O.K. I Voted, So Now What?
by Doug McQuiston
Well, now you’ve done it. A whole bunch of you voted for our re-elected President; fewer of you voted for the other guy. Though rumors of a "landslide" are greatly exaggerated, I have lots of liberal friends (hard to believe, but it’s true) who were almost clinically depressed by the election results. Some perspective is in order here, for both sides.
It’s easy to get swept up in the hype during an election year. Many of our fellow citizens believed that the President was somehow both sublimely stupid and fiendishly clever. Now, some fear President Bush, unleashed in a second term, will draft our kids, steal our parents’ Social Security payments, clear-cut Rocky Mountain National Park, and dig for oil in our backyards. Otherwise sane Democratic Party activists went on the SAGS (Sunday Gasbag Shows) in mid-November, talking secession, and they weren’t kidding! Our pals at the London Daily Mirror asked on Nov. 3, "How could 59 million people be so stupid?!"
Here’s news: they aren’t that stupid. They aren’t all Christian Right-Wing "jihadists" either, as the daffy Maureen Dowd at The New York Times wrote. As it turns out, if you treat the term "moral values" logically, as an issue group in the same manner as you would "economic issues," "war issues," or "international issues," something surprising happens: the "moral values" group comes in dead last (Krauthammer, New York Daily News, 11/12/04).
For the last couple of months, I have been telling my liberal friends to relax. The election results were not the first wave of a right-wing Götterdammerung. They don’t need to move to Canada. Their children won’t be drafted. No one cares what books they check out of the local library. Callers to "Air America" or Rush Limbaugh who are expecting a radical right-shift will be pleasantly surprised or badly disappointed, respectively.
Presidents have nowhere near as much power as they are credited with during a campaign. George Bush didn’t "lose" all those millions of jobs, like socks in the dryer. He didn’t suddenly find them during the months before the election, either. Presidents do not "create" jobs. A healthy, capitalistic entrepreneurial economy, trading freely in the world, creates jobs. Had it instead been "President Gore" these last four years, (excuse me while I shudder violently for a moment), he, too, would have been utterly unable to "create" jobs, "give" us all health care, (or to do anything else on that laundry list of programs he promised us four years ago), during our terrorist-induced business downturn.
America succeeds because of Americans, not because of its government. Millions of individuals plugging away at their jobs, saving for their own retirements, starting businesses, then going to buy groceries, cars and i-Pods on their way home, together form the strongest engine for economic success the world has ever known.
So what do we have to look forward to now? Since January is typically a time for predictions, I’ll throw mine out here: by this time next year, Iraq will have a more or less democratically elected government and a clumsy, but functioning, security force. There will be fewer Americans there. The process between now and then will be ugly, though, so don’t watch too closely. Remember, we weren’t so hot at this Democracy thing for the first hundred years or so, either.
More people will be working in America, and they will be making more money. Social Security will still be the "third rail" of American politics, but a growing number of Congresspeople will cowboy up and grab a hold anyway. Look for some startling proposals, such as (gulp) allowing the younger workers among us to (gasp) actually keep some of their own contributions to invest in the (yikes?!) private sector to build for retirement.
The Democratic Party will wrap up its 10-month navel-gazing session. Howard Dean will not be its chairman, but he will get his own "Air America" talk show. The 2008 presidential candidates will be people who aren’t even on the radar scope right now. They will both be governors, and the Democratic candidate will either be from the south or the west.
Presidents come and Presidents go, but the nation endures, even prospers, regardless. The next few years will be less scary for Democrats, and less revolutionary for Republicans, than either expect. America will still be the greatest country in the world. People will still line up to come here. Europeans won’t like us any more than they ever did, but who cares? Sit back, enjoy the show, and get back to work. Max out your IRA and 401(k), because you’ll need them when you retire. But then—relax, go shopping, buy something extravagant, write a check to your favorite charity. Your country needs you!
Editor’s Note: We invite your comments and will print the "other side" of this story next month.