February 7, 2005


A transformative president (Michael Barone, February 7, 2005, Townhall)

[George W.] Bush has already transformed the American electorate. On Election Day, John Kerry won 16 percent more votes than Al Gore did in 2000. George W. Bush won 23 percent more votes than he had in 2000. This is comparable to Franklin Roosevelt's 22 percent gain in popular votes between 1932 and 1936. FDR created a New Deal majority that hadn't existed before. Bush may have done something similar for his party.

Bush carried 31 states that elect 62 of the 100 senators. He carried approximately 250 congressional districts, to about 185 for Kerry (the final counts aren't in). Bill Clinton was re-elected with 49 percent of the vote in times of apparent peace and apparent prosperity -- the most favorable posture in which to run. George W. Bush was re-elected with 51 percent of the vote in times not of apparent peace and apparent prosperity. Clinton's 49 percent in retrospect looks like a ceiling for his party. Bush's 51 percent may be more in the nature of a floor.

The one conspicuous failure of the Bush campaign was its failure to win the young vote. Bush's personal retirement accounts are popular with young voters, and he now has the megaphone to speak to them.

If Bush is transforming the American electorate, he is also transforming the world. For nearly two years, Old Media have been broadcasting pictures of violence and chaos in Iraq, ignoring the many changes for the better there. Last week, they could ignore those changes no longer.

On Jan. 30, 8 million Iraqis voted and held up their purple-ink-stained fingers and danced in the streets. On Feb. 2, as Bush delivered his State of the Union, Republican congressmen (and perhaps some Democrats, though I didn't see any) held up purple-ink-stained fingers, as Bush echoed his Second Inaugural and specified how he would advance liberty in the world.

America and the world watched as, in the gallery, Safia Taleb al-Suhali, whose father was murdered by Saddam Hussein's thugs, embraced Janet Norwood, the mother of a Marine sergeant who died in Fallujah. The world could see: A grateful Iraq was thanking a bereaved America for its sacrifices in the cause of freedom. Sacrifices not made in vain.

The Democrats' demands for an "exit strategy" show that they just don't get it. Bush has persevered through many months, of vicious attacks and Old Media pessimism. And he is succeeding.

In addition to the portion of the speech that was directly pitched at black America, the most revealing part of the event was the President's exit, when he tongue-kissed Joe Lieberman and chatted up half the Black Caucus on the way out. He's fighting to co-opt the very voters upon whom the Democrats most depend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 7, 2005 8:30 AM

Barone has it exactly right, as usual. He's a numbers guy and has been for decades and his Almanacs of American Politics are the single most useful reference guide one can find.

Bush's apparent weakness among younger voters has two causes. The first is the war, where Democrat scaremongering and decades of indoctrination about the alleged horribles of Vietnam caused fear of a draft or the dreaded 'quagmire.' Nobody in America, except for those who want to completely cripple America's warmaking capacity and a few useful idiots, wants a return to the draft. But that didn't stop the MSM and the Democrats from making that fear very real for young voters who saw themselves as potential involuntary cannon fodder. It was the single biggest objection to Bush from kids I know who voted for Cabana Boy.

The second is that young people are overwhelmingly libertarian. America is South Park, not Mayberry, and the GOP would do well to understand this. Rove does and I think Bush does but OJ clearly does not. Most young Americans understand the need for standards but also know the difference between sectarian crapola, which, since they know people of differing religious or no religious affiliation, they despise and American traditionalism, which they acknowledge a need for. In New York, you're more likely to bump into a moon man than into someone who agrees with James Dobson.

If the GOP becomes the party of the people who embrace Mel Gibson's Ben-Hur Meets Sam Peckinpah while condemning Clint Eastwood's 'Million Dollar Baby,' they will go the way of the Whigs in about a decade. Most American young people appreciate both.

Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 8:54 AM


Yes, the young are always libertarian because they are irresponsible by nature. No sensible society is run for its least mature members. But most of them, unlike you, do mature.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 10:58 AM

Which of course explains why the three most popular Republicans in America, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger and McCain adhere to essentially libertarian conservative positions or why Eastwood could be such a strong Reaganite. It is heartening to me that the two biggest movies on the Oscar list are essentially libertarian conservative films, Million Dollar Baby and Ray.

