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Topic: The appeal of George W. Bush

  1. #1

    The appeal of George W. Bush

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    The appeal of George W. Bush: December 03, 2004 By Saul Landau

    What's wrong with the voting public? Or is it me? For four plus years, I watched Bush on TV and conjured up the image of a spoiled rich kid, a fool who thoughtlessly led the country into a bloody mess in Iraq, screwed up the economy and devastated the environment. Instead of pursuing the terrorists, he made war on Iraq, which had no links to the 9/11 fiends. Bush lost opportunities to pursue the terrorists. But millions of soccer moms and pious working people obviously saw in him a candidate who would protect them from terror. I wouldn?t have bought a used car from this guy, much less a baseball team.

    But instead of seeing Bush as a dry drunk who mouthed empty platitudes, almost 60 million Americans saw him as either the lesser of two evils or the guy who would teach their children proper Christian values. Such a thought almost impelled me to try to make my fortune selling the Brooklyn Bridge in the South and Midwest.

    One quiet conversation, however, disturbed me more than all the rhetorical ranting during the recent election campaign. An intelligent, sensitive and caring woman said her gut feeling made her trust Bush more than Kerry; a coded message that the abortion issue would determine her vote. Indeed, the gut and not the head seem to have determined the bare majority of the vote -- not a new phenomenon. The tendency of millions of Americans to vote against their own economic interests didn't begin in 2004.

    For almost a century and a half, politicians have used distracting issues to manipulate voters. After the Civil War, mountebanks used race and immigration to turn white workers against blacks and Asians. The industrialists and bankers gloated; the union movement was weakened.

    In the 21st Century, as we are surrounded by technology and science, tens of millions still cling to the divisive issues that politicians repeat like stale songs to divide working people from their common interests. Race has faded into remote euphemisms and subliminal forms of expression, but immigration remains a hot topic, along with abortion, guns, prayer in schools and gay marriages. Worse, preachers and charlatans have converted these subjects into matters of faith or passion. Indeed, it has become difficult to discuss matters that defy rational discourse.

    For tens of millions, the gut has replaced the head as the body part that directs voting. Has the public entered the once fictional world of George Orwell's 1984?

    The absence of political coherence frightens me. Five years ago I debated an extreme right winger who insisted that the government should ban abortion and stop subsidizing the poor for food, medical care, shelter and transportation. "The unborn are innocent," he bleated.

    "Yes," I replied, and your philosophy claims that as soon as they are born they get what?s coming to them. The government should only intervene to make sure the fetus is born, but not help the tiny baby get nutrition, medical care or any other necessity -- and you?d execute them at age eight if they get really naughty.

    The debate deteriorated at that point as he kept insisting that I and my ilk were murderers because fetuses were actual human beings. I retorted with the old line that this came down to a cultural issue and in the culture in which I grew up a fetus didn?t become a genuine human being until it graduated from medical school.

    One does easily not convince pro-lifer on the abortion issue; rather, one tries to get an agreement to keep it out of the legislative agenda. Women got abortions before it became legal and many died as a result.

    Similarly, the very notion of gay marriage threatened one woman at my university. "It?s beyond disgusting," she said. "The whole institution of marriage has been put into jeopardy because of this liberal tolerance toward outright sin."

    Did gay marriage cause Rush Limbaugh?s third marriage fall apart earlier this year? Do half the Californians who marry divorce within a decade because they live in daily fear that gays will marry? Yet, a sizeable part of the electorate considered this issue as a major factor in their decision on November 2.

    In political science classes, I learned that people tend to vote for their economic interests. The rich traditionally want lower taxes and fewer problems with their servants. Bush fit that bill. Just as Reagan did in 1980 and 1984, when millions of poor, working class and middle class citizens left the Democratic Party and voted for Ronald Reagan, a regular guy who promised to lower everyone?s taxes, meaning he would lower his best friends taxes (the richest) and reduce government services for the rest of the people.

