pampered ineffectual rich brats, one a drunk, the other a gigolo. Kerry comes from Massachusetts, though, and you just know he eats curious salads with strange names. By contrast, Bush has a certain ferret-like pugnacity to him and a low-wattage mind that people between the coasts are comfortable with. He isn’t going to use any of them high-falutin’ words, because he honestly doesn’t know them. He won’t confuse anyone.
People in Kansas aren’t stupid — not given the admittedly sorry baseline for humanity. They are intensely local, though, and use their minds for practical things. When it comes to foreign policy they are better on principle than detail. I keep reading that sixty-some percent of Republicans believe that Iraq did New York. (Given what Republicans generally think of New York, I’m not sure why they aren’t grateful.) They know that somebody did something bad to us, and they want to smack the bejesus out of someone for it. That’s principle. “Smack who” is a detail.
Bush looks like (and is) a Texan who isn’t going to take any crap. For people who have taken an awful lot of it from Washington for awfully long, that’s appealing. Whether he has the slightest idea what he’s doing doesn’t matter. He sounds conservative and patriotic if you don’t pay too much attention to what he is saying. He is against ter and terrace. He wants to protect America and smack them infiddles upside the head. It’s the spirit of the thing.
There is horror on the coasts over the influence of evangelical Christians. How much evangelical Christianity has to do with Christianity, I don’t know. Sometimes it looks to me more like an assertion of independence from federal intrusiveness than a religious awakening. However spiritual it may or may not be, it is an organized, satisfying way of hating the bastards on the coasts.
Rational people, always at a disadvantage in American politics, wonder how Christians can favor bombing cities. Jesus, they say in puzzlement, didn’t seem to be persuasively bloodthirsty. True, but irrelevant.
You have to understand that Christians have never regarded the teachings of Christ as authoritative. Christians are as savage a clan as can be found, matched only by Moslems, Jews, and Shintoists. And probably everybody else. Check the headlines.
As the Kerry people believe in separation of church and state, evangelicals believe in separation of church and behavior. What you do isn’t the point. It’s whose side you are on. In a country where everybody hates everybody else, that matters. And, as we just discovered, it did matter.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well.