Why did you vote for Bush?

Dateline: Mon 18 Jun 2007

The question came up at a lunch Saturday, where I was the only one present who acknowledged that I voted for Bush twice -- and no doubt the only one who actually did. My friends, all doctrinaire Democrats, were on a hysterical blitz: "We have a Mormon running for president, but we already have a moron in office," hee hee hee; "your daughter outed you -- we know you voted for Bush," (in fact, as another friend noted, I "outed" myself some time ago). How could I have done it? Only dumb hicks from red states would vote for Dubya, just as only uneducated people join the military. The world is going to hell in an expensive purse, and someone must pay -- all those idiots who voted Bush in are holding the check. The therapist in the group took me aside and asked me, quietly, "Tell me, if you could do it over again today, would you vote differently?"

Altho I remained mostly speechless, as any leper would, the answer to her was a tentative no; I'm not convinced that one man, certainly not John Kerry, could have saved the West from what I and others see as a global jihad. And when later on I read a book put out by the editors of Newsweek, in the aftermath of Bush's victory over Kerry, "Election 2004: How Bush-Cheney Won," I was convinced that I had voted wisely if not well. Kerry was exposed as dithering, grim and highly changeable, with policies that altered depending on whom he spoke to that day (his second-guessing got so bad his staff hid his cell phone); Bush and his people were focused, humorous and solid. At least you knew where they were coming from.

Although I did not say so there, I realize I voted for Bush the first round because Al Gore was not an attractive alternative. He was tainted with Clinton policies, including partial-birth abortion, and he seemed to stand for little more than his claim that he invented the Internet and that he was a green warrior.

I say all this knowing that Bush is far from perfect, that he is equally pompous at times, and that war is terrible; I am well aware that both popes have spoken out against it. I am not a politics wonk who lives-eats-breathes the views of one party; in that sense, I may be like the majority of voters in the U.S., middle of the road, trying to do the right thing, but turned off by in-your-face judgments and fear-mongering. Oh, wait, that's the Republicans who do that -- right?

Bush bought into a war scenario that those of who who are idealists thought was winnable; OK, he didn't do his global homework or understand the history of the region; he relied on a tough group of neo-cons with an agenda. But the fleeting idea -- brief and shining -- that we could establish a democracy in Iraq, another outpost in the Middle East besides Israel, was and is attractive, even as it appears to be impossible for now.

But enough. In searching on the Internet, I saw that the BBC did an online piece in November 2004 asking American readers/viewers who voted for Bush to explain themselves. The reasons sound pretty much like what I have already described.

Still, maybe I'm missing something. If you voted for Bush either time, please weigh in. If you voted for Gore or Kerry, please weigh in. I hope this will be done in a spirit of "we're all adults here; let's be civilized." Maybe we can learn something.

What concerns me about the next election is a hardened lack of tolerance for each other's views -- a point made by a liberal Democrat writing for the San Francisco Chronicle recently. She bristled, she said, at a dinner-party suggestion that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance. But her fellow diner implied, with a smug look, that she was duped.

Rather than assume that those who voted for Bush are stupid or evil, or those who voted for Gore or Kerry are wimps and not good Americans, maybe we could actually talk. Golden Rule style.

After all, three American women -- a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim -- have done so and written a book about their experiences, dialouging about their beliefs and friendship. Surely politics is not as divisive as faith. Or is it?

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