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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The 4 Schools of Thought on Why Bush Won

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While much of the world worries about the election in Ukraine, Americans are still asking why George W. Bush was re-elected to the presidency of the United States. Few elections in our history have raised so many questions about the results. In America we continue to ask ourselves the all-American question: Who are we, we Americans?

There are four schools of thought regarding Bush's victory. The first denies that it took place at all. Internet bloggers contend that "W" is returning to the White House because of fraud. They point out that electronic voting can easily be tampered with. Initial exit polls, they say, were indicating a Kerry victory. "The evidence discovered by some remarkably careful sleuthing," writes a surfer of cyberspace, "would convince any reasonable court to invalidate the entire Ohio election."

Commentators remain unconvinced that Bush won fair and square. James K. Galbraith, the son of the famous economist, writes in Salon: "So where is the press? Why aren't there more stories on Ohio? Why is there no national pressure for a prompt statewide recount? Why no continuing outcry? Why no demand -- as our friends are making with strong American support in Ukraine -- that the election results in Ohio be set aside and a new vote held? Why has our election, with all its thuggery, been forgotten just three weeks after it occurred?"

School of thought No. 2 believes that Bush kept the presidency because of a relatively small but influential group: evangelicals, described by the Los Angeles Times as people who "generally see the Bible as the authoritative word of God, emphasize 'born again' religious conversion and are committed to spreading their faith and values." Exit polls indicated that 22 percent of voters based their choice of candidate on "moral values," and that 80 percent of those who did voted for Bush.

Frank Pastore, a former baseball player and host of a Christian talk radio show, is a voice for some evangelicals. He says that Americans have "now resoundingly rejected the left and its agenda. We do not want to become European. We do not want to become socialist. We do not want to become secular. We are exceptional. We are unique. And we are the greatest force of good in the world, despite what the left, the terrorists or the United Nations may claim."

Evangelicals are demanding political capital now that Bush got a second term. Robert Knight, a conservative affiliated with the Concerned Women for America, a Christian advocacy group, argues that the Republicans rode to victory "by espousing traditional family values" and thus has no right to reward "the liberals in its ranks."

Ironically enough, left-leaning liberals tend to support the "evangelicals-won-it-for-Bush" supposition. The philosophically inclined Garry Wills, noting in The New York Times that "more Americans believe in the virgin birth than in Darwin's theory of evolution," acknowledges "the brilliance" of Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser, "as a political strategist" who accurately "calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor" in the election.

This brings us to school of thought No. 3. Unlike some Kerry sympathizers, these commentators argue that the president's victory was not a coup d'etat by a coterie of fundamentalist Christians, but a reflection of the entire nation's choice.

There are data to support this point. About 120 million Americans, 15 million more than in 2000, voted in the election, so the people did speak out. Bush received more votes this year than four years ago in 45 out of the 50 states. While those who supported him in 2000 (men, whites, churchgoers, high-income people, conservatives) continued to do so, Bush obtained 3.5 percent more of the vote than four years ago. Hispanics and married women gave more votes to Bush than to Kerry in 2004. Six percent more Jewish voters chose Bush in 2004 than in 2000. Voters over 60, who had favored Clinton in the 1990s, now preferred the Republican candidate. Bush did better in the suburbs than in the previous election. The data go on and on.

Those who believe that the country as a whole chose Bush tend to pooh-pooh the importance of the evangelical-values vote. They have evidence for this. "Moral values," says Dan Payne, a media consultant talking about exit polling, "was offered as a choice to voters; it wasn't volunteered." Gary Langer, the director of polling for ABC News, notes pre-election polls "consistently found that voters were most concerned about three issues: Iraq, the economy and terrorism." Frank Rich of The New York Times remarks that for American voters "moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1997 (40 percent)."

Even presidential adviser Karl Rove, "Bush's brain," downplayed the significance of the evangelical vote. When asked by The Christian Science Monitor "whether the Bush campaign met its goal of turning out an additional 4 million evangelical Christians to vote for the president," he replied that "my gut tells me yes, they did. But I would make it broader, I would make it people of faith. Remember, we gained 5 points among Catholics. Catholics are 25 percent of the electorate. That's a big movement ... it is more than evangelicals and fundamentalists and charismatics and Pentecostals, which are probably about 20 percent of the electorate."

Now for our fourth, final school of thought. It admits, quite simply, that no one knows why Bush won. There are today too many tensions and contradictions in America (and, I would argue, in the hearts and minds of individual Americans themselves) to draw a final conclusion about the election: blue states (where Gore won in 2000) vs. red (Bush) states, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal, traditionals vs. post-moderns, retro vs. metro, hate-the-'60s vs. love-the-'60s, morality-concerned vs. economically focused, straight vs. gay, family vs. single moms, security moms vs. soccer moms, country music vs. Eminem, white vs. non-white, heartland vs. the coastal, Jay Leno vs. Letterman (television talk show hosts), egghead intellectuals vs. redneck good ol' boys, our-guys-are-liberating-Iraq vs. how-can-Abu-Ghraib-ever-happen, no immigrants vs. open borders, pre-Civil War free vs. slave states, America-is-paradise vs. it's-time-to-move to Canada, kill-the-terrorists vs. understand-the-Muslims. (Russian-American relations, I regret to point out, are not part of this U.S. post-Cold War self-examination.)

America is an intriguing contradiction. The nation that supported George W. Bush, our values president, is entranced by a new television show, "Desperate Housewives," during which a married member of the fairer sex publicly announces, to humiliate him, that her better half "cries after he ejaculates." Remember that Nevada, where sin city Las Vegas is located and where prostitution is legal in some areas, voted for Bush and, in 2002, opted for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Massachusetts, the pinko, egghead, gay-marriage, valueless liberal state par excellence and represented by French-looking "Jean" Kerry in the Senate, has the lowest divorce rate in the United States -- 2.4 divorces per 1,000 people.

Meanwhile, Americans generously open their homes to overseas visitors, while concerned about "terrorists" and condemning the world as being anti-American.

So, like America, the presidential election is not quite comprehensible, except that, fairly or not, Bush won. He got more votes. ? ??? ???.

John Brown, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, contributes a monthly column on U.S. politics and current affairs to The Moscow Times.