Opinion: What a sad state we’re in

Matt Yurkanin

Matt Yurkanin

By Alan Xiang

Throughout President Bush’s first term, I’ve maintained (on baseless optimism in hindsight) the view that the U.S. citizen was a victim of the Bush presidency. With each new report on the record deficit, lax environmental standards, lost jobs, deaths in Iraq, nuclear development in Iran, etc. – the defense was, “blame the government, not the people.”

Bush, after all, wasn’t the majority’s choice in the 2000 election. We had no idea how great the stakes were following a decade of prosperity and peace. We couldn’t possibly foresee the next four years. With Sen. John Kerry’s concession on Wednesday, I now must concede that the distinction between the government and its constituency is nonexistent. This is what the United States wanted all along.

My first impulse was to ask, “Why?” If anyone has produced a convincing argument that the Bush presidency has been good for the country, the point eluded me the past few months. Why would the vast majority (everyone not earning more than $200,000) want four more years of policies that only benefit the few haves, often at the expense of the have-nots?

Absurd? It is. Take, for example, a point made by Reuters reporter Alan Elsner: “Republicans persuaded millions of people who lacked health insurance to vote against what they portrayed as a Democratic Party plot to put health care under the control of government bureaucrats.” Or take, for instance, how the state hit hardest with unemployment – Ohio – gift-wrapped the presidency to an incumbent who gave corporations incentives to outsource jobs overseas.

The exit polls showed that voters felt “moral values” were the single most-important issue in this year’s election. State ballot measures in Ohio and Florida to ban same-sex marriage might have driven evangelical voters to the polls in record numbers. Could there really be voters without work and health care who, during a time of war, are more concerned with stopping same-sex marriage? Talk about having the wrong priorities.

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    Columnist George Will wrote after the election, “Democrats cannot disguise from the country their bewilderment about how to appeal to a country that is so backward, they think, that it finds Bush appealing.” Will makes an astute observation, but the Democratic inability to sell the social platform is a symptom, not the problem itself. Many voters were planning to side with Bush through hell or high water because of religious values – facts and reasons be damned.

    Conservative values, many of which are built on blind faith, are institutionalized in the fabric of this country. Evidence running contrary to tradition is all too willingly disregarded in favor of evidence that might affirm the world view, however flimsy. “Core values” are so ego-attached that challenges to these beliefs are viewed as personal attacks.

    “Republican political consultant Bill Greener said people in the nation’s ‘heartland,’ where Republicans racked up one victory over another, often saw urban Democrats on the east and west coasts as smug and elitist,” Reuters reported.

    The sad fact is that we are living in a socially regressive time when calling a Democratic candidate “liberal” is a political strategy. Today, self-scrutiny is a dangerous sign of weakness. Intellectualism is worthy of resent. No progressive social-value argument, no matter how cogent, would have helped Kerry in rural America once he took a stance against legislating “divine command.”

    According to political strategist Frank Luntz, the brain behind much of the Republican campaign rhetoric, “A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.”

    In this year’s election, reason lost to belief, and nuance lost to the talking point. The U.S. electorate has spoken louder than ever and will get the president, Congress and the Supreme Court it deserves. What a sad state we’re in.

    Alan Xiang is a sophomore in engineering. His column runs alternate Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected].