Why G. W. Bush in 2004?

anybody but Bush cartoon
4 September, 2004

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Just after the USA 2004 elections, someone from the Joe Jackson mail-list posted the following:

Yes, it's not the topic in JJ group but I just heard about news and elections in America. Please, anyamercian people could explain me why Bush is stilhhere? there must be many reasons no? I think that hrer, in Europe, we don't understand americans or we liked an old America which is dead now. And don't worry, I didn't really made my opinion with french news, all french news were against Bush, so, I read and watched documentaries about Bush and Kerry and I made my opinion. I'm just afraid that now, America will be hated by the whole world and just wondering if all americans know that?
Love america...but not all americans ;)

I kept thinking about it, and couldn't sleep. So I arose from my bed, and posted the following answer:
I realize how difficult it is to understand the politics of a foreign nation, and since the Joe Jackson list is so "Cosmopolitan" [note the subtle JJ reference], with members all over the world, it may be a proper topic for some discussion. I am an American who is passionate about politics, so I'll attempt to explain thing in my own way, after having given it a lot of thought.

First, I'll try to describe the various political factions, from "right" to "left".

  1. The right-most of the right-wingers are people who want to be left alone-- especially by the government. They may be called Anarchists, Libertarians, Constitutionists, etc. These are people who will tell you that the Republicans and Democrats are both the same. They will vote for obscure candidates that most Americans have never heard of.
  2. The Republican party is one of the two major parties. It is a broad coalition of social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and business interests. This is the party that nominated George W. Bush for president.
  3. The Democratic party is the other major US party. It is a broad coalition of labor unions, minorities, and advocacy groups. This is the party that nominated John F. Kerry for president.
  4. The left-most of the left-wingers are people who won't leave others alone, and want to tell us all how to live. They may be called Greens, Progressives, Socialists, etc. Curiously, these are also people who will tell you that the Republicans and Democrats are both the same. These people will vote for vocal candidates like Ralph Nader.

It is interesting that extremists from both ends of the political spectrum say that there is no difference between the two major parties. This is how you can identify someone who is out of touch with mainstream American politics.

Unlike many European nations, where a government is often formed by a coalition of several minor parties after the elections, the two major parties in America are themselves coalitions that are formed before the election. The minor parties in America are usually narrow interest groups, often focusing on a single issue.

The two major parties are broad enough to have overlapping interests. For instance Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat from Georgia, supported George W. Bush in this year's election.

And there are many "independent" voters, who do not claim loyalty to any party, but vote for the candidate who they like best.

So, to answer you question "Why Bush?", here is my personal opinion: We have a lousy primary system for nominating presidential candidates. Our system lets a few states like Iowa and New Hampshire choose for the whole country. This year the Democrat party was stuck with John F. Kerry, by many accounts the most left-leaning member of the US Senate. Although he tried to portray himself as a centrist, the American public was not fooled. And given the choice, many conservative Democrats and independents voted for George W. Bush.

I have lately been pondering this quotation by the noted historians, Will and Ariel Durant:

"[F]reedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way. Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity." (The Lessons of History, p. 20)

As I see it, the major parties reflect the primary values of the American people:

There are some people today who imagine that they can have both freedom and equality, like "eating their cake and having it too" (an American proverb). Unfortunately, this makes them easy targets to be manipulated by cynical power-brokers.

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