Monday, November 8, 2004
Kerry crashed in flyover country
Columnist, The Orange County Register
"Sen. John Kerry's solid victory over President George W.
Bush on Tuesday was a shocker for those Americans who thought that the
War on Terror would prove to be the president's ace in the hole."
... that was a sentence from my unpublished editorial, written late
Tuesday afternoon as predictions of a lopsided Kerry victory were
spreading across the nation based on exit polls that turned out to be
deeply flawed. Things turned out a bit differently when the real votes
A lot of commentators and politicians got snookered.
I admit being quite relieved when I saw that the exit polls were wrong.
all now remember that exit polls leaked to Internet sources early in
the day are not reliable predictors of the final results. After the
numbers are adjusted and tabulated and whatnot, they offer fascinating
information about the election. But not early in the day.
Here are some other lessons I learned, or have been reminded of, because of Tuesday's voting.
Liberal activists and commentators need to get out a little more.
should spend a week or more in Omaha, Biloxi or Bismarck. There they
will find nice, normal people living their lives in nice, normal ways.
They'll find nice, normal houses and nice, normal shopping malls. Yep,
they've got indoor plumbing in flyover country. Nice downtowns. No
burning of witches at the stake in the town square.
intelligent and decent people. More ethnic and ideological diversity
than leftists imagine. People in those parts of the country tend to be
more traditional in their values than coastal elites and they tend to
be more religious, also. Because they are more likely to believe in God
and in the original founding principles of the nation, liberals think
they are mostly hate-filled Neanderthals.
I spent many years in
what liberals deride as flyover country, having been a resident of
Lima, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa, Tullahoma, Tenn., and Reading, Pa. The
sarcastic, dripping mockery from the left comes through loud and clear
to the "rubes" in the cornfields. As the Democratic Party has embraced
the values of Hollywood and has engaged in snarling putdowns and
ludicrous stereotypes of Middle America, so has it lost the hearts,
minds and votes of larger swaths of the nation.
Look at the
Bush vs. Kerry maps - not the state maps, but the county maps. The
urban areas are Kerry country, but much of the rest of the country is
becoming solid Republican turf. Gee, I wonder why residents of the
South and Midwest replaced Democratic senators with Republican ones.
Read the post-mortems on the elections. The liberals have an answer: bigotry, hatred, fear, religious zealotry, you name it.
a typical rant, by Jane Smiley on the mainstream liberal Web site,
Slate: "I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, so
I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the
decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the
citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have
evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well,
almost 58 million - my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy
and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)"
British newspaper's headline asked: "How could 59,054,087people be so
dumb?" It wasn't just in Britain. That sentiment ran deep throughout
America's own newsrooms.
Some news reports were hilarious.
Reuters reported that "Disgruntled Democrats seeking a safe Canadian
haven after President Bush won Tuesday's election should not pack their
bags just yet." They have to wait in line, like anyone else. OK, fine.
But how does it play in Peoria that some liberals are actually thinking
about leaving the country because they are so upset at a Bush win?
Calm down, chill out, take a trip to the heartland.
The key to Republican victory is not to follow the advice of "moderates" and soften positions and weaken conservative stances.
key is to clearly and boldly state the case. I never supported Bush on
the war, and I have been appalled by his lack of fiscal discipline, but
I've admired his willingness to take a stand. Most people react in the
same way. I'll still buy lunch for the first person who can explain to
me John Kerry's position on Iraq in an understandable way.
of mushing the differences between the two parties to appeal to
undecided voters and Democratic-leaning minorities, as liberal/moderate
Republicans suggested, Bush sharpened the divide. He talked tough on
the war and appealed directly to conservative values, especially on
cultural issues, gun rights, tax cuts.
The result? An astounding victory, and one that further solidified Bush in the non-urban parts of the country.
it's more than that. Bush did surprisingly well even in those parts of
the country that are the deepest blue. His numbers in California
weren't that bad. He came close to victory in Pennsylvania, Minnesota
and Michigan. He only lost New Jersey by 7 percentage points and
"culturally left" Oregon by 3 percentage points.
Republicans act like Democrats, voters tend to support the Democrats.
Why vote for the "me-too" party when you can vote for the real thing?
Bush approach, craftedby political adviser Karl Rove, was to appeal to
the gut-level conservatism of many groups that tend to be the strongest
Hence, Bush got 14 percent of the black
vote, after running radio spots about gay marriage on African-American
radio stations. That's not a lot, but it's quite a bit higher than the
last election (9 percentage points), when candidate Bush was pushing
the kinder-gentler stuff. Kerry only won among Hispanics by 54 percent
to 45 percent. That statistic should be giving Democratic strategists
Record turnout did not hurt the Republicans, once
again contradicting the conventional wisdom that holds that higher
turnouts lead to Democratic victories. The Bush/Rove strategy of
mobilizing hard-core Republicans was a success, and it was on display
in the crucial swing state of Ohio, where Republicans brought their
voters out in droves. You can only bring out your voters by motivating
them, and you can only motivate them with strong positions, not mush.
Don't pay any mind to media post-mortems that wring their hands about Republican divisiveness.
It's time to grow up. Politics is about division, not about holding hands and singing campfire songs. It should be about division, at least in terms of issues rather than in terms of personal attacks.
worst elections are those in which both major candidates agree on
almost everything. In those cases, no one gets any real choice. Voters
deserve a choice, not an echo.
Just so you understand the terms
when you read about them or hear them debated on National Public Radio:
When a Republican says he is pro-life, that is divisive, but when a
Democrat says he is for abortion rights, that is not at all divisive.
When Rush Limbaugh rips into John Kerry, that is an exercise in
divisiveness and hate, but when Michael Moore produces a documentary
attacking President Bush with every sort of libel, that's merely a
filmmaker doing his job.
Divisiveness is a two-way street, and
politicians only reflect divisions that already exist. The country is
divided on values, politics and many other things. So any time any
candidate of any party takes any position of any substance, he is being
Politics is about taking positions and about winning and losing. It is division in action.
why the less politics, the better. That's why the founders wanted
government to be limited to a few functions - mainly those protecting
our God-given liberties.
When government gets big, the stakes
get higher, because whoever is elected gets power to make us richer or
poorer or to enslave us. Unfortunately, not enough people have gotten
that lesson from Tuesday's national elections.