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Jackie Ashley

George Bush: Pre-Modernist Politician?

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Four more years: four more years of that smirking arrogance; four more years of the world being run through the prisms of American oil interests and Christian fundamentalism; four more years of inaction on climate change.

If things are bad internationally, they will be worse than that for millions of Americans, as Bush continues his feed-the-rich policies on tax cuts and drives forward against welfare. He promises a conservative shift in the supreme court which will be grim news for science, particularly stem cell research, grim news for women's rights over their own bodies, grim news for homosexuals - in general, bad news for the enlightenment. Nor is that for only four more years: by appointing reactionary judges, Bush can cement a shift in US public culture that will be felt for decades to come.

Hard though it is to turn up silver linings in this black cloud, there is at least one. The Bush victory clarifies the choice for Britain and for Blair. He may not have wanted Kerry, but Kerry would have provided him with an escape route of a kind, a return to social democratic leadership on climate change and Africa, and a plausible continuation of his foot-in-both-camps attitude to Europe and America. But the Americans have taken that escape route away.

America may look, on the surface, a politically familiar country. British political anoraks adore The West Wing, devour books on US politics, and have imported Washington techniques, terminology and style. We have a kind of mimic-presidency in our prime ministership, and people talk of turning the Lords into a British senate. American campaigning is avidly studied and copied. Politicians learn from ideas dreamed up by Republican and Democrat thinkers. Compared to all this, the political culture of Brussels and Strasbourg still seems alien.

But the Bush victory is a decisive one for the deeply conservative America that is pulling ever more clearly away from Europe. It is a victory for the Christian fundamentalists who believe their country has been chosen by God, and that Bush is the Creator's chosen instrument; and a victory for the neoconservatives striving to build an American imperium. Bush watchers believe his sense of providence and divine mission is strengthening, not lessening. He is a self-certain man who represents a political culture we have not seen in Europe for a long time. We have had modern and post modern; in politics we are getting pre-modern, too.

The Americans have become more religious as we have become more secular. They are turning away from the modern welfare state in a way no European country would contemplate. They have revived the death penalty with an enthusiasm that makes us quail. They are turning away from many aspects of modern times: Ohio rose to prominence overnight, as Kerry's last hope. It so happens that two years ago, Ohio was the first state to compel science teachers to teach a critical analysis of evolution. Creationism, like anti-abortionism, is on the march there.

Apart from the fact that they speak English and have two legs apiece, it is hard to think of anything American conservatives have in common with European liberals. Tony Blair pooh-poohs the idea that Britain faces a choice between America and Europe. Now, it will be evident to everyone, there is a very clear choice, and the choice has to be Europe.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/...1342935,00.html

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Using the White House as a machine of centripetal force, Rove spread fear and fused its elements. Fear of the besieging terrorist, appearing in Bush TV ads as the shifty eyes of a swarthy man or a pack of wolves, was joined with fear of the besieging queer. Bush's support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was underscored by referendums against it in 11 states - all of which won.

The evangelical churches became instruments of political organisation. Ideology was enforced as theology, turning nonconformity into sin, and the faithful, following voter guides with biblical literalism, were shepherded to the polls as though to the rapture. White Protestants, especially in the south, especially married men, gave their souls and votes for flag and cross. The campaign was one long revival. Abortion and stem cell research became a lever for prying loose white Catholics. To help in Florida, a referendum was put on the ballot to deny young women the right to abortion without parental approval and it galvanised evangelicals and conservative Catholics alike.

This was linked to what is euphemistically called "moral values", which is social and sexual panic over the rights of women and gender roles. Only imposing manly authority against "girly men" and girls and lurking terrorists can save the nation. Above all, the exit polls showed that "strong leader" was the primary reason Bush was supported.

Brought along with Bush is a gallery of grotesques in the Senate: more than one new senator advocates capital punishment for abortion; another urges that all gay teachers be fired; yet another is suffering from obvious symptoms of Alzheimer's. The new majority is more theocratic than Republican, as Republican was previously understood; the defeat of the old moderate Republican party is far more decisive than the loss by the Democrats. There are no checks and balances.

