It’s 3:30 AM. Ohio looks bad for John Kerry. He’s down 180,000 votes. There may be 175,000 provisional ballots. But can Kerry win practically every single one and find other votes there? Kerry is losing by 1,700 votes in New Mexico and 15,000 in Iowa.John Edwards appeared before Kerry supporters in Copley Square and promised that the Kerry campaign will fight to count every vote. But the Kerry ticket is behind in the national numbers, on the short end of a 51-48 split, trailing Bush by almost 4 million votes, with 93 percent of the precincts reporting. The election was close, achingly close. There may be an odd bounce or two yet to come. But the safe assumption is that George W. Bush will emerge the winner of the electoral vote and the popular vote. It’s a sad morning in America.
The electorate almost engaged in a much-needed political correction. It almost undid the asterisk of 2000. Instead, voters legitimized the fellow who gained the White House against the will of the majority and who then pretended he had a mandate and subsequently pushed tax cuts for the well-to-do and launched a war predicated on untrue assertions. So there will be no good-bye to reckless preemptive war, an economic policy based on tax breaks tilted toward the wealthy, a war on environmental regulations, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, excessive secrecy in government, unilateral machismo, the neocon theology of hubris and arrogance, a ban on effective stem cell research, no-bid Halliburton contracts, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and much more. Did I mention Dick Cheney?
Bush lied his way into office and lied his way through his presidency. His reelection campaign was based on derision and disingenuousness; he mischaracterized Kerry and his positions and touted successes that did not exist. And now, it seems, he got away with it. He was not punished for leading the country into a war that was not necessary. He was not booted for having overstated the WMD threat from Iraq. He paid no price for failing to plan adequately for the post-invasion period. Iraq remains his mess. And the United States and the world remains at the mercy of a gang that, no doubt, will feel even more emboldened to pursue their misguided policies.
The good news: America is a divided nation. Despite the pundit hand-wringing over this fact, it is a positive thing. Nearly–nearly–half of the electorate rejected Bush’s leadership, his agenda, his priorities, his falsehoods. From Eminem to the chairman of Bank of America to 48 Nobel laureates to gangbangers who joined anti-Bush get-out-the-vote efforts in swing states. Nearly half of the voting public concluded that Bush had caused the deaths of over 1,100 American GIs and literally countless Iraqis (maybe 100,000) for no compelling reason. Nearly half saw the emperor buck naked and butt ugly. Nearly half said no to his rash actions and dishonest justifications. Nearly half realized that Bush had misrepresented the war in Iraq as a crucial part of the effort against al Qaeda and Islamic jihadism. Nearly half desired better and more honest leadership. Nearly half knew that Bush has led the country astray.