WASHINGTON—The dream has become a nightmare. Not only did George Bush win, but he captured the presidency by a margin of what now looks like 4 million votes. That’s a clear mandate and a big green light for the right wing to push ahead with an ideological program.
Barring an almost mathematically impossible outcome in Ohio, there will be no suprise win by John Kerry, no swooping in by a centrist Democrat to vanquish the specter of a modern American theocracy.
Bush will have no meaningful opposition, with a fully Republican Congress at his disposal. Even Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, was beaten in what looks like a rout of the Democrats.
The dream of a secular, liberal democracy is lost: Christians are stronger than ever, and whether it’s true or not, the spin will be that they played a key role in building the Bush base. The visceral, cutting edge of the Bush mandate is the attack on same-sex marriage, led by the Christian right.
African Americans may have voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry, but Republicans without a doubt have made some, if only marginal, gains among black voters. In black Ohio churches, Democratic leaders were experiencing muttering discontent from the congregations over the issue of same-sex marriage. Abortion may be a given in the black community, but gay people marrying each other is definitely not.
Neoconservatives can proceed with business as usual—for the time being. But they will want to watch out for attacks—not from Democrats, but from the Reagan wing of the GOP.
The Patriot Act will become the modus for the increasing activities of the federal police. And again, criticism will come from the right, not the left. People like former Georgia congressman and lead Clinton impeacher Bob Barr already are out against the act. Paul Weyrich, long the most important conservative voice in Washington, is against it. He fears Senator Hillary Clinton will use it against himself and others on the right.
Abroad, the United States can only continue to lose standing as Bush presses his military agenda. European alliances will continue to wither and more and more people around the world will start seeing America as an empire in decline.