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The idea that George Bush is the first pre-modernist politician is an interesting concept. If so, is the election of Bush the beginning of a new political phenomenon?

I think it might be worth considering what a pre-modernist America will be like. The first change will probably be the appointment of someone like Alberto Gonzales to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is dying of thyroid cancer. This will help to overturn the moderate majority of the Supreme Court. The next four years will see the rights of women, homosexuals and African Americans undermined.

This will be all done in the name of a moral crusade. These people define morality in a very narrow way. Primarily they are concerned with sexual issues. Having sex outside marriage or with someone of the same gender is immoral. So also is having an abortion or watching adult rated material. It will not be long before they will be campaigning against birth control and marriages under the age of 21.

These people appear to be unconcerned with other aspects of morality. For example, the killing of innocent women and children in Iraq, the death of millions in Africa from starvation, or the poverty of their own citizens.

It many ways, the Christian fundamentalists are a mirror image of Muslim fundamentalists. They are obsessed with sex. Especially the sex lives of young women. Much of what is happening is an attempt to maintain and expand the sexual dominance of males. Both groups are particularly concerned with overturning the changes that have taken place in the improvements in the freedom of women over the last few years.

I believe the election of Bush is as significant as the decision by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1922 to appoint Benito Mussolini as leader of Italy. Mussolini made it possible for Franco and Hitler to gain power. However, I doubt if Bush will have this impact on the world. His views are unlikely to have any influence on important political leaders outside the UK and Italy. In fact, Bush’s victory is likely to make it more difficult for his supporters in Europe. Will he get any help at all if he decides to invade Iran, North Korea or Cuba? Blair might be tempted but it would be political suicide. One of the reasons why he is keen on an early election as it might pre-date these actions.

By 2008 the United States will be even more divided from the rest of the Western World than it is now. The big question is what state will the United States be in. Will the poor, racial minorities, the homosexuals, the trade unions, non-fundamentalist Christians, liberals, radicals, etc. join forces to defeat pre-modernism?

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Holding referenda on issues such as gay marriage focus the electorate on matters where the crusaders have a majority on their side. It would appear that depsite Bush's victory their majority for the war is being eroded and will be eroded still further. It is a war which they cannot win. Even on this election day where there was a referendum on the war 60% voted in San Francisco for the unconditional withdrawal of American troops. (This information comes from Democracy Now - the story was not mentioned in the British media AFAIK)

History tells us that the crusaders were defeated and defeated and defeated in the middle east and there was a horrific squandering of blood and treasure in the process.

The TV program "The Power of Nightmares" rather optimistically concluded that the public will realise that the neoconservative rhetoric is based on perceived bogeymen which are not really there. When we consider that there were people who *knew* that 100,000 unarmed civilians have been killed in Iraq and went on and voted for Bush anyway. It would seem that we have a long way to go.

In the short term I would expect people to turn away from politics in disgust. Ignore them and perhaps they will go away. In the long term people will revolt against the virtual one-party state in the US .

This is the nadir of democracy.

Nader next time!

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk

Edited by Derek McMillan

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There's a much less erudite debate going on at the moment over on the infinitely inferior TES forum regarding whether it is legitimate to challenge the verdict of the people. Although the level of debate is stunningly low, perhaps it is worth considering the question. Are we only democrats when the vote goes the way we like it? I happen to think the American people have picked badly, but picked they certainly have. It may have been a fairly close election, but this time, the verdict of the electoral college will match that of the popular vote. And this on a considerably increased turn-out.

There may be all sorts of explanations for his victory, but I can't really see much new here. American elections have really been marketing exercises for the last 40 years at least. Many have suggested that Nixon lost to Kennedy because of his inability to look well-shaven on the television, and the "would you buy a used car from this man?" was, perhaps, the beginning of negative campaigning. There can have been few TV ads as effective in this campaign as the one Johnson used against Goldwater with the child, the flower and the mushroom cloud.

Even the intrusion of revivalist religion into politics is nothing new. Who was that right-wing populist catholic who caused so much uproar in the 30's? Or to go back even further, what about William Jennings Bryant who made the speech about not seeing the American working man crucified on a cross of gold and was later the prosecutor in the Scopes Trial? Or the Christian Coalition which supported Reagan.

