Rick Perlstein: Why Bush Won





Rick Perlstein, in the Village Voice (Nov. 9, 2004):

Amid the left's general dismay, a major anniversary just came and went without much notice. Thirty-five years ago last week Richard Nixon delivered his famous "Silent Majority" speech. In deep doo-doo after the biggest anti-war march in American history—a march in which middle-class squares far outnumbered wild-eyed hippies—Nixon went on TV before the largest audience ever for a presidential address. A treacherous minority wanted to get out of Vietnam at any cost, he explained (he mentioned a protest sign he saw in, of course, San Francisco: "Lose in Vietnam, Bring the Boys Home"). But the "great silent majority" knew better: that "the minority who hold that point of view and try to impose it on the nation by mounting demonstrations in the street" were not really moral.

We have "values," they do not: The message was Nixon's most enduring contribution to Republican politicking.

Something else happened that week. Telegrams of approval poured into the White House, glowing letters to the editor appeared in newspapers across the nation. Nixon proudly displayed them to reporters, who duly reported a grassroots outpouring of support for the president.

Only later, during the Watergate investigations, was it revealed that the White House ran a sophisticated operation to produce fake telegrams and letters to the editor after major presidential addresses. That's the difference between then and now. Now, the media tell the stories the White House needs told without any external prompting.

The idea that last week's election results show that there is a great silent majority of Americans who vote first and foremost on their moral values, which means that they vote for the Republicans, has become gospel on our nation's airwaves by now. It is nonsense on stilts. Bush didn't win this election on "moral values." It turns out he didn't do any better among strong churchgoers, or rural voters, than he did in 2000. What was it that actually put him over the top? It's the wealth, stupid.

Pundits blow hot air. Political scientists crunch numbers. On his blog Polysigh, my favorite political scientist, Phil Klinkner, ran a simple exercise. Multiplying the turnout among a certain group by the percent who went for Bush yields a number electoral statisticians call "performance." Among heavy churchgoers, Bush's performance last time was 25 percent (turnout, 42 percent; percentage of vote, 59 percent). This time out it was also 25 percent—no change. Slightly lower turnout (41 percent), slightly higher rate of vote (61 percent).

Where did the lion's share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? "Two of those points," Klinkner said when reached by phone, "came solely from people making over a 100 grand." The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare.

Their portion of the electorate went from 15 percent in 2000 to 18 percent this year. Support for Bush among them went from 54 percent to 58 percent. "It made me think about that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11," says Klinkner, the one where Bush joked at a white-tie gala about the "haves" and the "have-mores": "Some people call you the elite," Bush said. "I call you my base."...


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Hugh High - 11/17/2004

Goba's assertion of cheating -- by Democrats and by Republicans -- is mere assertion. There is absolutely nothing, other than his remarks, suggesting this to be the case. Indeed, a major pollwatcher/lawyer for Senator Kerry said that, while there were minor irregularities, there was no evidence of any major wrongdoing.

If Goba has evidence of cheating, he is should take it to the police in his jurisdiction. Otherwise, he should eschew unsupported allegations of criminal activity.


Agustin Goba - 11/12/2004

"Why Bush Won" is just another of the many commentaries avoiding the bald facts. Bush won because the Republicans are better at cheating than the Democrats. Aside from the obvious fraud, voter intimidation tactics, and other incidents publicly available from multiple news sources, there is the chilling fact that the Republicans control most of the computerized voting machines in America. The exit polls weren't wrong. No exit polls have ever had a margin of error as large as they were in this election.

If the Democrats had a major failing, it was the failure to insure a fair and legal election. So get off the "blame game" machine and turn your attention to where the fault really lies: Bush cheated.


Bob Batchelor - 11/12/2004

This is an amazing bit of information:

"Where did the lion's share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? "Two of those points," Klinkner said when reached by phone, "came solely from people making over a 100 grand." The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare."

If this is the case, why did the masses in OH, WV, PA, MI, TN, and the entire Deep South vote for Bush? It seems that they voted without regard for their own economic well-being.

Personally, I thought that voters would react against the big oil, layoffs, defense industry corruption, corporate corruption by voting Bush out of office.

A friend who is a high school history teacher believes that people in those states are strong single-issue voters. The single-issue isn't always the same, say gun rights in Western PA or pro-life in WV, but it is enough for them to vote Republican, despite lower middle class or lower class economic standing.

Any thoughts?

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