Dead Men Left

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Don't moan, organise

I invite everyone to compare this map with this one. It is, of course, bitterly depressing that Bush should still occupy the White House. The thought of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz rubbing their hands with glee and unrolling maps of Iran is chilling. But it's not so bad that you'll have to move to Canada.

Elections only ever provide a snapshot of political changes. The first picture above shows US electoral colleges in 1972. The Republicans, under Richard Nixon, won a famous landslide with 60% of the popular vote. The Republican campaign had appealed to the "silent majority" to stand up for their values, and the majority responded.

Within two years of this resounding victory, Nixon was out of office and the US out of Vietnam. Neither event could have been predicted from the thumping vote the Republicans received in the election; to see either coming, we would have to look deeper: to the long-brewing resentment against the Vietnam war, and the resistance of the Vietnamese; to the slowing of the Golden Age boom; and to the festering discontent and corruption within the Republican Party itself.

George Bush's predictable victory was far tighter, won under similar circumstances; still less can we predict, from this election victory, a Republican ascendancy. The sources of the Republican vote are clear:Twenty-five percent of voters prioritised "moral values" - no to gay marriages, no to stem cell research - above all else in this election. The mobilisation of the evangelical Christian vote was prepared months in advance. Catholics, the largest single religious minority in the US, switched their historic support for the Democrats to the Republicans.

That this occurred when a Catholic Democratic candidate was on offer - another JFK, no less - is a tribute to the shocking ineptitude of the Democrat's campaign; perhaps its sole achievement is the defeat of Ralph Nader, for which Michael Moore and the Anybody But Bush crew should be acknowledged. Kerry was crippled, as a credible opposition, from the moment he voted for the Iraq war; he then proceeded to hobble a few feet beind Bush, declaring feebly that he would "manage it better". Presented with a choice between Bush and Bush in drag, voters chose the real thing. In a polarised election, the worst possible strategy is to attempt to ape your opponent. This is precisely what Kerry did, and he came a cropper because of it.

But as Lenin has indicated, the coalition Bush assembled rests on surprisingly shaky foundations. On major policy issues, he is opposed by a majority of the US population. There is a credible opposition to Bushism waiting to be built, and Bush's support can be weakened. Away from the dedicated evangelical Right, those conservative inclined voters who voted Republican this time round are in place for as long as the economy holds out. The US' economic security, thanks to the triple deficits of public spending, private borrowing, and the balance of trade, has been placed in the hands of the Pacific capital markets. With the illusory "New Economy" now a fading memory, this is a precarious balance. Added to the debilitating occupation of Iraq, support for which slips further with every body-bag, and the Republican triumph looks - if not yet wobbly - at least susceptible to a good shove.

After an election in which assorted luminaries of the anti-war movement demanded votes for a pro-war candidate, the grave risk is that the main force at present capable of giving Bush a good shove has weakened itself. Thanks to the strength of the resistance in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, and the sheer bloody enveloping horror of the occupation, that movement appears again to be finding its feet. Back to the streets, with those who supported Kerry, and those who did not.