Bully for Us

You talkin' to me, world? You talkin' to me? I'm the only empire around.

These are the three key elements of Republican belief and election strategy. Bush wants to expand the military into the major instrument in foreign policy. When you come right down to it, there probably is not that much difference between Kerry and Bush on Iraq. Because of tradition, Democrats ought to be able to take the initiative on jobs, but this is difficult because Clinton-Gore basically dissed what's left of the rank-and-file labor movement and scorned the assorted mix of liberals and leftists because they were, as the Democratic Leadership Council never fails to point out, a bunch of sorehead losers who caused the party to crumble during the 1980s. Instead of instituting bold programs to revive manufacturing and directly seeking to stop outsourcing, Clinton introduced a tax write-off here and there.

Women, on the other hand, hold out real promise for Kerry in the election. In recognition of their importance, the Bush strategists at last week's convention in New York went out of their way to offer a smidgeon of enticement to women, allowing that there was room to discuss abortion within the party and offering up their admiring support for a parade of the plutocratic women of the Bush family at a reception at the Waldorf-Astoria. Laura Bush came forward to explain what a vulnerable guy her husband really is and how much he cares. The press took this as a gesture to married women—who might be wavering because of the war—to see just what a terribly conflicted man her husband has been on this subject.

In the 2000 election, women represented 52 percent of the total electorate, but the Kerry campaign says 22 million unmarried women didn't vote. The Democratic campaign claims that nearly three-quarters of this group of nonvoters are for Kerry this time around. A survey of Gallup polls over the first half of 2004 shows that registered women voters are pretty much split between Kerry and Bush, with married women tending to favor the president and unmarried women going for Kerry.

On the face of it, women ought to be fed up with Bush, in part because of his attacks on abortion and stem cell research and his continuing assault on women who don't fit into the social-policy niche of the nuclear family—on all aspects of choices for women, including health care issues and the problem of poverty and ill health among elderly women. In this jobless "recovery," more women than men are unemployed and stay unemployed longer than men. Perhaps the most insidious attacks on women have come from Bush's clever manipulation of government reports, which on issues such as health care simply have cut women out of the loop. Information that might help them figure out matters relating to health has disappeared from federal websites.

This is one area where Kerry appears to be consistent and focused, and where the DLC, the center left, minorities, and labor—the party's foundations—seem to be united.


Additional reporting: Laurie Anne Agnese

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