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The International Writers Magazine
: US Election Comment

Captain Shoo-In Gets a Rousing Rubber Stamp
"It’s not a lie, if you believe it." - Zelda Fitzgerald

James Campion

Plus Readers Letters

Five years ago in a rotten Orlando resort bar, I told Karl Rove he was a fucking genius. We laughed a lot that night, mostly because we were really drunk. He got a kick out of me. I got a kick out of him. And to his credit he never ignored my warnings that his boy was in trouble against Al Gore, and fought hard to see that the incubus was sent packing. But about halfway through the evening I pointed out that it seemed fairly preposterous that he or any of the brain trust behind the creation of George W. Bush, God-Fearing Country Bumpkin, really believed it.

"We believe it, because George Bush believes it," Rove told me. "He really believes he’s born again," he slurred. "Jesus got him off the drugs and booze and forgave him for doing nothing and standing for nothing for 40 years, and he was going to take advantage of being a rich Yaley and make a difference. And that’s something Al Gore never believed about himself. He only believed merely being privileged makes him worthy. But the American people want to believe the guy who’s convinced himself he’s one of them; a proud American with a gun and a Bible who doesn’t take shit from anyone."

I had more or less forgotten the details of that conversation, until about three in the morning on election night when it became glaringly apparent that regardless of what havoc could be wreaked by a president, the electorate must trust that the guy they give the job to believes the bullshit. And for all his mistakes and faults, George W. Bush believes the job of this nation is to bring peace to the world with force and the people must be ruled with fear, because force and fear is what got Captain Shoo-In off the cocaine and the bottle and put him in the loving arms of Jesus and gave him the strength to fight terror and all that other nonsense. It was never political. It’s real for George Bush, and for reasons barely decipherable by even the weakest minds among us, it’s real for America.

A solid majority of Americans have rubber stamped this president and all that he believes. He is against Europe and international compromise of any kind. He is willing to bag civil rights for safety. He thinks the military is the best way to boost national morale. He is not sure gays choose to be gay or whatever they are, but he is damn sure they have no right to civil unions. He does not believe in vetoing anything as long as his party is in charge of the legislative branch, and he’s keen on growing business over and above anything petty like environmental issues. And boy does he believe in charging on the national debt. He believes it, and in overwhelming numbers, so does America. Here’s something the Kerry camp never understood, that Bill Clinton’s people copped too, and why a political fossil like James Carville was whisked in too-little-too-late in the eleventh hour to manifest; the majority of people in this country care even less about intellect and privilege than they do about whiny foreigners and all that science mumbo jumbo and sissy diplomacy and threatening dissent. They want to relate to the fantasy model of the Everyman. They want a man who believes, whether it’s asinine, insane or astoundingly feral. Kennedy believed the bullshit. So did Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. These were believers. They had it down. That’s why they won national elections. George W. Bush is a believer. He is president, again.
John Kerry pretended to believe. He is going back to the senate.

This election tells us that more Americans want to love the flag and God and mom and apple pie, and not all the stinging reality of cold hard facts. They believe in the Shining City on the Hill. They want someone who believes it too, no matter what. They want a president that tells them the economy is coming around and the morally imperative war is going well. God loves us. We’re always right. Everyone else can go to hell. No one wants to be called a sucker of government malfeasance and victims of policy. Their kids aren’t fat, reality shows aren’t infantile, abortion isn’t choice, support the troops, and so on. But the electorate is not entirely duped about this enormously flawed president. Two-thirds of it thinks the country’s going in the wrong direction and Iraq is madness. But the president believes in the madness. John Kerry didn’t believe his madness. You could feel it in the stump speeches and in his uneven debate performances. Any jabbering sop could’ve pushed George Bush around in those debates. Bush hung back, repeated the mantra: Man of my word, values, faith, pride, and belief. This is what voters in predominant parts of this country want to hear. Not long-winded tripe about deficits and policies or how we’re doomed.
Kerry went on and on about change. He wasn’t going to change anything. We only needed him to be president to take the stank of the Bush mistakes off us. Change? About three hundred thousand of us voted for change. The rest of you participated in choosing between the madness. The guy who believed it, and the guy who made it up.

