Triumph of the Will

Triumph of the Will

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A shout-out to all my peeps in those ever-growing red states: congratulations, you did it! You saved America from the threat of homos getting married, abortion, liberal elites and the French by electing God’s own man, George W. Bush.

Let’s wipe away all the nonsense that will fill the cable news outlets for the next week, or month, or year: electing Bush wasn’t really about fear, it was about our reputation. Just a few days ago, with an impeccable sense of timing, the world’s most wanted man, Usama bin Laden, make another videotaped appearance. If he were in any other line of work, he’d be a superior political analyst worth admiring. Almost immediately, however, the pundits at Fox News were confident that this would actually work to Bush’s advantage when logically, of course, the opposite should be true. In his speech, bin Laden all but admitted to the 11 September attacks, dutifully praised Allah for their success, and skillfully exposed how the real plot is to bleed America dry fighting terrorists. Buoyed by past experience in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets by progressively wearing them down, bin Laden sounded confident that such tactics would work again.

If you don’t recoil first, you have to admit that he might be right. Bin Laden claimed that the "operation" cost only $500,000, but went to state that hundreds of millions of dollars were being (foolishly) spent to rectify that. The result? A steady drain on America’s coffers, even more so by the conflict in Iraq, would eventually work to the terrorist’s advantage. (And to another extent, the bleed-them-dry approach is touted as a successful tactic in Lebanon by Hizbullah in their conflict with Israel.) To make America bankrupt, so bin Laden speculated, would be a preferable method of weakening the world’s superpower.

But all of this is doesn’t matter to the red state voters. Bin Laden’s appearance should have triggered a revulsion response: the man responsible for 11 September and the deaths of 3,000 people is still on the loose (along with the anthrax terrorist, by the way) and he’s mocking the United States. Confidently predicting that America would be in the red and lose power, and seeming to gloat over the quagmire that is Iraq as proof. This should have induced voters to hold Bush responsible for having failed to capture him, in much the same way that the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, an environmental package that allows more pollution, tax cuts for the wealthy during a time of war, a shaky economy, low-paying Wal-Mart wages, no-bid contracts, and a no-exit strategy from Iraq should have figured in a voter’s decision. But no. In the end, it wasn’t so much the fear factor as the notion that Bush represents “morality,” and that concept is far more important than anything else. In short, we were concerned about our own reputation, an absurd way to pick a president.

If we vote for morality, then we essentially feel that all other matters are on the periphery. This perfectly explains why the son of a millionaire and a man who never fought for his country but is a saved born-again can be treated just like one of us. It’s a beautifully crafted image that is helped immeasurably by Bush’s intellectual shortcomings. A guy like us, so the reasoning goes, is better than an educated liberal like John F. Kerry. And it’s telling that you have to be a "regular guy" in order to be moral: we never heard anyone extolling the fact that Kerry takes a rosary and Bible everywhere with him, hardly a habit you’d associate with a moral relativist or atheist-in-hiding. Given the choice between the two images, Americans (who believe themselves to be divinely blessed) will always pick the one they believe God likes more.

Americans have convinced themselves that you must have morality to do anything, which provides convenient cover for the failures of the Bush Administration to capture bin Laden. In other words, the rightness of our actions is more important than real-world results. If we believe that Bush is a pillar of morality, that alone is the road to victory. To prove how moral we are, we need to stick with a man who, for all practical reasons, is a failure of a president. It’s completely illogical, but it’s been reality for four years now, and there apparently is no end in sight. The Bush Administration will view the election as a mandate, and in the simple language of red state voters, they are right. People voted for Bush to make sure our morality is not in question, not because they were afraid of terrorism, or concerned about a stagnant economy

It is a remarkable convergence of image, perception and raw political strategy, and one that has reaped rewards for its Republican practitioners. It is a triumph of the will that has kept George W. Bush in office and weakened the body politic.