    He also promised to privatize some public property, like schools, transportation and health care institutions, and even foreign policy. He handed Middle East and Cuba policy to reactionary private groups as if they possessed more competence to leverage U.S. weight in those areas. (AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the Cuban American National Foundation)

    Reagan?s cavalier delegation of parts of traditional presidential prerogatives to special interest groups has proven less than healthy for the nation and the areas affected. His economic policies -- Reaganomics -- raised the cost of living, more than canceling out any tax breaks he offered. Reagan also hated abortion, loved guns and wanted more prayer, even in schools. Nevertheless, this less than brilliant grade B actor, became the greatest political educator of the late 20th Century. Along with his pal, Margaret Thatcher in England, he taught people to hate their government and therefore not pay taxes to support it.

    I admit that under Clinton, I occasionally felt nostalgia for the Reagan years when sleeping with the president meant attending a Cabinet meeting. And I admired Reagan?s wit: "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

    But except for his amusing one and two liners, Reagan slept his way through the presidency. He actually increased the federal budget significantly, albeit he did slightly slow its rate of growth. Reagan also increased the federal work force by more than 60,000. But his supporters seemed not to care about these details. Clinton, ironically, cut 370,000 jobs from the federal payroll.

    Reagan was also a man who learned from political mistakes. When his ideologues convinced him in 1981-2 to try to cut social security, his Party lost 26 House seats in the 1982 midterm elections, largely as a result of this attempt to overachieve.

    So, the Great Somnambulist simply reversed himself and bailed out the Social Security system with a $165 billion payment. So what that it meant a hike in payroll taxes and finally taxed the Social Security benefits only of upper-income recipients.

    Clearly, the majority of voters found in Reagan their regular guy, a man who didn?t know much about most subjects and told jokes of dubious taste: "My fellow Americans. I'm pleased to announce that I've signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes." He told this gag during a microphone check at a radio broadcast.

    Like Bush (43), Reagan possessed an appeal that defied my sensibilities. If so many people found Reagan and now Bush attractive as a political leader, despite their destructive policies, how do progressive people begin to rethink political education? Almost 60 million Americans opted for Bush although he had led the country into an unjustified war, screwed up the economy, destroyed as much of Nature as he could and maintained loyalty to a Vice President whose former company seemed to be outrageously stealing from the Pentagon. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to find ways to talk to most of those people. Landau directs the Digital Media program at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. His new book is THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA: HOW CONSUMERS HAVE REPLACED CITIZENS.

  2. #2

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    I think a lot about this same strange situation--how so many people can support someone so obviously corrupt and facile, and don't like the reasons I've come to suspect:

    --a general indifference to anything that doesn't affect the US. I'm afraid a lot of people just live in a kind of glass bubble through which they see darkly: so long as the mall is open and they have their SUV and big television, they really just don't give a damn about what happens to anyone else.

    --bread and circuses: people are just so stimulated and distacted by sports and television, Disneyland, and other forms of entertainment that they really don't notice or care to slow down to examine the complexities of political thought and action.

    --strangely, an odd, foggy sentimental innocence that loves small animals and Christmas movies, and trusts people who faintly resemble people they know. Bush looks like someone they might meet at a church picnic, so he must be ok.

    --a willingness to "respect authority" which is a lot easier than taking a stand and thinking.

    --fear of taking a position thought controversial. I've met many people who tell me they have to be careful at the office about voicing any antiwar or anti Bush sentiments.

    --a "natural" tendency towards complacency: The vast majority of people have the same religious and political beliefs as their parents.

    --the simplification of thought that sports and games can encourage: there are two teams, them and us. They are against us. The enemy attacked us. Kill. This easily leads to a willingness to ignore any crimes commited by "our side." In the same way that the home team won't object if an official makes an obviously bad call in their favor, they won't object too harshly if the administration bombs civilians. (I find this hard to believe or understand, but see it every day.)

    --the love of violence sports and games can also encourage.

    --the success of right-wing propogandists, who have learned that repetition of simple slogans works. Just as people will buy more of one soft drink than another if they see ads every day for the one, and few ads for the other, people will blindly accept what they are told about complex issues, if issues are ignored and easily remembered lines are repeated: the war against terrorism, they hate freedom, ad naseum.

    --a superficial understanding of what violence is. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid all of the commentators about the bad effects of television and computer games are right--there's just no understanding of what it really means to kill someone.

