How George Bush won the election

posted by Jason Kottke Nov 04, 2004

I don't think America is that divided. I think most of us are ill-informed in two major ways, "conveniently" split along the lines of the two major political parties available to us. We're told we have two different choices -- you're rooting for this team or that team and the other team is the enemy -- and we believe that and organize our beliefs accordingly. There's a lot of fear and emotion involved on both sides. I can't count how many times in the last two days I've heard self-righteous "liberals" call the entire middle of the country "stupid". Kerry voters, we need to get over ourselves...we're not special. We're not informed by some superior intelligence that gives us a unique insight into how the world should work. We buy into the Democratic Party/liberal/anti-conservative/fear the church crap in the same way that our "red state" brethren buy into the Rebublican Party/conservative/anti-liberal/fear the gays bullshit.

Half the country is not stupid. We're all stupid. We're convinced several times a day to do things that aren't in our best interests. We work too hard. We're drinking, eating, medicating, and smoking ourselves into early graves. We overextend ourselves on credit. We knowingly stay in emotionally or physically abusive relationships. We let television raise our children. We're deliberately mean and nasty to people we don't like or agree with. We learn science from the Bible. We stay silent when speaking out would help someone. We fear the future. We fear death. And we're lazy about our beliefs and convictions and we let the Democratic and Republican Parties dictate the political agenda in America by pushing our emotional buttons. Red, blue, black, white, brown, yellow, purple, and retina-burning yellow-green...we all share the blame.

Speaking of, I'll tell you who's smart. Karl Rove is smart. Karl Rove knows all of the above and used it perfectly to his advantage. It's not necessarily that America as a whole validated the actions of George Bush over the past four years...it's that the Republican Party got more of their people to the polls than the Democrats did. Looking out across America, what's one of the largest groups of people with a single strongly-held set of beliefs? The evangelical Christians. They comprise a large portion of the US population and believe in God more strongly than most other groups believe in anything. The Bush camp used a coordinated campaign to speak directly to those people and put their strong belief in God in direct opposition to what the other side stood for: liberals want to kill innocent babies, allow gays to marry, and let non-Christians run the country/world. To an evangelical Christian, the fear that those things will happen is almost overwhelmingly unbearable. Based on that emotional appeal, they turned out in droves, voting for Bush in greater numbers than in 2000 and overwhelming the increased turnout on the other side of the aisle.

The Democrats, with ill-defined fears of a mishandled Iraq war, America's place in the world, personal freedoms, anti-science agenda, the economy, and Bush's general stupidity, couldn't muster the same kind of turnout. They and their supporters ran a more decentralized campaign, with blogs, 527 groups, and assorted other groups all having their own agendas. Liberals had a million slogans, initiatives, and platforms, each tailored for a different group of people. In theory, this was lauded as a fantastic idea...you could reach more people with less organization and target small groups of people with exactly the message that would appeal to each group. But it didn't work out that way. The top-down campaign with the one focused message targeted at a large group of people won out.