Finally. After over two years of a seemingly endless campaign, President Bush was re-elected on Tuesday night with a decisive mandate. He braved cruel attacks on his policies and his patriotism to get to this point. He handled those disreputable charges with honor. He overcame a massive media onslaught designed to elect John Kerry president. This election is a repudiation of the Michael Moore crowd, the MoveOn.orgs, the Deaniacs and the new-look Al Gore. This election is a ringing endorsement for traditional values, peace through strength, and American optimism.
Showing a class he seldom displayed during his actual campaign, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry telephoned President Bush on Wednesday to concede the election and congratulate the president. Of course, Kerry had no choice: His electoral loss in Ohio by the substantial margin of over 136,000 votes precluded any rational challenge. Still, Kerry could have dragged this out for a day or two longer, ticked off many Americans, and further undermined faith in American democracy.
No doubt as the months go by, revisionist Democrats will begin to charge Republicans with vote quashing. Election morning, The New York Times ran a story designed to compare Ohio in 2004 to Florida in 2000. CNN doggedly refused to concede Ohio to President Bush hours after the state was secure -- and hours after Ohio had completed its precinct count. Apparently, CNN was waiting for John Lennon's big return before crediting President Bush with a win in Ohio. On Wednesday morning, CNN anchor Bill Hemmer asked an incredulous Rudy Giuliani about President Bush's "slim" lead in Ohio. A "slim" lead applies here only if you consider Michael Moore "slim." Yet CNN had no such problem declaring heavily contested states like Wisconsin (Kerry plus 11,000) and Pennsylvania (Kerry plus 121,000) quite early for Kerry.
As usual, electoral losers tend to ask for compromise. In Kerry's concession speech, he told his supporters: "America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion. I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask them, all of you, to join me in doing that."
Well, Mr. Kerry, you had two and a half years to promote bipartisanship and unity on the campaign trail. Instead, you claimed that President Bush was a liar and a traitor. Now that you've lost -- and, contrary to the media spin, lost soundly -- it's a very convenient time to start calling for political healing salve.
So where do we go from here? The obvious temptation for Republicans is to compromise. Gracious in defeat, magnanimous in victory, right? Wrong. For the last four years, we've heard about how "divided" we are. We've heard about how this is a 50-50 country. And yet, somehow, over the last four years, Republicans have opened a lead on the Democrats. The last four years have marked the most dominant period in Republican politics since the 1920s; 2004 was the first election since 1924 where Republicans made gains in the House and Senate while re-electing an incumbent to the White House. President Bush won the most popular votes in the history of this country and won the first popular majority since his father in 1988.
What got President Bush and the Republican Party to this point was not "moderation." President Bush didn't campaign toward the middle. Forging compromise on education and health care did little to alleviate the aggravation of the left. Barring some unforeseen drinking incident, Teddy Kennedy will still be leading the Democrats in the Senate during President Bush's next term. Hillary will still be lurking in the background as well, unless Rudy Giuliani decides to knock her off her broomstick. The tone in Washington isn't likely to turn friendly anytime soon.
President Bush campaigned on solid conservative values, and he won on those values. His stances on terrorism and morality won him this election by over 3 million votes. Eleven states had marriage-protection initiatives on their ballots; it's no accident that Bush won 10 of those states. The Republican get-out-the-vote effort targeted silent conservatives, not the typical "swing voters." With the cyclical economic cycle headed for a boom during Bush's second term, Republicans are in excellent shape if they can cut government spending.
And this term will be crucial. President Bush will likely have to replace at least one Supreme Court justice and probably two. He will have to stabilize Iraq. He will have to deal with the threat of a quasi-nuclear Iran. But he will not have to overextend in order to reach across the political aisle. This election was a victory. Let the Democrats worry about appeasing the burgeoning conservative majority.
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