So, there's nothing new about the manipulation of the media, there's nothing new about fundamentalist religion in politics, and there's certainly nothing new about American politicians spending obscene amounts of money on their campaigns. Are the issues new? American imperialism. Environmental degradation. Lack of health care. A tax system which favors the rich. No, not much new there...

The point about the Supreme Court is well made. American lawyers all seem to live an inordinately long time, so appointments which Bush makes now will be around long after he is a dim memory. On teh other hand, I think John's view is unnecessarily apocalyptic. I can't see the Court banning abortion or making homosexual relationships (or heterosexual relationships outside of marriage) illegal. All lawyers are, by their nature, conservative, and this works both ways. There will be a slow but steady shift to the right, but probably not any sudden shift of emphasis.

On the other hand, I would suggest that comparing Bush's reelection to the decision to appoint Mussolini is just a bit over the top. American presidents reign for only four years -- eight if they are re-elected -- and then they go. If, as I believe, Bush's economic and foreign policies are as unsuccessful in the next four years as they have been in the last, then, in 2008, a very different president will be elected. That is, after all, what democracy is all about.

I think such statements also undervalue the beliefs of the millions of Americans who did vote for Bush. I think they were mistaken. Many of them were probably tricked or misled by the media. Many of them may have had "hidden agendas" (they worked for defense contractors or drug comapnies, they benefited from tax cuts, etc, ect). Many others may have been bigots or racists. But surely they can't all have been in these categories -- were they all gullible, or stupid or self-serving of rednecks? I don't think so. Some of them may have felt, mistakenly, I think, that Bush was taking a firm hand against a serious threat by Islamic fundamentalism against western values which I think most of us would share. Merely dismissing the views of such people really isn't the answer, in my opinion.

I also take issue with the statement that there is some sort of moral equivalency between fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity. I don't happen to like either, but having lived through the Iranian Islamic Revolution and its aftermath, and having married into a family of Northern Ireland protestants, I can assure you, John, that fundamentalist Islam is much, much, much worse...

If we are to understand what's just happen, I think we need to look at it with an open mind -- as historians should! -- rather than making highly exaggerated statements...

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The idea that George Bush is the first pre-modernist politician is an interesting concept. If so, is the election of Bush the beginning of a new political phenomenon?

I think it might be worth considering what a pre-modernist America will be like. The first change will probably be the appointment of someone like Alberto Gonzales to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is dying of thyroid cancer. This will help to overturn the moderate majority of the Supreme Court. The next four years will see the rights of women, homosexuals and African Americans undermined.

This will be all done in the name of a moral crusade. These people define morality in a very narrow way. Primarily they are concerned with sexual issues. Having sex outside marriage or with someone of  the same gender is immoral. So also is having an abortion or watching adult rated material. It will not be long before they will be campaigning against birth control and marriages under the age of 21.

These people appear to be unconcerned with other aspects of morality. For example, the killing of innocent women and children in Iraq, the death of millions in Africa from starvation, or the poverty of their own citizens.

It many ways, the Christian fundamentalists are a mirror image of Muslim fundamentalists. They are obsessed with sex. Especially the sex lives of young women. Much of what is happening is an attempt to maintain and expand the sexual dominance of males. Both groups are particularly concerned with overturning the changes that have taken place in the improvements in the freedom of women over the last few years.

I believe the election of Bush is as significant as the decision by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1922 to appoint Benito Mussolini as leader of Italy. Mussolini made it possible for Franco and Hitler to gain power. However, I doubt if Bush will have this impact on the world. His views are unlikely to have any influence on important political leaders outside the UK and Italy. In fact, Bush’s victory is likely to make it more difficult for his supporters in Europe. Will he get any help at all if he decides to invade Iran, North Korea or Cuba? Blair might be tempted but it would be political suicide. One of the reasons why he is keen on an early election as it might pre-date these actions.

By 2008 the United States will be even more divided from the rest of the Western World than it is now. The big question is what state will the United States be in. Will the poor, racial minorities, the homosexuals, the trade unions, non-fundamentalist Christians, liberals, radicals, etc. join forces to defeat pre-modernism?

I concur 100% with the above three posts.

