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Triumph eclipses liberal elite

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Washington — The re-election of George W. Bush represents a triumph for traditional, conservative, small-town, and church-going America, confirms the eclipse of the northeastern liberal elite in the country's politics and underscores an emerging primacy of values over policies.

The prospect of a second term bringing "four more years" of bold, perhaps unilateral, global intervention and a continuation of his socially conservative domestic agenda may dismay many in Canada and around the world, where polls showed solid majorities rooting for Mr. Bush's defeat, but his clear mandate reflects deep and powerful currents in U.S. society.

The magnitude of Mr. Bush's victory was considerable.

Social conservatives, born-again Christians and solid majorities of white, middle-class families combined to give the President 58.6 million votes, the most ever cast for a presidential candidate, and a 51-per-cent majority, the first since Mr. Bush's father polled more than half the total votes in 1988.

It wasn't just the rich, the rubes, and the redneck NASCAR dads who sent the President back to the White House, no matter how much well-to-do urban sophisticates with their petulant "ReDefeat Bush" buttons want to believe it.

In 11 states across the nation, conservatives backed bans on same-sex marriage. Old-fashioned morality and "family values" resonated strongly in middle America.

Only along the coasts and in the decaying remnants of the industrial heartland did Democrat bastions of cosmopolitans, the disaffected underclass and union members manage to hang on to the "blue states."

In between and across the fast-growing South, a sea of Republican red covered most of the country.

Exit polls showed Mr. Bush increased his share of the African-American vote (although the overwhelming majority still voted Democrat), made inroads among Hispanics (the fastest-growing minority in the United States) and sharply increased the Republicans' usually small share of the Jewish vote.

Three out of four voters who describe themselves as evangelical Christians, a group that comprised 20 per cent of all voters, backed Mr. Bush.

The President even managed to split the Catholic vote, despite running against the Catholic Senator John Kerry. Among weekly churchgoers, still a majority of all Americans, Mr. Bush outpolled Mr. Kerry by 21 per cent.

Pollsters repeatedly recorded voters saying values or leadership or character were more important than particular positions on domestic or foreign policy.

While voters who called the economy their top priority voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Kerry — as did young voters — the Democrats failed to get out significantly larger numbers of voters in those groups.

Despite a broadly unpopular war in Iraq, a still-sputtering economy and a net loss of jobs during his first term, Mr. Bush's re-election Tuesday was a clear and unblemished triumph, in sharp contrast to the legally messy, second-place finish in the popular vote that tainted the presidential contest in 2000.

In securing a third White House term for his family, Mr. Bush established a new benchmark for dynastic control of the highest office in the United States, something that will infuriate his enemies but clearly is important to the President, who walked with his father, former president George H.W. Bush, to the Oval Office yesterday morning.

Mr. Bush's resounding victory is "ratification of the conservative wave that began with [former Republican president] Ronald Reagan," said Alan Lichtman, a presidential historian and professor at American University in Washington.

The result, he said, should be a "loud, ringing wake-up call for the Democrats. . . . It's not clear to me that John Kerry ran as a liberal or ran running away from it."

Mr. Bush proudly proclaimed his conservative, anti-abortion, staunchly individual and pro-business credo, even if it sometimes seemed at odds with his record.

Deconstructing the causes for Mr. Bush's successful re-election campaign will take time, but some elements are evident.

Not least was the Democrat choice of Mr. Kerry as its standard-bearer.

"Running against a big-spending Liberal from Massachusetts was a blessing," David Boaz, vice-president of the libertarian Cato Institute, said yesterday.

Not since 1960, when John Kennedy only narrowly won a murky and dirty election against Richard Nixon, has a patrician, elitist Democrat from New England managed to win the presidency.

Yet this year, Democrats turned their back on the proven strategy of winning with southern, centrist governors.

"The party just seems trapped in its teachers unions and protectionist politics," Mr. Boaz said.

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