The State of the Union: Perspectives on the Post-Election Political Terrain

THE STORY BEING TOLD IN WASHINGTON, D.C., among pundits and in the establishment of the Democratic Party, is that the Democrats lost another election because they are weak on defense and perceived as "anti-military" by the American voters.

The generic conclusion that "the country is too conservative to elect a liberal" has already become accepted wisdom among the so-called "Washington realists." This analysis, of course, comes not from examining what the electorate embraced or rejected in the course of the campaign, but from what labels and images appeared to stick to the candidates in the race for the White House.

Ironically, to be elected, Bush had to portray himself as "the education president," "the day care president," "the environmental president," "the arms control president," "the Social Security president." This liberal agenda was cloaked in a flag of conservative ideology and fortified with daily doses of innuendo, appeals to racism, negativism, and fear.

Bush implied that the positive domestic agenda is held hostage to a threat from outside, supported by unknowing or willing accomplices--the Democrats and the peace movement--aiming to weaken America's defenses. If we let down our commitment to an ever-enlarging military, we will, we are told, somehow lose the lease on the American Dream.

The "enemy" has once again been used to mobilize a citizenry against its own best interests. The Democrats have allowed the right-wing ideologues to structure the national debate.

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