Feeling blue in a land of red
The election of President George W. Bush Tuesday was a devastating blow felt by most Downtowners, nearly half the nation and by millions of people around the world. As the president returns to the hard job of governing a divided nation, he should ignore the impulse to ignore those who voted against him, and instead reach out to the blue states.
There is more than ample reason to doubt him, particularly after his statement Wednesday, I earned capital in this election and I intend to spend it. But it is our hope that the president meant what he said in his victory speech to those who voted for John Kerry: I will need your support and I will work to earn it
. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust.
In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote but won the White House after the U.S. Supreme Court prevented a recount in Florida. He behaved as if he had a mandate and governed to the Right, thus breaking his promise to unite the country. After the shock of the Sept. 11 attack on Lower Manhattan and Washington brought the nation and the world closer together, President Bush led America in a justifiable war in Afghanistan. But then the unity ended when Bush diverted his attention away from terrorists and started an unnecessary war in Iraq based on flawed data and exaggerated assertions.
Now that Bush can make a more legitimate claim to a mandate, he can continue his hard-Right policies or he can be wiser and do all he can to bridge the wide, blue-state/red-state gap.
As we ponder the Republicans controlling the White House for the next four years and Congress for at least the next two, we see the 44 Democratic senators and their one independent ally as the only power in Washington who will speak up for the poor, defend the rights of women, gays and minorities and protect the civil liberties of all. They need to start thinking seriously of how to best oppose, obstruct and resist the presidents program when he is strident and how to work with him when he seeks consensus.
The rules give any 40 senators the power to filibuster and block votes and the Democrats must be willing to do this liberally whenever the wishes of virtually half the country are being ignored.
Bush is likely to have at least one chance to fill a Supreme Court opening, and no matter how many nominees the president sends to the Senate that resemble his favorite justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Democrats must withstand the criticism and block all such attempts to shift the court further to the far right. Bush should seek the advice of Democratic senators about centrist judges before he asks the Senate for consent.
And while the Democrats try to regroup from defeat and continue to represent nearly half the nation, they should do one more thing: Figure out how to talk to the majority of voters living in red states.