War and money are hard to beat
As I reviewed the results of the recent election, I was reminded of the observation---made some 85 years ago---by the great wit, H.L. Mencken: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."
Let's review the bidding:
It was an off-year election, one in which the governing party (in this case, the Republicans) almost always loses votes.
The economy, which had been robust during the previous eight years of Democratic rule, has gone into a slow two-year downward spiral, something sitting presidents usually get blamed for.
The federal budget surpluses of the Clinton years gave way to deficits, with no hope of reversal in the foreseeable future.
The Bush administration keeps talking about privatizing social security, even as the stock market keeps going down, taking with it the retirement funds of many who are now looking forward to spending their golden years in penury, rather than Florida.
A team of snipers recently roamed the Washington area, shooting innocent passers-by at will while the President denied that we needed new laws that would make such killers easier to apprehend.
We have gone from being the most admired country in the world to being perhaps the most despised. Not everyone hates us, of course. Some merely dislike us.
And the result of all of this? The Republicans strengthened their hold on the House of Representative and reasserted control over the Senate thus giving President Bush so splendid a victory that the Supreme Court didn't even have to be called in to help. In the short space of two years, George Bush has gone from being a decidedly minority president to Godzilla in jeans.
What's wrong with this picture? It's upside down, is what's wrong with it. And what turned it upside down? It was President Bush himself; there's no other explanation.
Riding high approval ratings (67 percent), he put his political capital at risk by going out and beating the drums for Republicans and, more importantly, raising mountains of money for them---something like $140 million---enough to give Republican candidates all over the country a significant advantage in scurrilous ad campaigns.
Moreover, he played the war card brilliantly; convincing most people that we had to go to war with Iraq because it had attacked us and that he needed a Congress he could rely on in a crisis. Never mind that Iraq really hadn't attacked us and that going to war without international support is a lousy idea at best. The American people trust their president.
As to why they like and trust him, I have to admit that I don't have a clue. It's not like Ronald Reagan. I didn't particularly like him either but I could understand why other people did. Mr. Bush's charm, however, escapes me entirely.
To me he is the most unprepossessing president of my lifetime---an unabashed protector of the rich and powerful with the mental acuity of a geranium. What's to like?
I suppose all of those people who, during my career, have accused me of being "out of the mainstream" are right. I'm out of the mainstream.
It will be very difficult for the Democrats to wrest control of the national government from the Republicans---ever again, absent a catastrophe.
What the Democrats traditionally have to sell is that the Republicans are the party of big business while they, the Democrats, are the party of Mencken's common people. But the Republicans get big bucks from big business and outspend Democrats by a crucial 3-2 margin, on the average. The only way Democrats can make up the cash differential---common people being more willing to spend their money on food and rent than on campaign contributions---is to get it from big business. Faced with two parties of big business, voters will always choose the real one.
Pray for the Republic. If you can't pray, tell a joke.