|By A.D. Freudenheim||
16 November 2004
Schadenfreude, that marvelous German word for taking joy at someone elses misfortune, may be as applicable in the realm of politics as anywhere in life. Watching misfortune befall someone whose policies, beliefs, and decisions are reviled brings its satisfactions, not least when the ultimate impact of those (poor) choices results in the bum being thrown out of office. Alas, that didnt happen at this Novembers election at least, not if you consider President George W. Bush the bum, and his policies and executive decisions to be bad for the United States and its citizens.
Anti-Bushies now face the stark and dismal downside to schadenfreude: in many areas of policy and practice, the greater the misfortunes of this administration the more devastating the consequences for Americans and the rest of the world. Whatever desire there may be to discredit Bush, ruin the legacy he hopes to leave behind, and even to bring down his administration, the risks of Bushs failures have never been greater.
Take Iraq: it is not American loss most lefties want, it is a Bush defeat, an acknowledgment that the Mission Accomplished sign was just one of many, many lies. Yet as the President and his supporters have stated consistently, an American retreat in Iraq will likely embolden anti-Western terrorists (more so, even, than this war has done already), further entrench the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and make success at restraining the nuclear growth of Iran and North Korea less likely. Those broader issues notwithstanding, there is an even more basic consequence to an American Waterloo in Iraq, one rarely mentioned by the Bush administration or, sadly, its critics: the likely death of greater numbers of Iraqi civilians. Is this something that the American left finds desirable? Probably not. The folly of Bushs Iraq adventure may be evident (except to those within the Bush administration); the downside to a collapse of American control there should be equally obvious.
News reports of the chaos in the Central Intelligence Agency are also disturbing. One wonders whether former Congressman Porter Goss can get a handle on the situation quickly, but Goss failure would certainly bring satisfaction to the Democrats, to see the conservative Republican from Florida, and the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, brought low. Other other hand, even without the fear-mongering of the Bush administration (and, particularly, its evil henchman Dick Cheney), the threat of terrorism against the U.S. seems seems real. As much as the conspiracy theorists argue that another attack benefits Bush and his clan of proto-fascists, this administration can ill afford to screw up the CIA even further. More importantly, We The People cannot afford to have the CIA in disarray. Here, too, our expectations must change.
These types of issues make it seem, on occasion, that the reelection of George W. Bush is a giant, political Catch-22 created to trap the American left: supporting Bush policy is impossible, but not supporting Bush success seems equally troublesome. This was one of the tricks that most frustrated Senator Kerrys campaign; they were never able to find a way to criticize the president effectively without calling into question Kerrys own plans, whether to stay the course (essentially) in Iraq or to be as aggressive (basically) in combating terrorism.
It is a giant fuck you! to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Bush is proving only too well, with our allies and our enemies alike, that if you are not with us, you are against us and against us may not be a position anyone can afford to take. So, heres to hoping that the past and future failures of the Bush administration do not become the failures of civilization as we know it even though this seems to be exactly what the President wants.
At the same time, these tricky areas are foreign policy issues which suggest where Bush is most vulnerable, and where the Republican party as a whole is most open to failure. On the economy, for example, the long-term impact of Bush administration governance will be felt most keenly, and most cruelly, by the majority of Americans: people who wont benefit from his tax policies but will suffer the job losses and other downsides of plans that favor wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals above all. Voters may not have voted with their pocketbook in 2004, but that does not mean they are impervious to the results of bad economic policy. On civil liberties, Bushs decision to replace the awful Ashcroft with the torture-legitimizing Gonzales suggests endless opportunities for attacking Bushs notion of American freedom and Americans should start making those challenges soon, before Gonzales is confirmed not just after he takes office. And Bushs fealty to the Christian right leaves him open to criticism by the 75% of American voters who do not share the beliefs of the evangelical wing of the GOP. Inevitably, he Christians will start turning on another, as they compete for attention and as they are forced to decide between the had line beliefs they espouse and the compromise that is the inevitable result of politics; this, too, will create many occasions when the Bush administration can be brought to heel, if the Democrats are prepared for the fight.
The President talks about having earned capital in this election, and says he wants to spend it. Those re-elected Democrats earned some, too, and the American people they represent are relying on them to use it.
Copyright 2004, by A.D. Freudenheim.
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