    --simple gullability. People bought pet rocks. Billy Graham supported Nixon all the way to the end, but he's still popular. There's one born every minute.

    ---forgetfulness: Hell, Nixon was presented as just an ex-president not long ago, with hardly any mention of his crimes. Reagan is regularly lauded. Iran-Contra seems to be entirely forgotten.

    --A large part of the population just doesn't read. Newspaper and magazine circulation is down.

    --For those who do read, coverage of Iraq has been often superficial

    --Lack of education. The majority of people have never taken any history courses other than American History courses, which rarely cover foreign policy, instead focusing on internal development.

    --lack of experience in other cultures. The vast majority of Americans have never left the country for anything other than military service.

  3. #3

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush


    As much as we seem to strongly disagree on quite a bit, your above post is quite correct in many ways.

  4. #4

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    Jake, i think you have raised very plausible reasons, and i must admitt to not feeling to proud about the way our societies have developed, if this is what is at the end of them.

  5. #5

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    It was just the opposite for me. It wasn't popular to take a stand for invading Iraq.

    And I can tell you, it would have been a LOT easier for me, personally, here in NYC to run with the crowd. It's almost like "fashion". I still have my flag up on my door from 9/11. I take crap about it occasionally. But, I've never taken it down. At least nobodies stolen it yet.

    I won't insult you by trying to write an article here about what makes "you" tick. I leave that to you. It seems quite obvious to me that neither side truly "understands" the other. That works both ways. That's why niether one of them can even "repeat" what the other side said without screwing it up and totally misrepresenting or mischaracterizing it in someway or just using stereotypes. There "is" a disconnect there.

    In that regard, how well travelled are you in "this" country?

    Maybe you should travel through the US sometime and meet some of your fellow countrymen? Get to know your own country a little better. I just wouldn't go into a bar in rural AL and start calling people stupid redneck bible thumpers who are destroying the world. But, I dont' necessarily think that's too hard to understand "why" it's not a good idea to insult people_no more so than walking into some bar in any other country or subdivision thereof and start insulting the people who live there openly.

    I certainly would not expect that I understand France, and French people by having been to Paris, etc. . Nor would I expect that a French person having visited NYC or LA, for a few weeks or even months would then have some deep understanding about the rest of this country and people in it. But, we often think we do. And again, I think you have to ask yourself, just how well do you even know your "own" country and the people in it. Because that doesnt' come from reading stereotypes out of newspapers, etc.

    I know some of my friends from deep south are STILL laughing about the 4 dollar cup of coffee they had here in NYC when they came to visit And I don't think they had ever seen a post office with bullet proof glass before. They were amazed that nobody can own a gun, but everything had bullet proof glass on it...hahahaha. I told them it was a spit shield. _they laughed.

    They DO get it though after they get to visit some of the benefits of living in a city like this..the art, etc..etc. But, they left feeling glad to go back home, and probably with a much larger appreciation for "both" places (NYC /NewYorkers and where they live).

    I've travelled quite a bit. And I can say, with some assurance, that every country/region/state/city, etc.. in the world has their own stereotype of others in some way or another, people they don't like, areas they dont' like,both within their own country/region/etc. and without.

    I supplemented my education with travelling and first hand experience. And to me, it made all the difference in the world to my education and to the learning process. Not to mention, getting to know this great country from one ocean to the other. I was born and grew up in AL. Attended first grade in inner city B'ham in 1965. As hard as it was, it gave me an insite into life there during those times that you aren't EVER going to learn from a book, TV or periodicals. Maybe one day, I'll share some of those stories with you and what it was like to be there and grow up during that time.

    You can learn a lot from people. Engaging people Just travelling around, with your eyes open and talking with folks. It was one of the greatest educations I ever got.

    Perhaps next time, instead of going to Paris again, or to Amsterdam, etc...you might try a cross country trip "here" and see this great country and get to know some of the people, your fellow americans, who are not well represented in media other than stereotypes that lump them all into large regions, or similar groups of one kind or another.

    Go explore a little bit. People used to do that a lot more in this country. Next time you fly somewhere, rent a car, take it out and do some exploring. Go meet some people..see the country. Go to some areas of the country you haven't been before.