Turns out Zell Miller’s apoplectic lunacy at the convention three months ago was right on the money. He was goofy, but he spoke for the electorate. Miller represents the majority. It hasn’t changed in 220-plus years of this republic. You want to change the hearts and minds of the hinterland? You want to jerk the south from its Bible Belt? You had better get the army together, like Lincoln did. Burn their cities and teach them a thing or two. These people are still fighting the damned Civil War. Those people who were power-hosing the black folk in Alabama and Mississippi and the Carolinas during the Civil Rights movement? They’re still there, and they had children, and they’re not trading the country in for any slick talking Yankee lawyer who ain’t down with Jesus. Give them a smiling hick like Carter or Clinton or they’re sending you back to the Ivy League.

The Democratic Party doesn’t get it. They talk about issues and other mish-mosh, but leave out the visceral damage. Maybe northern Democrats need to cheat to win in the South or the Midwest. One thing is certain, pulling in a vacuous haircut like John Edwards backfired on Kerry. If he had taken the advice of this column, or harbored any idea of winning the White House, he would have secured something viable, like the upper mid-west and, most vitally, Ohio by choosing Bob Graham or Dick Gephardt. He wins Ohio, he’s president. But most people in this country are never going to vote for a Massachusetts liberal droning on and on about pacifying Europe and peace and gays and the right to choose and keeping God out of the statehouse. They damn well want God in there. What they obviously didn’t want was John Kerry.

Thus, we will begin the coronation on what has in recent years proven to be, if nothing else, an entertaining embarrassment; the second term. Seeing how second terms have not been kind to any president in my lifetime, to say I have every confidence it will end in disaster is to barely scratch the surface of the girlish excitement that rattles my bones. And those who didn’t live through Watergate, Iran-Contra, or may have forgotten the beauty of 25 months of Monica Lewinsky and Kenneth Starr, cannot fully understand the opportunity it provides cynical old political junkies like myself.

I was ecstatic George Bush beat Al Gore. Now the professionally sinister part of me is glad he’s back, because second terms with the brainwashed believers is what loving politics is all about. That’s what I told my friend Georgetown in ’96 when Bill Clinton, the last phony southerner, danced his way back into a second term of ignominy, and what Karl Rove admitted after half a quart of Chivas five long years ago, "We studied the Clintons. We know their moves and what counts. Watch us go." Damn right.
© James Campion November 5th 2004


Reality Check,
Do people really vote on morality? And what the hell does morality mean? Is it moral to rape the environment? Is it moral to reject the rights of citizens based on bigotry and ignorance? Is it moral to wage war on circumstantial evidence and vengeance? Is it moral to divide a nation for personal and perhaps religious reasons? Is it moral to feed off of public fear? Is it moral to cheat and steal and lie for your beliefs? When do facts and results and a record of incompetence as a leader and an irresponsible economic executive come into play? The answer in November of 2004 – NEVER.
Terry Aikens

Mr. Campion,
The youth vote is non-existent...AGAIN. All this talk and Internet blogs and rallying by pop culture heroes did nothing to increase their numbers. The Empower Generation? Bullshit. When are these people going to wake up? Don’t they realize that as long as they don’t participate in this process the politicians will only pay attention to the issues that effect those who vote, like the elderly, the business freaks, the religious zealots, the military maniacs, the special interest groups etc.
Kristen B. James,

You are right about the Democrats but I think you are over complicating the Bush vote. I see this election as a standoff by the American electorate against a party ruled by a young arrogant egotistical elite that is painfully out of touch with the basic American value system. Why do they condescend to that value system? Look at the election map. The Democrats are becoming an urban fringe party. How can you expect to carry Florida's 27 votes while promising a tax increase on Social Security? How can you expect people to vote for tax punishment for making more than $200,000. a year? Gay marriage... why should the collective nation care about this minute social issue? More importantly, why are the Democrats pandering to it? Class envy? STOP! I gotta feed my kids! America has no connection to the Democrats anymore. Issues of taxes, family, security and values don't resonate with the Democratic elite on a personal level and so the party is detached from the nation. Ask Zell Miller and look at the map.
Zell Mattalian

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