Friday, September 17, 2004


--"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator" -- President George W. Bush

In this article, David Greenberg discusses the tactics of the Republican Party since the 1992 defeat of George H.W. Bush. It resonates with what I am experiencing here in some private replies to these blogs, and in personal life where if I dare to wear the Kerry button to a local event, I am met with half-joking warnings and some that are not so joking. Even at work, people come up to me and say, "You sure are brave to wear that button here." In a neighboring county, a lady wearing a Kerry campaign button was greeted by her boss with, "You can work for him or me but not both" and that was the end of her job. Kerry heard about that, called her, and hired her.

At the very worst of the Wallace years in Alabama, I never heard of someone being fired for campaigning for a candidate unless they were actually not doing their job. This is outrageous.

I live in America, protected by a citizen government and a Constitution with a Bill of Rights. It seems these are a very thin veneer that can be undone by one administration using the tactics of the prep school bully. Fear and intimidation undo us too easily.

Having lived through the period of infamous Southern demogogues, I do recognize the steel behind G.W. Bush's sneer. It is the sneer of the little man become bully who can work his will with veiled threats to his opponents all the while acting as if he were a common man. He isn't. He isn't even Texan. The drawl, the denim jeans, and the boy howdy come lately personality are an act of a New England aristocrat, Ivy League educated, and wealthy. It's an act polished over many years but not many political successes. The act has kind even conciliatory words in it, but if you listen to the warm up acts, they are filled with vitriol, lies, and hate speech.

Note well: Bush rallies are closed events. Kerry rallies are open to the public. Kerry takes the heckling that Bush avoids facing, although his wife got a dose of it from a woman protesting the death of her son in Iraq. The woman was dragged from the meeting and charged with willful trespass. So, to tell the wife of the President of the United States the truth, one has to become a criminal?

This isn't like any election I've ever seen in America. The Republican behavior and tactics in every way betray a lack of faith in the people who give them their power and in the system they claim hegemony over. This is outrageous.

As Greenberg says, if we elect Bush this time, we have approved the politics of bullying. On the playground of American politics, no one is going to stop him in a second term from more eratic decision making and continuing his pursuit of policies that undo the gains of the middle class and the poor in the last century. The Republicans are well on their way to making this the century of American fascism at home and abroad. We get exactly one chance to stop them before this becomes a violent confrontation on the streets.

Last weekend, the "Dollar Man" as my Dad called him, drove through the neighborhood selling ice cream from his truck. As he handed me the goods (reward your kids for cleaning the house), he looked at the Kerry/Edwards sign in my front yard, and said excitedly and loudly in a Jamaican accent, "What about THIS?!? They are lieing about this man on TV. Is this the way you elect your president??? What can we do??? They ARE LIEING!!!" The Dollar Man typically says nothing but "Which one?" and "Here is your change." To hear him suddenly and without question launch into a tirade on the election was astounding. Immigrants "Get" American values long after the native born cave in to the politics of the bully.

I told him, "This isn't a normal election as I have experienced them and you are right. Turn off the television and get the facts, then whatever you believe, know, or support, come November, Vote. That's all we have to stop bullies."



Joshua Allen said...

It's just the opposite here on the granola coast. There have been several incidents of conservatives being intimidated and bullied, including a recent case with a young pre-teen girl shoved around and cursed (this is not the same as the now-famous little girl in the photo crying as the democrat rips up her sign; we had a local incident similar just days before). It's also common to see Republican road signs smashed, vandalized, or whatever. Even near Microsoft campus I have seen this many times (today the Rossi sign near my building was covered with paper taped over the name, for example).

I personally have had several instances this season where complete strangers approached me (including once half-naked in the hot tub at Pro Club) who got belligerent when I fail to agree that Bush is an evil person. They apparently assume that I am a Bush-hater, and although I am very polite and try to change the subject, they persist in trying to get me to agree to any number of conspiracy theories. Never any people asking me to support Kerry; just people making hateful comments about Bush.

To be honest, I have never seen anything like this. Things are polarized. Neither side is occupying any sort of moral high ground right now.

Len Bullard said...

Yep. An election gone deeply bitter. My son's getting hassled at school for my wearing a button to a ballgame. This is outrageous.

This isn't about morals though. This is more fundamental than that. It is about the question of Bush's presidency divided so completely down the middle that the election is once again into statistical noise. So whatever for whoever, vote. If we do that in large numbers, it will come out fine.

Well, at least I'm looking forward to the debates.


Joshua Allen said...

