Walter Russell Mead: The Democrats' Loss Was Catastrophic
An interview with Walter Russell Mead conducted by Bernard Gwertzman, at the website of the Council on Foreign Relations:
What are your first impressions of President Bush's re-election?
I think it is a catastrophic result for the Democrats. The party lost seats in the Senate, lost seats in the House, did not pick up any governorships. The Senate Minority Leader, [Thomas] Daschle [D-S.D.], lost. And Bush, in the middle of an unpopular war that's not going particularly well, with the price of oil over $50 a barrel and the most negative drumbeat of stories I can remember about foreign policy, wins with a popular vote majority of 3.5 million. It's astonishing.
Does this indicate that the pundits were wrong in thinking that foreign policy would play that big a role in the election?
There has been a lot of talk about moral values being the issue that moved a lot of the voters to the polls. But I think moral values include foreign policy as well as domestic policy, in the sense that it includes standing up to terrorists and being a straight-shooter. I think a lot of people perceived that foreign policy was connected to Bush's domestic policy. So I think it means that voters may not always make the sharp divisions between foreign policy and domestic policy that wonks tend to make.
Even though Kerry won a lot of electoral votes from big states like New York, Illinois, and California, there seems to be a disconnect between the broad mass of voters and the Democratic Party establishment.
Another thing to think about is that the states that the Democrats are winning are states that continue to lose population. If this time Bush had won exactly the same states he won last time, and Kerry won exactly the same states [as Democratic nominee Al Gore won in the 2000 election], Bush's electoral count would've been up by eight because of the redistricting that comes after the census. So six years from now we'll have another census, and presumably a state like Arizona will gain electoral votes, while states like Massachusetts, New York--it used to be the biggest state in the union, when I was a kid--will continue to lose electoral votes. The power is tilting away from the Democratic establishment, the Democratic parts of the country, to these new places and new people.
At this point, are you able to speculate a bit on Bush's place in history? He is obviously a strong campaigner.
I think a lot is going to depend on the situation in Iraq. Bush essentially has no excuses now: he has a mandate, he has both houses of Congress, and he is in full control of the foreign policy machinery. The war in Iraq is one that he chose, that he planned, that he has led. Bush is going to look pretty good if even two years from now Iraq is more or less pacified, and there is a government that is at least, in some ways, better than Saddam Hussein, and you have an island of stability in the middle of the Middle East. In retrospect he will look like a visionary, and people will forget all the ups and downs. When people now think of the Mexican War, they think about it as this quick, glorious dash. But in fact [President James] Polk had terrible problems during the Mexican War [1846-1848].
You mean politically, at home?
Yes. Politically, at home, there were questions like, "Will those Mexicans ever negotiate?" "Are we stuck in this quagmire?" And this was a war that ended with the United States getting a whole lot of territory. Likewise, if you think about the Filipino insurrection after the Spanish-American War, I think we lost significantly more troops in suppressing that insurrection than we did in the Iraq war. [American casualties in the Filipino guerrilla war are estimated at 4,000 killed and 3,000 wounded]. What's interesting is that by 1910, even people like Teddy Roosevelt, who himself was an arch-imperialist, were saying that it was a strategic mistake to take the Philippines because it gave us an Achilles heel exposed to Japan. So here you have a war with thousands of U.S. casualties to capture a place that we then basically spent the next 30 years trying to figure out how to get rid of. Yet nobody who supported that war ever paid a political price, and everybody who opposed the w ar paid a political price. And conceivably, if the war in Iraq goes even reasonably well, Bush looks good.
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Mary Jane VanEsselsttyn - 11/12/2004
I think many analysts are totally missing the point. The Democrats ignored the religious issue especially the Catholic vote that traditionally vote democratic but have now joined right wing churches that have been courting their favor in recent years on issues such as abortion and gay rights but don't understand foreign policy, economics or how the system works. The prob;em lies with the fact that most Americans are seriously ill informed and don't care about educating themselves but insist on basing their choices on media propaganda, what they hear from Joe the bartender or Hazel. the hairdresser not to mention other unreliable sources like right wing talk sow hosts who distort the truth For this reason it is easy to be misled and for the power elite to manipulate many clueless Americans into voting against their own interests. It was no surprise that Bush was relected and the Dems deserved to lose because of their denial, lack of courage, and their failure to provide an alternative to the Bush agenda It may be time to face the truth that we may be doomed by our own ignorance, apathy not to mention our lack of humility when it comes to admitting we were wrong. As a result we may possibly go down with the Titanic