    I think it would help to do that, if you truly want to understand some of the things you've talked about...rather than just trying to reconcile stereotypes etc.

  6. #6

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    I don't think that the problem seems to be in stereotiping people as much as half of the population wants the other half to do what the want and behave the way they want because of their personal religious interpretation of a book written over 2000 years ago and revised and edited several hundred times.

    People who favor abortions are not campaigning to make sure that everyone has to get an abortion. They simply want their right to choose to be preserved. If you like it, good, if not, don't get an abortion...simple!

    People who favor gay rights are not trying to convert the rest of the population to be gay.

    Do you understand what I'm saying? The problem is that all of the conservative right-wingers want to impose their personal beliefs on me. Liberals simply want me to be free to choose what I want to choose.

    Do you see how this is an unbalanced situation? Do you understand now that it's not an "I am better than you" argument but simply a "Why won't you let me be?" argument.

    Once you understand this, you will see that the right-wing mentality goes against everything that this country stands for and what its founders envisioned, you will understand then that the real anti-Americans are the very people who proudly profess that they are the true Americans.

    Now that I have lifted a few veils, do you understand?
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  7. #7

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    Everything you just said was a stereotype?

    Do you understand?

  8. #8

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    I have good news for social conservatives: No homosexual who has been 100% true to their sexuality has ever gotten an abortion.

    It high time for the anti-abotionists to promote homosexuality!


  9. #9

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    Everything you just said was a stereotype?

    Do you understand?

    No, I don't understand, could you clarify? Are you saying that pro-life advocates are not trying to outlaw abortion? Are you saying that anti-gay rights advocates are not trying to amend the constitution? Are you telling me that I am stereotiping these people and that their intentions are actually different?

    Please explain.
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  10. #10

    Re: The appeal of George W. Bush

    Quote Originally Posted by midphase
    -half of the population wants the other half to do what the want and behave the way they want because of their personal religious interpretation of a book written over 2000 years ago and revised and edited several hundred times.
    That's a stereotype....ie to believe all the people who voted for Bush did so because of their personal interpretation of the bible? To change your behavior? Please.

    -People who favor abortions are not campaigning to make sure that everyone has to get an abortion. They simply want their right to choose to be preserved.
    Assumes all Bush voters are anti-choice or want to mandate some choice to everybody else. That's 2

    I'm DNC, voted for Bush and I'm pro choice, and neither the abortion issue nor the gay rights issue had anything to do with the reasons I voted for Bush.

    People who are for abortions already mandated the practice of abortion in all 50 states in the case of Roe vs Wade. The states don't have the option to opt in or out of that. Everystate has to accept abortion in their state whether they believe in it or not.

    If Roe vs Wade is overturned, abortion does not suddenly become "illegal" for everyone. It reverts (back) to the individual states, to decide on their own if they do, or do not want abortion in their state or locality, etc. as opposed to having that federally mandated to all states.

    Look at Gun control..similiar arguments were made. The fact that an individual could opt to buy one or not, had no bearing on the issue. States were given the control to make "stricter" guildines than Federal. Deference was given to the state over the right of the indiviudal. We all have our pet issues I guess.

    But, I'm personally pro choice.

    -People who favor gay rights are not trying to convert the rest of the population to be gay.
    Uh boy...that's just a blatant stereotype and rather ignorant to boot. I won't even dignify that with a response accept to say, that's "3".

    -all of the conservative right-wingers want to impose their personal beliefs on me.

    -the right-wing mentality goes against everything that this country stands for and what its founders envisioned, you will understand then that the real anti-Americans are the very people who proudly profess that they are the true Americans.
    I would say if the founding fathers saw our tax system today they'd be rolling over in their graves.

    I think if they saw the ACLU sue someone to take down a nativity scene, while defending the right for somebody hopped up on crank to screw one of the sheep in the butt....they'd roll over in their graves.

    And i think if they saw some of arguments made post 9/11, when they were faced with Muslims on Barbary Coast raiding our shipping and taking hostages, demanding ransom..that led to the invasion of Tripoli....they'd have rounded you up, and either hung you for high treason or deported the entire lot of you.

    That's just me.

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