We’ve woken up this morning to find that George
Bush has been re-elected to the position he gained illegitimately in 2000. This
time the US President does seem to have won the popular vote. In the last four
years he has divided his nation and the world. His administration’s
ideologically driven agenda has succeeded in doing more damage to international
diplomacy than any other single event of the past sixty years.
As a social environmentalist, I knew a Kerry
victory would have brought hope for international attempts to broker progressive
agreements to tackle environmental issues. I know that Kerry would have been
more cerebral, diplomatic and practical than a 2nd term Bush could
ever be. However, on the substantial issues of international politics, little
separated these two options.
We should all be consoled by a longer term
prognosis – this was a good election to lose. Like the 1992 UK General Election,
last minute expectations have been confounded, with the incumbent somehow
winning the race. Why has Bush been re-elected? It is important for us to
recognise polls suggesting that 70%+ of Americans still believe that Saddam
Hussein did have links to Al Qaida.
We need to look beyond the immediate priority of
the Iraq question. Bush remains President of a nation with a debt saturated
economy, dependent on economic support from the emerging superpower China and
hamstrung by a hostile international community. Like Major in 1992 Britain, this
is a crisis of his own making. He has an economic mess to clear up, and four
years will not be enough. US voters have grown accustomed to economic success,
and it will be upon this basis he will be judged in 2008. He has been set up to
fail. The clean sweep of Republican victories leaves them in control of the
Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court. The Republican Right will take the
blame for the events of the next four years.
John Kerry would have been more Carter than
Clinton. A single term of a Kerry Presidency would have led to prolonged
Republican dominance from 2008 onwards. We can instead expect Democrats to
rebuild behind a potential Clinton campaign in 2008. On the left of the
Democratic Party, Ralph Nader will once again be the target of Democrats looking
for a scapegoat. The US Greens will continue to grow slowly, but lack national
coverage. What we should expect is a New Democrat branding that will echo the
Blairite revolution in Labour in the mid-1990s. The Democrats will remain the
best of two bad options.
Republicans will see their grip on power erode.
Compassionate conservatism, which draws policy from the Christian
fundamentalists on the far right of their own party does not have long
term solutions to the problems faced by the US. In a second term of Bush
administration we can expect the ambitious right wing to prolong this period of
global instability in the short term. My hope is that the financial reality will
force Republicans to re-evaluate aggressive foreign policy. One thing is
certain, the end of the US economic empire will be a worrying time for us all.