The election of Bush means that much the same group of statist reactionaries (hardly conservatives, either neo- or otherwise) who are guilty of what the German leaders were condemned for at Nuremberg — launching aggressive war — are still in charge of US policy. Not that things would have been much different for Iraq, had the Democrats won. Kerry was committed (apparently) to equally murderous policies there; his foreign policy advisers seem to have taken Richard Clarke’s position that the US should have killed different Arabs and killed them earlier (in spite of the fact that assassins from Oswald to Sharon hardly ever effect a change in policy).
In domestic matters there may have been some difference. Our two semi-official parties, similar as they are, respond to slightly different constituencies, and some of the Republican looting may have been lessened under a Democratic administration. Bush was as clear as he can be (that is, not too clear at all) at his first press conference, when he announced that he wanted to spend his “capital” on privatizing social security and revising the tax code. The transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, which proceeded apace under the first Bush administration, will only continue in the second; in fact there may be even more emphasis on it, as the administration possibly turns away from foreign to domestic concerns.
Edward Luttwak has pointed out that the recent history of US presidencies shows that second terms often bring changes in direction. The disastrous and incompetent occupation of Iraq, and the fiscal and financial mismanagement that means that foreigners must pony up about two billion dollars every business day to keep the US economy afloat, may put serious limitations on what the second GWBush administration can do. Concentration on the interests of those whom Bush famously referred to as “my base,” the very wealthy, may be the order of the day — which may have the effect of lessening somewhat the torture — figurative and literal — of the rest of the world.
The historian of the Vietnam War, Gabriel Kolko, argued that a Kerry victory would actually be more dangerous for the world at large, because Kerry would have lessened the isolation of the US and thereby undercut opposition to US imperial policy from the EU and the rest of the world. The Iranian government seems to have brought that reasoning, letting on that they preferred the “known quantity” of the Bush people to a possibly more diplomatic Kerry administration, which might make it more difficult for them to play off the EU and the US, as they seem successfully to be doing.
In any case, almost three out of four eligible voters did not vote for Bush, in spite of an intense campaign of fear and misinformation in the corporate media. The result was a Republican victory far closer than that of 1972 — which was followed by the end of a criminal war, the effective impeachment of a severely limited chief magistrate, and some of the most progressive social legislation (and even more progressive proposals) of any administration in living memory. Not a bad model.
Carl Estabrook is a Visiting Scholar University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org