I realised yesterday that there is a great swath of America that I just do not understand. 51% of Americans voted for President Bush. They are not all the bigoted rednecks that the European media make them out to be. Many ordinary, decent, intelligent Americans considered a Bush vote a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I just can’t imagine why.
My antipathy for Bush is not because I buy into the ape-cowboy image of popular myth. I just find nothing in his Presidency that commends itself to me. This is worrying, as the dominant issue for voters was “moral values” and I consider myself a “moral” person. Clearly I am out of step with Middle America. For me, “moral values” are:
– Only going to war as an absolute last resort and based only on a clear and unambiguous threat
– Doing something about the wretched poverty in this country
– Providing healthcare as a right not a privilege
– Ensuring that the quality of public schools does not depend on the zipcode
– Acting like a neighbour in the world, not a bully
– Increasing Third World Aid
– Looking after the environment
– Taking combat weapons off the street
I could go on. These are my “morals” and on balance I found Kerry much more compelling in this regard. What of abortion? Well, improve the quality of life of the poor and you will see less unwanted pregnancies in the first place. And gay marriage? Who has the right to legislate the private relationships of human beings?
It seems that much of America finds Bush’s rhetoric of morality more attractive, and this is the crux of my problem: I just don’t get that. Perhaps it is because of my European liberalism. Perhaps it is because my American experience thus far has been largely confined to the blue northeast. But I have decent Republican friends, and I belong to a religion whose American membership is overwhelmingly Republican. So I am not without the opportunity for empathy. But it alludes me. Can someone help?