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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

How We Progressives Helped Elect G.W. Bush

Fred A Wilcox • 5 November 2004

The 2004 presidential election is over, and the conservatives, neo-cons, evangelical Christians and other Bush supporters are celebrating their victory over John Kerry and the forces of evil liberalism. Whether sixty thousand voter registration forms went missing in Florida, whether African American voters were threatened and intimidated in more than one state, and whether voting machines were rigged is really not important. The right wing’s long-time dream of controlling all three branches of the U.S. government has come to pass. God, according to Mr. Bush’s followers, has spoken. It is time to get on with the business of overturning Roe vs. Wade, time to send the Marines into Iraqi cities where they will destroy the Iraqi resistance, time to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and other programs that may serve ordinary working class Americans, particularly the poor.

In the aftermath of the election, pundits will ponder why a politician who lied to the American people and the world about the reasons for attacking Iraq, a man who skillfully dodged the Vietnam War, a man who presided over the loss of millions of American jobs, a man who seems to hate the environment and who appears determined to initiate a new arms race, could garner so much popular support. The progressive movement will ring its, our, proverbial hands, trying to understand how anyone could believe that Mr. Bush stands for anything but arrogance, cruelty, and imperial wars.

I fear that the progressive movement will fail to ask how we contributed to the election of a man who has so little to offer our nation or our world. For the past two years, progressives have gone on a veritable binge of hatred for Mr. Bush, calling him stupid and evil, writing books in which Mr. Bush is portrayed as a fool and a criminal, making films in which Mr. Bush appears befuddled, ignorant, and dumb. We have scoffed at Mr. Bush and the born-again groupies who seem to applaud his every move. Those people, we said, are dumb and getting dumber. They watch too much television, they’re brainwashed by Fox News, they don’t read the New York Times, they never listen to Amy Goodman, they’ve never read Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, they aren’t impressed by Michael Moore, they are rednecks, boonies, sports nuts, Bible thumping throwbacks to the Puritans who first landed on North America’s shores, proclaiming that God sent them here, then massacring the Indians who had helped them survive in the wilderness.

When these cheese heads dared to attack us with similar language, we were shocked, appalled, even horrified. After all, we weren’t like talk show host Bill O’Reilly and other right-wingers who make up facts and figures, insult their guests, and earn millions urging people to hate first, think later. Mr. Bush, we told ourselves, deserved our contempt. We had a right to call him stupid because, we said, he really is. We had a right to call Dick Cheney evil because, we were certain, he really is.

What we failed to realize is that calling Mr. Bush retarded would only raise the ire of people who feel inadequate and, even, stupid themselves. We failed to understand that insisting that we support the working class, while labeling ordinary people dumb and getting dumber, is not the way to build a broad based movement for peace and social justice.

George Orwell, a great writer and dedicated socialist, wrote about socialists who would walk into coal mining towns and announce that when they came to power there would be no more of beer drinking and soccer watching nonsense. Orwell marveled at the left’s extraordinary disconnect between its own rhetoric and daily lives of working people. It seems to me that in the aftermath of the 2004 election, the progressive would do well to stand down from its self righteous soap box and spend more time listening to people who do not attend ivy league colleges, may not read The Nation, do like to drink and go bowling and watch Fox News.

How do I dare say these things? A short bio might help. I grew up in a poor working class family in the Middle West. My parents were victims of the Great Depression and never managed to transcend their fear of losing the small gains they had made. My kin all lived in tiny houses, little better than shacks. When he died, my coal miner grandfather left 19 dollars and a gold watch. My first job out of high school was cleaning toilets at the Iowa State fairgrounds. I’ve dug ditches, waited on tables, driven a truck, worked on high-rise construction, you name it. My three college degrees are from state colleges, my extended family in the Midwest are still hard-core working class, with Bush-Cheney stickers and American flags plastered on their cars. They are not born-again Christians and they are not stupid, even though they wouldn’t know Howard Zinn from the mailman.

Like tens of millions of Americans and, I’m sure, people throughout the world, I’m frightened and discouraged. Not simply because a group of ideological fanatics has managed to take control of all three branches of the American government, but because, I fear, the progressive movement will console itself with rhetoric and platitudes, rather than doing the kind of soul searching that we need to do in order to build a world that works for everyone. The truth be told, the right wing knows the American people far better than we on the left do. Mr. Bush and friends—wealthy, elitist, arrogant, self-serving, anti-democratic men and women—understand the hopes and dreams and fears of ordinary people, and they have no qualms about lying to and manipulating good, hard working, Americans. If the progressive movement hopes to reclaim our nation from Mr. Bush and company, we will need to spend more time listening to, rather than talking about, and all too often down to, the working class.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

7 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

How We Progressives Helped Elect G.W. Bush
Fred A. Wilcox

No Escape from the Anthill
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Talking With... Áine Gribbon

Meeting Hugh Orde
Anthony McIntyre

A Woman's Right to Choose
Mick Hall

A Single Palestine
Peter Urban

Turkey Day
Brian Mór

4 November 2004

The Torture of John Devine
Anthony McIntyre

Defending the Faith
Dr John Coulter

Simulating the Simulators
Eoghan O’Suillabhain

Learning from Hurley
Gréagoir O’Gaothin

Politics and Reason
Mark Burke

If Looks Could Kill
Sean Smyth

Fraternal Parting
Davy Carlin

Bluebeard's Castle
Toni Solo



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