Americans pass gut check

Posted: Dec 29, 2004 12:00 AM

Osama Bin Laden is getting positively chatty these days. He has released his third video in as many months -- this time calling for Iraqis to boycott next month's elections. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Having elected himself to his current lofty position as arbiter of all things on the planet, it would have been remarkable if he thought any more elections were necessary.

 Although, to be fair to him (not that he deserves fairness), in his previous video, the week before our election, he did warn American voters in the red states that they would pay a terrible price if they voted for George Bush. While he didn't explicitly endorse John Kerry (presumably, even he couldn't figure out what Kerry's position was on anything), his negative advertisement against Bush might reasonably have been seen as participation in a democratic election.

 But overall, I think we can put Mr. Laden down as viewing elections as unnecessary. As Emma Goldberg scornfully, if cleverly, observed prior to being deported as a dangerous foreign national to Russia during WWI -- elections are the opiate of the American people. For tyrants and their advocates, elections are silly, meaningless exercises of decisions between pre-chosen indistinguishable choices, intended to give the manipulated masses the illusion of free will in their choreographed political lives.

 Tell that to the Democrats ... and the Republicans ... and the Europeans ... and the terrorists. As I prepare to go out and celebrate New Year 2005 -- I plan to celebrate the majestic and history-making election of 2004.

 Our recent election joins the select ranks of epochal American presidential elections alongside: 1792, 1860, 1932 and 1980. In 1792, George Washington voluntarily stepped aside and ushered in true constitutional republicanism (or, as it is casually called, democracy). In 1860, Lincoln was elected, and he ensured the Republic while ending slavery. The year 1932 entered America into the modern age and, for better and worse, ended the limited role for government in our lives. The FDR era ended in 1980, and it started us on our current uncertain path back to our abiding first principles and values.

 As the first presidential election in the post-Sept. 11 Age of Terrorism, George Bush's re-election this year should be seen as equally significant. It is, of course, far too early to judge whether his anti-terrorism strategy and tactics will turn out to be effective in protecting America (and the world) from the scourge of global terror.

 What makes this an epochal election is what it says about the American public. After Nov. 2, the world now knows that Americans intend to stand and fight. So far, America's public is the only one that has so indicated. Others may, perhaps, make such a stand in the future. But, as of now, every poll of every other country shows their publics looking for excuses to avoid confronting terrorism.

 The flow of events since major hostilities were completed in Iraq in the spring of 2003 make the public support for George Bush all the more impressive. The news had been remorselessly bad for Mr. Bush: from the alleged ransacking of the Baghdad museums, to the rise of the insurrection, to the report by Dr. Kay that there were no WMDs in Iraq, to the prison scandal (and its willful over-reporting by the media), to the beheadings, to the growing effectiveness and lethality of the Iraqi bombings, to the growing number of American fatalities, amputations and other serious casualties -- the news has been much worse than was generally expected. (Although, in this space, I warned before the war, which I supported and continue to support, that we were entering a time of "measureless peril.")

 Moreover, further threatening the president's re-election was the public judgment (by almost 60 percent to 40 percent) that the economy was not producing enough jobs and the country was going in the wrong direction. Hollywood, Manhattan publishing, network television and the mainline media then willfully distorted the news while it sneered at and mocked the president. No president since Richard Nixon in his final presidential months has taken such a consistently bad press. And yet, he won by a decisive three million votes -- in a nation that almost every political expert had been calling a 50 percent Republican 50 percent Democratic public.

 The American public had every excuse to cut and run. Had they elected Kerry, the world would have correctly judged it a repudiation of Bush's aggressive war strategy. But the American public stuck. And in so doing they have created a world historic event.

 In the face of an insurgent, violent, radical Islam, a solid majority of the American public does not intend to yield an inch. In a storm-tossed sea, the American public is a rock. It is more than a rock. It is the rock on which civilization will make its stand. Americans are standing upright, their strong arms uplifted against the barbarians.