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Commentary: 2004 Presidential Election

By Walter Simpson

Buffalo, NY – John Kerry gave a fine concession speech. He spoke about our national divisions and how we need to come together. I don't think it will be easy. President Bush has said he is a "uniter" and not a divider, but in his first term all he did was divide -- when governing from the hard right. Let's face it. We are on a rocky road. How to survive the next four years? Canada comes to mind.

Canadians are my kind of people. Most Canadians think George Bush has a screw loose and they say so. And they're laid back. Canadians say, Live and let live. They don't get hysterical about issues like gay marriage. And they laugh a lot, probably because their country is not being overrun by Bible Belt fundamentalists who want to impose their convoluted values on everybody else. Where else but America could you find Christians who think Jesus condones tax cuts for the millionaires while denying an increase in the minimum wage to the poor?

It would be great to live in Canada because Canadians are smart, too smart to tolerate a leader who says he's never made a mistake, doesn't read, doesn't nuance, and could care less about facts and science. And Canadians are impervious to patriotic appeals designed to conjure up the war spirit. They never go charging off to war. And so they are not likely to be thrilled or conned by preemptive war plans which result in an oily foreign quagmire leaving over one hundred thousand dead. That's how many Iraqis have died as a result of Bush's war, according to a recent news story which, like all such stories, was hardly covered on our side of the border.

Yes, this election is too much to bear. How did America get to a point where someone as incompetent and dangerous as George W. Bush not only wins the electoral vote but also wins the popular vote by such a wide margin?

It is really too soon to make sense of this but here are three factors which seem to have played major roles in Bush's victory.

First and most obvious is the increasing political influence of the religious right. These folks are waging a Christian fundamentalist jihad against those of us who do not share their religious views. As part of the Republican Party base, they wield a lot of power. The Republican leadership keeps them on board by blurring the Constitutional line between church and state, by implementing so-called faith-based initiatives which use tax dollars to promote conservative Christian proselytizing, and by attacking abortion rights, sex education, birth control, stem cell research, the teaching of evolution in science classes, and, of course, gay rights and gay marriage. Yes, we are in the midst of a cultural and religious war.

If the Democratic Party is ever going to occupy the White House again, it needs to begin vigorously explaining, defending, and promoting open-mindedness, tolerance, free-thinking, and liberty -- the values our country was founded on.

The second factor is the Republican Party's successful control of the airways. In the last ten years right wing talk shows have come to dominate AM radio. Limbaugh and others reach millions every day with their non-stop demagoguing and Democrat bashing. Add to that the impact of media concentration. The major news networks are owned by large corporations, limiting their breadth of coverage and analysis. Then there are giant media combines like the right wing Clear Channel corporation which owns 1400 radio stations and the Sinclair Media Group which owns dozens of TV stations nationwide. Fox News, perhaps the most watched news outlet, is essentially an arm of the Republican Party. The owner is conservative billionaire Rupert Murdock and its chairman is Roger Ailes, a former Republican Party campaign operative. Wake up and smell the coffee. The liberal news media was a myth, a cover, a smoke screen. To be successful, somehow the Democrats will have to expose, challenge, and disassemble this incredible right wing brainwashing machine.

The third factor is the ignorance and laziness of the average voter. It could also be called the stupidity factor. How else to explain the fact that many low and middle income Americans vote against their own economic interests when they vote Republican? Or how else to explain the public's willingness to swallow the Bush Administration's claim that the war in Iraq is about promoting freedom and democracy when students of U.S. foreign policy know that's not what our foreign policy has been about. Then there are the 62% of Americans who believe Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda and 41% who believe Saddam Hussein actually guided or assisted with the 9/11 attacks, even though there has never been a shred of evidence to support either assertion. Let's face it, many Americans are clueless, gullible, and easily led down the garden path. Maybe they want a President who doesn't give them an inferiority complex. It will take more than a voter education program to fix this chronic condition.

So four more years of the axis of evil - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and the others. If there is a silver lining to this disaster, it is that after 4 more years it should be impossible for the Republican Party to hide the consequences of their actions. But it is so painful to contemplate these consequences. The restructuring of the Supreme Court. The damage to civil rights and the environment. The failure to protect jobs and stem poverty. A spiraling national debt. And the lives lost in foreign imperial adventures.

By the way, I'm not going to Canada - no matter how many people would like me to. I'll keep fighting. I want my country back.

Commentary by Walter Simpson is a monthly feature of WBFO News.