Welcoming the Idiot King
November 10, 2004

Maria Tomchick

Now that it's more than a week after Black Tuesday, we can take stock of what's happened and decide if anything good has come out of this election disaster. In fact, two very positive things have come from the re-ascension of the Idiot King.

During the campaign, I was continually shocked by how many people were suddenly and inexplicably interested in politics and political issues. Co-workers, family members, friends, people riding the bus--even folks who had never watched a TV news show before, much less read a newspaper--were now talking at length about George Bush vs. John Kerry. And they weren't just wanting to make a choice between the two and leave it at that, either. They were asking important questions about issues that concerned them: conservative supreme court justices, civil rights, access to abortion, the war in Iraq, the economy, outsourcing of jobs to overseas companies, you name it.

A window of opportunity has opened. With Bush's slim win at the polls, the 49% of us who voted for one of the other guys adds up to a total of about 55 million angry people with a lot of concerns about our future. That's a lot of pairs of hands and a lot of energy that can go towards work on issues that we care about, whether it's preserving Social Security or pushing for electoral reform. If 55 million people volunteer an hour or two of their time each week--each month, even--then we ought to be able to guarantee women access to safe and legal abortion. Or end torture and illegal imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay. Or acknowledge that this country needs a new civil rights movement and soon. Or bring alternative media to a wider audience, because, if we've learned nothing else from this election, it's that you can get as many voters to the polls as you want, but if they're not informed voters, it won't make much of a difference in the end.

So amid the blue moods and whispered conversations around the water cooler, we should say to each other and to the people who've recently discovered that politics matter: there's something you can do. Choose what's most important for you and then work on it.

The things that George Bush wants to do in his next four years (really two years, considering that the next national Congressional elections could change the balance of power in Washington DC) are so divisive that they'll serve as a lightening rod for protest. More tax cuts for the rich, privatization of Social Security, a marriage amendment to the constitution, the pillaging of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more workers without health insurance, etc., etc.--all issues that will galvanize the Left and literally push liberals and moderates into our camp. We have to be ready, to start now, to get talking to these folks. We also need to listen, hear their frustrations and their priorities, and help them connect their anger to something positive and action-oriented. There's only one kind of change that's ever made a real difference: the kind that comes from the ground up.

The other positive thing to come out of a George Bush win is this: with an incompetent, reactionary administration in power tied up with domestic dissent and a grinding war in Iraq, some breathing space will open up for good things to happen in the rest of the world. For example, if the Bush administration had not been sidetracked by September 11th and the war in Iraq, Hugo Chavez would have long ago been deposed or assassinated in Venezuela.

Think about it. A competent Republican administration in Washington DC would have had its heel on Latin America inside of a year. Instead, on George W. Bush's watch, left-leaning regimes have come to power across most of South America. Attempts to revive the WTO have been a failure, with the Bush administration alienating most of the European Union over the war in Iraq. The Kyoto Treaty, recently ratified by Russia, is now coming into force across the world, with other nations getting a jump on the US in setting up a pollution-credit trading system. China and Japan, brought together by the Bush administration to solve the "problem of North Korea," are now in talks with other nations in Southeast Asia to set up a regional trading bloc--one that cuts the US out of the loop, and one that could eventually serve as a stepping stone to a united Asian economy similar to the European Union.

Tightly focused on an incompetent, ideological intervention in the Middle East, the Bush administration is isolating the US Empire from the rest of the world, and the rest of the world is organizing as fast as it can to take advantage of this.

And if the rest of the world can organize against the Bush administration, then we can, too.