If the Religious Right over-reaches, and there is every indication that Dobson and Wildmon don't know when to stop, the results could be an extreme Euro-style secular reaction which neither you nor I would want to see. Jerry Falwell's comment about us deserving 9/11 was as disgusting as anything said by Ward Churchill, and Falwell made himself unwelcome among civilized men by his statement.

American religion, with the unusual exception of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticut from the witch trials till about 1750, has never been the suffocating, murderous, rapacious force that it has been in Europe, the Middle East and even the Himalayas. Americans, while religious, have been able to compartmentalize their faith, only one prelate, Garfield, has been President and he campaigned without reference to it. Even Rev Francis Bellamy's Pledge of Allegiance included no reference to the divine, it took a foreign, vile and un-American entity, the Knights of Columbus, to add 'under G-d' during the high point of the power of those gayboys Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn. Precisely because religion is a part of our lives, not in command of them as in the theocracies of the Arab World or the Dark Ages, it is such a strong and mostly constructive force here.

Unlike you, OJ, most Americans do not want their private lives run by the same people who run the Postal Service, Amtrak and the public schools.

Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 11:24 AM


I don't want the "same people" you refer to to have a monopoly in running mail delivery, train service, or the public schools. But I do think they are competent enough (perhaps barely) to throw murderers in jail, which is all they would be called on to do if our all powerful masters in the unelected judiciary would let laws against abortion and euthanasia be enforced.

Posted by: Dan at February 7, 2005 2:56 PM

The popular will as expressed in referendum after referendum all across America supports legalized abortion and euthanasia. There is no way that any Congress is passing a law against them in the foreseeable future, nor should they until people's attitudes change. Frankly, my view is that each state is perfectly competent to make its own rules on these matters and that Utah and New York will have different ones.

Blaming the Courts for following the popular will is something one should do only with great care. Americans are reasonable people and know how to balance things as we have demonstrated since 1776 and that will should be respected.

Posted by: Bart at February 7, 2005 3:20 PM

"Blaming the Courts for following the popular will is something one should do only with great care"

OK, with great care, I suggest the Courts ignore popular will and just interpret laws based on previous common law and constitutional principles. The worst that could happen is that the "popular will" will be exerted on the the legislature to change the law to something more popular. Otherwise you're merely recommending subverting the law. The rest of your political analysis is may be correct. If it is then laws will change anyway.

Posted by: h-man at February 7, 2005 3:41 PM

Of course the majority supports killing the minority. That's why there are Commandments and a Constitution.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 3:43 PM

Who are the "Decepticons" in this?

Posted by: AML at February 7, 2005 4:06 PM

Soros, Moore, MoveOn.org, and others of that ilk.

Posted by: Dave W. at February 7, 2005 9:36 PM


Regarding abortion, my impression is that it depends on how the question is phrased. When polls ask if abortion should be legal or illegal, the pro-choice side tends to win. But when polls get specific and ask when abortion should be allowed, about 70% of Americans oppose it except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Thus a large majority of Americans oppose at least 90% of all abortions. Every one in a while, some pro-choice organization commissions a poll demonstrating this before spewing out a press release between clenched teeth.

Regarding Falwell, what he said was vile but I don't think he ever said that the individual people in the towers deserved their fate, which was precisely Churchill's claim. His formulation struck me as similar to the kind of thing Lincoln said about America paying in blood for the sin of slavery. He was referencing a sort of amorphous, general "guilt" like the kind Christians use when they say "we all" crucified Christ (I know this is a bad example to use with you but it's the best I can think of right now). This is batty theology (unlike Lincoln's formulation, there's not even a tenous link between the suffering Falwell described and the evil being done), but it's not nearly as disgusting as what Churchill said.

I won't go anywhere near the comment about the Knights of Columbus except to say that it spoils an otherwise thoughtful post.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 7, 2005 9:55 PM