John asks what the state of the US will be by 2008?. Great guestion. Under Republican "leadership" these last four years we have seen the Clinton legacy of a balanced budged trashed and the national debt is now at 9 trillion. Yet this was not even addressed during the election. Why?

I am hearing that there is going to be a break in the Republican party over this issue. I can only hope this is true before this country is beyond saving due to this staggering debt.

We know that Bush got out his "base" who are primarily concerned with preventing a woman from the right of choice. Born life is never a concern with these people. Especially those born into a life of poverty. I have also never met a "pro lifer" who was anti war. "Christian values" have instead become the politics of hate. Hardly what Jesus taught!!!

What was even more alarming to me last night was hearing from an old Jewish who told me that he had encountered many other "highly educated Jews" who were spouting all this anti- gay anti- choice rhetoric, telling him that" if a person is moral they must vote for Bush". That was very surprising to me.

Now that Bush and his neocons don't have to worry about a re-election it is terrifying to think what they will do next. Out and out nuclear war with N. Korea??? I don't see the Bush gang utilizing diplomacy to avoid a tough situation. The word is not even in his vocabulary.

Scary times, these.

Dawn (Meredith)

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While I do not deny that currently Fundamentalist Islam is worse that Christian Fundamentalism, the crux of the problem is fundamentalism. Fundamentalist zealots are no different that any other extremist in history. Right now the Muslim extremists may be physically more violent on a world stage, but the Christian fundamentalists have been bombing abortion clinics and attacking pro-choice people. While I understand that this does not match the level of 9/11, it is still terrorism.

What is also amazing to me, is that everyone that I have heard talk about campaigning complains about the money issue. "Only the rich can afford to run for office." As a former Fundraising Director for a congressional campaign I can tell you they are right. The problem is that no one is willing to put a stop to it. The person that spends the most, generally wins. Why would this person vote for campaign spending limits? Obviously this is not considered a moral issue. Which brings me to another point. Most of the information I have seen tells us that a large portion of Bush supporters voted for him on moral issues. Yet the fact that he lied, did not seem to bother them, or the fact that he has ordered the mistreatment of prisoners, or the fact that he has used cocaine and was caught drinking and driving. The question is what is the number one moral issue in America today. I'll tell you what it is... Abortion. I was in a discussion with another history teacher in my school the day before the election and his position was that as a good catholic he would not vote for any "baby killers." He equated the pro-choice people to those who stood by, watched and said nothing as the nazis drug the Jews to the gas chambers. He felt that Pro-choice leads to euthenasia to doctor assisted suicide, to socialized (government administered) healthcare which gives the government the right to decide how much a persons life is worth. To say the least I was floored, but this is what the fight is about. As long as the Christian fundamentalists are targeting abortion and the democrates are not willing to attempt to make it illegal there will not be very many democrates elected.

As for Nader, the only way he will ever make a positive difference in the political scheme of things is if he follows the path of Ralph Reed and his Christian Coalition. That is he must begin by winning the local elections and building the base support.

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I was disappointed not to see a Democrat elected, but I was never all that impressed by Kerry as an alternative to Bush. The American people have made their choice, in the same way as the British people chose to be governed by Margaret Thatcher for 11 years. As Mike says, “American presidents reign for only four years - eight if they are re-elected - and then they go.”

Isn’t there a tendency to support a fundamentalist right-winger when terrorism is perceived as a major issue – as it was in the UK during the Thatcher years? Like Mike, I married into a family of Northern Ireland protestants. They are tough cookies but pussy cats compared to the terrorists currently stalking the world. Northern Ireland is less of an issue now – we have other things to worry about. Two years ago, my wife celebrated an important birthday in Belfast. We had difficulties finding hotel rooms for the whole of our family over a long weekend – because Belfast is now one of the most popular destinations for weekend breaks. During the 1970s I feared going anywhere near the place.

The US is not a homogenous society. Values very considerably from state to state. In Oxford, Ohio, I found that I was only able to drink sitting outside a bar if the outside area was encased in something resembling chicken wire, but in New Orleans I could have walked down Bourbon Street with a glass of beer in one hand and a Hurricane cocktail in the other, with a cigarette hanging from my lip, whilst watching the girls on the balconies exposing their breasts in exchange for a few Mardi Gras beads.

