Twenty-four percent of respondants to a CNN/Gallup poll expressed they were afraid of the next four years under Bush. Eighteen percent were merely pessimistic. This means that 42% had a negative expectation of this presidency. How did this man get elected when so many view him so negatively. Although Republicans triumph a three million vote popular vote lead, this is only 51% of the country, decisive but hardly a mandate and hardly historic.
Three things clearly stand out as to why George Bush got re-elected and Republicans picked up a slight gain in the Senate.
There was no reason to vote for John Kerry. The vast majority of people (79%) voting for Kerry did it because they were anti-Bush, not pro-Kerry. Only 30% of people voted for Kerry because they were for the man, compared to Bush's 59% allegiance of voters. And hate or dislike is not a strong enough reason to motivate people tovote. Being anti-candidate (Bush or Kerry) only caused 25% of the voters to turn out. The overwhelming number of voters (69%) turned out because they were voting FOR their guy.
Kerry never made a sufficient case for himself; it's not enough to be different. Although Bush is so bad, being "not Bush" nearly was enough in this election(and that, to me, is a horrible indictment of the President's leadership), Kerry should have and future politicians absolutely must make a case for themselves.
The second major reason is that voters cared most (22%) about moral values. Undoubtably, in this case "moral issues" translates to stances on gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, and Supreme Court judge nominations (and all of these are strongly linked to the third cause). Democrats ran on policy; Bush ran on morality. Democrats, who during the 60's were strong activists and the moral voice for civil rights have lost that voice.
The smartest comment I have heard on this was NPR commentator Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton and Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Brandeis University, on "Marketplace" who suggested that the Democrats must not touch religion - it's far too personal. But, they must find a moral voice. The commentator suggested they should talk about the morality of robbing from the poor to give to the rich (not surprisingly the majority of Bush voters made $50,000 or more). I'd suggest talking about the morality of legislating religious beliefs for a country based on freedom of religion.
Which leads me to the third reason: an unusual presence of Evangelical Christians, the Religious Right. Karl Rove managed to help turn out thousands of fundamentalists that did not vote in 2000. These were especially prominent in states with the gay marriage amendments on the ballots as well as the I-4 corridor in Florida. And now these people, Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, and others are asking for payback for getting the faithful to vote. The Religous Right continues to be a growing power that is not being taken seriously. People wanting to avoid policies and lawmaking heavily influenced by ultra-conservative and religous values "far right of the mainstream" need to mobilize moderate and liberal people of faith. Those of us who are Christian must be as political as our fundamentalist brethern and talk about what Jesus REALLY would do and how our friends and family are lied to and manipulated by the true wolves, wolves posing as sheep. People of no faith or other faiths must also act and mobilize to counter this small but influential political voice within the Republican party and our nation.
My sense of self-preservation makes me seriously contemplate relocating to Canada and I've joked about it like many of my friends and other Democrats (apparently this joke is so pervasive, CNN ran an article online about the issues involved in immigrating to Canada: "Canada No Safehaven for Democrats"). However, my bully reflex has kicked in. Although I might move to a more tolerant area of the country, I will not abandon this country, which I love, and leave it in the hands of people who are either stupid, hateful, ignorant or intolerant. Our nation is better than this and I can help make it better. We all can. The next four years will be difficult, but what we need now is love for ourselves and our country.