By William Fisher
In his acceptance speech the day after the election, President Bush tried to send a message to the 48 per cent of Americans who voted for Senator Kerry. It was: “To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation.”
At his press conference the next day, he said: “Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I will reach out to every one who shares our goals.''
But these are different messages. The president may well be sincere about wanting to unite the nation. The problem is that few among that 48 percent share the president’s goals. Gary Wills, author of " St. Augustine's Conversion”, points out that “even if he wanted to be more conciliatory now, the constituency to which he owes his victory is not a yielding one. He must give them what they want…His helpers are also his keepers.”
Can the 48 per cent expect the President to back off his proposal for a Constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage?
Can they expect him to abandon his faith-based initiative or, for that matter, his faith-based foreign policy?
Can they expect him to nominate wise and moderate souls to the Supreme Court?
Can they expect him to disown the “my God is bigger than your God” rhetoric of a senior Army officer still under the president’s command?
Can they expect him to change his positions on school prayer, embryonic stem cell research, the definition of life, a woman’s right to choose, protection of the flag, and the dozens of other so-called ‘cultural issues’ that lit the huge fire under the president’s evangelical cohorts?
Can they expect him to choose transparency over conspiracy, magically transforming the most secretive government in American history?
Can they expect him to reign in a Justice Department whose infringements on civil liberties have already reached historic proportions?
Can they expect him to admit even a few mistakes?
Well, the 48 per cent can expect it, but they won’t get it.
When the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency in 2000, President Bush promised he would lead a humble country, unite us all, and show us the face of ‘compassionate conservatism’. He has been neither compassionate nor conservative. He has been arrogant, not humble. He has managed to divide us to a degree not seen since the Civil War. And he has turned most of the world against us.
Now he believes he has a ‘mandate’ to justify four more years of the same. It now seems clear that our country has more Creationists than Darwinists, and it is to these very people that the president owes his second term.
As he goes forward, however, he would be well advised to remember that those who voted for his opponent aren’t simply a mathematical construct called ‘the 48 per cent’. They are tens of millions of people every bit as American as Mr. Bush.