Several years ago, in the summer of 2000, President Bill Clinton went to a town in Germany and was awarded a peace prize for unifying Europe in a positive way. Tuesday night’s election spelled out that the America celebrated that day in 2000 does not exist anymore.
With Tuesday’s election also came overwhelming majorities for conservatives in the Senate, House of Representatives and likely at least one, possibly two or even three new right wing-friendly judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court in Bush’s second term.
We now live in a right wing-controlled republic, the core beliefs of which more than border on extreme.
Wednesday, Bush said his second term came with “a duty to serve all Americans.” He said to voters who had cast their vote for his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, “To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it.”
I can only hope that these words are not going to ring as hollow as similar words he spoke after his appointment by the Supreme Court in January 2001. In the same speech in which Bush made the above statement, he also went on to say, “We will continue our economic progress. We’ll reform our outdated tax code. We’ll strengthen the Social Security for the next generation. We’ll make public schools all they can be. And we will uphold our deepest values of family and faith.” This likely means he intends to lead America over the coming years in the same way he has lead it in the past four: with utter disrespect to any dissent, criticism or sometimes even well-meant support.
House Minority Leader Sen. Tom Daschle learned this the hard way in the same night that bestowed the second term to Bush, as he lost re-election in South Dakota.
This despite Daschle’s reaching out after Sept. 11 and showing unity with the president in order for the country to heal, an act that led to record approval ratings for what many had seen as a president without a mandate at the time. Bush only managed to get re-elected by feeding on the record numbers he had during those months, yet politically destroyed Daschle nevertheless.
If this is any indication of how the Bush administration “thanks” allies on the other side of the aisle, Democrats and Independents are likely to tread very carefully to prevent the character assassinations Daschle, Kerry and also Betty Castor were subject to.
Congress, already afraid to confront the leading party — or even the president himself — will likely continue in the same vein. Without any such opposition and representation of the voters that did not vote for Bush or those that make up the majority in Congress, democracy will in effect fail, as a large part of the population will be disenfranchised.
It could be argued that the clear victories in House and Senate races give Bush a mandate to lead the country. But, because half the country did not vote for the president directly, such a mandate is shaky at best. The burden of making sure his presidency represents more than a portion of the American population is on Bush. Only time will tell if he chooses to continue the extreme right-wing policymaking with utter disregard for those that do not agree with him, an action that has polarized and divided the nation more than it has been in modern times, or if he will be the “uniter” he proclaimed himself to be in 2000.
Kerry clearly chose to give Bush the benefit of the doubt rather than put the nation through an ordeal similar to what it went through in 2000. Some of his supporters will commend him for this, while others will condemn him for abandoning them.
I myself am less than optimistic that Bush will reach out more than he has in the past. Without having to worry about re-election, he may no longer feel the need to cater to progressives at all.
For that reason alone I am deeply troubled by the events we saw unfold over the past few days. The first time in my life I fear for my safety. I fear that I may be arrested for speaking my mind in a supposedly free society. I fear for world peace because the Bush administration already has plans for regime change in up to 60 countries on the drawing boards. But most of all, I fear that the harm such changes will inflict onto the benevolent superpower America once was will be irreversible.
For now, the America we once knew ceases to exist. It may one day return, but only time will tell.
Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in geography and is the Oracle Opinion Editor. email@example.com