Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A questionable mandate
I'm writing this before the Ohio is closed (and a possible recount may take 10 days), but it seems like a Bush state, which thus would give Bush his four more years. It looks like a victory for Bush in New Mexico, Idaho and Ohio, which would give Bush an electoral vote of 286-252, which would far outpace the 15 electoral vote margin that I had predicted. It's another weak mandate for Bush, but as the NY Times says, this is "a president who won by a whisker four years ago, then governed as if he had a landslide".

The election is very tight, and it may be circumspect to assign blame, but in terms of a wrap-up, I'll have a look at what went right for the Republicans, and what went wrong for the Democrats.

The Bush Administration's strategy of generating a underlying state of insecurity under the "War on Terror" has clearly shown itself to be very successful in forcing moderates and undecideds into maintaining the status quo and retaining strong leadership for fearful times. It was the central pillar of Bush's strategy, and the Republican party admirably thudded out his message at every opportunity, which always had the beating of Kerry.

Now hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I would say that the Democratic Party itself must shoulder much of the blame for Kerry's loss. A Republican commentator on television last night likened this election campaign to the 1996 Clinton campaign, where Republicans had similar personal hatred of Clinton as the Democrats currently hold of Bush. The problem is, she says, is that vitriol is not enough to carry an election. To defeat an incumbent, you have to show a strength of ideas that juxtapose the President's positions. I have to agree with her. The Democratic hatred merely instigated the Republicans to step up their election campaigning to a state of war, thus largely cancelling out negating Kerry's hand and polarising the electorate along distinct party lines. Kerry had much difficulty winning over the undecideds, and was hopeless at pulling any half-hearted Republicans onto his side.

The Democratic party, and Kerry himself, had little to offer in policy besides broadsides at Bush, which made it difficult for undecideds to see him as a Presidential realist. It's signature of the nature of the polarisation of the political populus that he had managed to push the vote so far.

Another factor it seems is the youth vote. The traditional Democrat-leaning youth vote was expected to come out in droves for this election, but according to Daily Kos "MSNBC exit poll indicates that the youth did not vote. The 18-29 bracket voted the same this year as in 2000, while 30-44 group was down."

There's no doubt though that the Republican party remains the dominant force in US politics. With a majority of Republican governors, a majority in the House of Representatives, a majority in the Senate and a President in the White House, there's little to stop the Republicans from extending their powers.

In closing notes, I'm sad to see that Minority House Leader Tom Daschle has been beaten by Thume for the South Dakota Senate seat, I recently read his book "Like No Other Time" and was impressed by his insight. Also interesting to note that Nader didn't have the large effect that the Democrats were fearing.

So what now? It's almost deja vu from 2000, with Bush facing an incredibly polarised and entrenched public. There's little doubt that Bush will continue to plough on with his unilateral agenda and continue the platform that will define his presidency, as September 11 and Iraq have for his past term. The rest of the world will naturally be along for the ride (watch out for Iran), and there is sure to be much controversy along the way.