Four More Years? 

It looks like Bush

It looks like Bush

In the end, we repeated history in many ways. It was another nail-biter, in which reporters sat at the edges of their chairs and, when deadline time arrived, really couldn't say who'd won.

Despite a turnout that was tens of millions of votes higher, few states changed columns. The three major swing states—Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida—once again played starring roles. And the astonishingly close nature

of the contest gave rise to renewed discussions about deep divisions in class, race, geography and political persuasion in this country.

In 2000, some 105 million people voted. This time around, the markedly higher turnout reflected an obvious expression of agitation about a more turbulent state of affairs in the world. But it was also more. The election was in major ways a referendum on the controversial incumbent, George Bush. Millions poured to the polls to express their agitation, anger and anxiety about the man. But equally high numbers trooped to the polls to express their support for his aggressive military posture, his faith, his rural identification and his plain spokenness.

At the Scene's press time, the race remained without a clear winner. John Kerry had 221 electoral votes; George Bush 249. The main question mark revolved around Ohio, with 20 electoral votes, although most oddsmakers were giving Bush the edge in winning Ohio and several other states.)

On the issues front, it's fair to say that the dominating question this election cycle was the national response after 9/11—the largest attack on American soil. While America is generally fine with going to war, the political question was whether Bush could survive the steady drip-drip-drip of bad news from Iraq. Most would agree that the longer the war goes, the less excited about it most people become. But Americans are an obviously patriotic lot. And Bush's argument that the world is a safer place after the invasion of Iraq and that we need to stay the course found obvious resonance among many voters.

Domestic economic issues did Bush no favors for most of his first four years in office. In Bush's first term, the economy virtually flat-lined on the job creation front. The deficit ballooned, and Bush's three, controversial tax cuts heightened the argument that the president had stratified the nation along class lines. But recent positive signs in the economy no doubt helped Bush in recent months. And, generally speaking, Bush's tax cuts had to be a popular political tactic among many voters.

From a cosmic level, the campaign was one of stark differences. At a religious level, there was a vast divide among secular and religious voters. Many argued that Bush had improperly allowed too much of God into the White House and went overboard on issues such as gay marriage and stem cell research. But by the same token, what appears evident is that the Bush team gambled that taking these positions would only inspire the Christian conservative base.

The candidates themselves were extraordinarily different. There was the Texan Bush, with his impressively bad language and disdain for the intellectual classes. On the other hand, Kerry as much as embodied the high-minded, East Coast, rarified intelligentsia. To be certain, Kerry's Yankee roots played poorly across much of the American heartland, even as many voters found Bush's frequent speaking gaffes unforgivable.

Among Democrats who did all they could to elect Kerry, the prospect of loss was certain to commence a period of heightened head scratching. One can only guess whether the party would decide a move to the left—or to the center—would be necessitated should Bush be reelected. Some will no doubt argue that John Kerry failed to scream loudly enough against the war and for a change in domestic economic affairs. Others will say he did not do enough to appeal to the middle ground.

Four years ago, our own Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College in a decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Democrats this election cycle were hot for revenge. Having tried so hard this time, what is certain is that many Democrats will feel hopeless and alienated. This loss will cut deep.

Thus ends another democratic spectacle in American history. We are at an amazingly bizarre period in American history in which the national elections generate so much passion and run so close. One can only hope that this election will end quicker than the one four years ago. The American people need that.

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