The mainstream media and the pollsters blew it. They drastically underestimated the American electorate and they drastically misunderestimated the President who won them over. In winning his second term, George W. Bush, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own constituency (by over 3.5 million) since FDR in 1936. He accomplished what Bill Clinton could never do: win more than fifty percent of the popular vote. And his nearly sixty million votes broke Ronald Reagan’s old record by more than million. Stunning!
On the day after, the red-faced newspapermen across the nation were forced to conjure up some really clever, self-depreciating headlines. My favorites: Media SteersWrong, America Veers Right; Pollsters Blue, Map Red. There were also the inevitable coy word-plays: W2 4U; Re-Dubya; Deja Vote All Over Again; Kerried Away; Left Out; Golly GOP; Red Alert; Dubya Drubbedya; W Gets the W; The Hunt for Red November; America Sees Red; None Too Blue; It Really Is One Nation Under God; Simply Red; Red, White, and You! But as fun as it is to imagine the news jockeys and barking heads coming up with such puns, it is even more fun imagining Jacques Chirac reading them!
OK. The cat is out of the bag. The whole world knows. People of faith, people of values, and people of principle can step up and change the course of an election. Now, it remains to be seen if they can step up and change the course of a culture.
Nearly a fourth of the American electorate identified moral values as the number one issue informing their vote this past Tuesday. More than those who cited terrorism or war or the economy. And of those voters, more than eighty percent threw their support behind the president. Evangelicals turned out in droves and voted overwhelmingly for Bush. So did married women. Hispanics and Latinos, African Americans, and Jews crossed over the traditional political divide in record numbers as well.
But a single election does not a substantial victory make. At best, the Values-First Coalition got a brief reprieve from the culture wars. Now begins the hard work of translating the mandate at the polls into a mandate at home and abroad.
The Chicago Tribune columnist who opined that he “went to bed a proud citizen of a free, secular, democratic republic and woke up an outcast in a fundamentalist theocracy” was wildly hyperbolic and as far from right as wrong can be. But, at the very least, he underscored the fact that the nation remains divided—if not evenly, then substantially. And he underscored the heavy responsibility the new majority coalition has in pressing forward a vision of conservative clarity and consistent compassion.
How’s this for congrats? The tenured Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush against putting forth pro-life Supreme Court nominees or those who are otherwise “too conservative to win confirmation.”
“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Specter said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision to overturn the murder and infanticide laws in all fifty states thus legalizing child-killing procedures through all nine months of pregnancy.
“The president is well aware of what happened, when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster,” Specter added, referring to Senate Democrats’ determination to block the confirmation of many of Bush’s judicial picks.” Thus, it appears that the Republican Specter has every intention to pick up where the now defeated Dems left off.
With at least three Supreme Court justices rumored to be eyeing retirement, including ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Specter, 74, would have broad authority to reshape the nation's highest court. Indeed. he would have wide latitude to schedule hearings, call for votes and make the process as easy or as hard as he wants. A self-proclaimed “moderate” (a politically-correct pseudonym for a "pro-abort liberal") he helped kill President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. Specter called both nominees “too extreme on civil rights issues.” Sessions later became a Republican senator from Alabama and now sits on the Judiciary Committee with Specter.
Already, supporters of the president—those who gave him a sweeping mandate to push forward his progressive agenda to put values back at the center of public life--are calling for Specter to get a taste of his own medicine: it’s time to “bork” Specter.