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Indeed! Let us look at popular society in America. What are the most popular shows: South Park, Jackass, The Man Show, any of the reality shows. What happens during these shows. People are lied too, trying to find love by being placed on an island and "tempted" by beautiful members of the opposite sex. The man show does nothing more than profess the greatness of beer and breasts, and every comercial break the camera focuses on two well endowed women in bakini's jumping on a trampaline. These shows are condemed by few and watched by many that consider themselves "moral". I am neither. Personally, I could care less what someone watches, some of these programs are very funny, others are interesting at best.

Values also vary from town to town. I live in a "dry" city. In Winfield, Kansas we have no liquor stores and can only buy "watered down beer." But the town south of us by 10 miles has fifteen liquor stores. At the same time the County Fair board refuses to allow the sale of beer at the County fair grounds, all because they believe that it is immoral or will lead to the immorality of our youth. All of which is hillarious when you think of the history of Alcholic consumption in the U.S.

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It's going to be an interesting time in Europe in the next few years. The EU will be grappling the question of Turkish entry, where we'll be applying tests of adherence to the values of democracy and human rights which the USA would currently fail (the death penalty, suffrage and the treatment of minorities being the flash points).

Let's just hope that this is the beginning of the 'European War of Independence' - except that I really hope it doesn't come to real war. I think it will be entirely healthy for everyone if we can all just agree that the USA and most of the rest of the world have just taken different paths.

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Bush's win seemed to be in direct contradiction to what the exit polls were indicating. To anyone's knowledge, has this discrepancy ever been this prevalent in past elections?

James

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Bush's win seemed to be in direct contradiction to what the exit polls were indicating. To anyone's knowledge, has this discrepancy ever been this prevalent in past elections?

From what I know the last time the exit polls were this off was the last time Bush won (2000). I'm not generally a consipracy theorist but could we be on to something here?

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I believe the election of Bush is as significant as the decision by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1922 to appoint Benito Mussolini as leader of Italy. Mussolini made it possible for Franco and Hitler to gain power. However, I doubt if Bush will have this impact on the world. His views are unlikely to have any influence on important political leaders outside the UK and Italy. In fact, Bush’s victory is likely to make it more difficult for his supporters in Europe. Will he get any help at all if he decides to invade Iran, North Korea or Cuba? Blair might be tempted but it would be political suicide. One of the reasons why he is keen on an early election as it might pre-date these actions.

I don't think the situation in Europe when Mussolini became Prime Minister in Italy may be compared with what is happening in the USA and the whole world now. Anyway, there have been many changes in most Italian regional and town councils since the last national elections with a clear move of the electorate towards left-wing parties. I agree with David that time may have come for a larger Europe to become (more) independent from the USA, although it will be a long and difficult way.

Edited by Caterina Gasparini

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Closer European Unity is surely curently the only possible check in the world to unrestricted and hideously misguided American power.

On the subject of fundamentalism, let us not forget that mad and dangerous though today's Islamists undoutedly are, they are as yet unlikey to slowly draw out the unbelievers entrails, and tear the skin from their body whilst preacing a homily on their soul's purity. May somebody's Lord please spare us from angry Christians of the old school. I feel they maybe making a comeback :)

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Closer European Unity is surely curently the only possible check in the world to unrestricted and hideously misguided American power.

On the subject of fundamentalism, let us not forget that mad and dangerous though today's Islamists undoutedly are,  they are as yet unlikey to slowly draw out the unbelievers entrails,  and tear the skin from their body whilst preacing a homily on their soul's purity. May somebody's Lord please spare us from angry Christians of the old school. I feel they maybe making a comeback :)

I believe the point about exit polls and the way this election turned out bears some serious scrutiney. The numbers are too far off.

How many places had electronic voting I wonder, with no paper trail?

Didn't we all worry about votefraud when we saw these little computers replacing the paper ballot? If we can get a paper receipt when we use our ATM cards why not when we vote??? Why voting machines with no paper vote as back up?

Call me a sore loser, but I have questions about the exit polls vs. the final (alleged) result.

Dawn

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