I tell myself that the bad behavior is worst in areas that are monopolized by one candidate or another; people tend to speak a little more loosely when speaking to the choir, or when they feel sheltered by many like-minded comrades. I never recall this degree of acrimony in the midwest or Northeast (but those were different years). But that's pure speculation in my part. The parties have succeeded in slicing up the population along many dimensions: city/rural, black/white, male/female, gay/straight, and so on. This makes for all sorts of potential fault line activity.

Tony Fisk said...

Your post is the first I've heard of the level of acronimity in the US election and I can appreciate your concerns. I wondered, a while ago, what would happen to the Union without the USSR to push together against.

It's interesting to compare and contrast US and Oz at the moment, since both have elections due about a month apart.
One big difference is that, here, voting is compulsory. This *might* be why your campaigning is a bit more 'enthusiastic' as the various sides try to drum up support. Body bags are also bound to raise emotions.
In contrast, most people here are pretty disinterested. It may be that people are apathetic. It may be that they don't believe election promises anyway and make their minds up on the basis of previous performance.
I can't comment in depth on your candidates, of course, but Howard and Bush seem to have similar 50's style mindsets (although I think Howard has a bit more native intelligence).
Latham (current opposition leader here), while no fool, is a bit green and has a loutish reputation that doesn't count in his favour. Howard has a strong economic record and a strong (if morally appalling) policy on illegal immigrants.
I found your comment on the closure of Bush rallies interesting. The parties here don't have rallies as such, but we had one televised debate, at 10:30pm on a Sunday. Guess who has more control over timing and scheduling of these things? Guess which party wasn't so keen on the idea?
Sounds like a shoo-in for the libs? Don't be so sure. The Australian electorate has a pretty good record of reading between the lines. We'll see.

Len Bullard said...

What we have is a 50-50 split just as we did in the last election. Bush & Company lost the majority vote in the last election and won by virtue of the Supreme Court. This time they need to win honest but have no record to run on so they ratcheted up the Mean Machine early on. That meant the Democrats had to respond in kind. The outcome is that the real issues, the first presidency to create more jobs overseas than in America itself, to turn a surplus into a deficit, to make a first strike nation out of a superpower thus pushing our allies away, to make a mockery out of the separation of church and state, in short to abdicate the heart of American values, are lost in the noise of fear of events in Iraq. Meanwhile, the terrorists seeing this know they are winning and continue to take hostages, extort money, and execute foreign nationals.

The current administration is a disaster in every place except the polls. That speaks volumes about the fear in the minds of the strongest nation on this planet, and that is not a good thing. Paranoids act paranoid. That is pretty much the Bush presidency from start to today.

We need a change.

Joshua Allen said...


Your point about compulsory voting is quite interesting. The parties rely on the emotionally-charged "wedge issues" near the election deadline as a way to motivate their bases to "get out the vote". Perhaps if everyone voted, it would eliminate that incentive. On the other hand, elections are getting closer each cycle, which means that a few votes make the difference, and thus those few votes are fought more fiercely.

My personal opinion is that the elections are so close simply because the candidates (and the parties) are more alike than ever. In part, it's also a fact that the data mining and targetted "CRM" used by the parties is becoming more effective at carving up territory and picking out tiny slivers of interests groups. This leads to closer elections, and more "personalized" pitches.

Finally, I would point out that the best source of information about what motivates Bush supporters is probably not Kerry supporters. Particularly, I think it's unfair to characterize most Bush supporters as being motivated by fear or religion. It's simple enough to just ask a Bush supporter.

Len Bullard said...

Really, Joshua?

Maybe you can provide a list of why you support Bush?


Joshua Allen said...


First is foreign policy. I agree completely with what Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, and Miller said about foreign policy at the convention. Although America has room for improvement, the rest of the world is far behind in terms of liberty and transparency. We cannot outsource our foreign policy to the same people who gave Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize. Once democracy and transparency have spread throughout the world, I might be more open to John Kerry's brand of internationalism. We need a strong national core to meet the challenges of the next century, beyond "the war on terror". Challenges like ascendent China (which is a good thing for the world, but not if America is weak), diminishing oil supplies, and so on.

Second is economic. I support tax cuts and reducing entitlements. I don't support government-managed wealth redistribution, and I resent the rhetoric of class warfare. Although I do not support Bush's deficit spending, I think that raising taxes (Kerry's plan) would just make things worse.

Beyond that, I certainly could live without the activist judges trying to rewrite the pledge or redefine marriage. Perhaps it's selfish of me, since I'm a conservative and therefore quite happy with the status quo in this area. But I think the nation has more important things to debate, and we need to be cohesive rather than driving people apart with these relatively insignificant wedge issues. A little less craven pandering on both sides would be nice. But if I have to choose, I would prefer to have four more years of conservative pandering rather than radical liberal pandering.

Comment Policy

If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."