Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2004/ 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
If Bush goes, I go
What's up with Hawaii? Two polls in two Honolulu newspapers over the weekend showed George W. Bush with a small lead over John Kerry. That's not supposed to be happening. Hawaii's solidly Democrat. It's a swing state only in the sense noted by Elvis ('And when she starts to sway/I gotta say/She really moves the grass around'). Neither candidate has bothered looking in on the joint, or even advertising there. Instead, Senator Kerry's been frantically bouncing around the Great Lakes Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin. It's gonna kill him if he's got to zip halfway across the Pacific every other day to shore up his base with a hastily arranged coconut-shooting expedition on the beach at Waikiki.
One poll would have been easy to dismiss. But two make a trend. And so, for Bush, as the old song says, 'Hello, Hawaii, How Are Ya?' Whereas for Kerry, as the even older song says 1878, written by Queen Liliuokalani it's 'Aloha Oe, or Farewell To Thee'. Since joining the Union, Hawaii has voted for the Democrat presidential nominee by some of the largest margins in the land every election day except two: in 1972 they went for Nixon and in 1984 for Reagan. So one could argue, as some psephologists are doing, that this is in line with Hawaii's tendency to vote for Republicans when they're incumbents (George Bush Sr being the exception to that rule).
But I wonder if something else isn't going on here. Hawaii is, constitutionally, an American state but, geographically, it's a bunch of remote islands in the middle of the Pacific. The distinction is often noted the other way round: on September 11, we heard a lot about how this was the first attack on 'the American mainland' in two centuries i.e., excluding Pearl Harbor. But perhaps Hawaiians are sensing their distance from the mainland: perhaps events that seem relatively remote from Massachusetts the Bali bombing, say resonate more strongly if you're working at a beach hotel in Maui. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's poll, while Caucasians split more or less evenly for Bush and Kerry, Filipino-Americans prefer the President by 56 to 36 per cent: could that be connected with the ongoing Islamist subversion of the Philippines?
This is all pure speculation on my part, mainly because the editor turned down my request to spend ten days on a fact-finding mission to this critical battleground resort ...er, state. Nonetheless, Bush's last- minute Filipino fillip in the Pacific is typical of several curious aspects of this campaign that are difficult to explain according to the usual presidential rules. While I'm yelling, 'Wake up and smell the coconut milk', Democrats are pointing to record levels of voter registration which they claim portends a massive youth vote against Bush. Isn't that what Howard Dean was banking on just before the Iowa caucus? Unfortunately, they never showed up. As I remarked at the time, a lot of the excitable youthful Deaniacs lost their enthusiasm when they discovered that you couldn't cast your vote by leaving it in the comments section on Howard's blog.
As if to demonstrate the meaninglessness of their game, last week the pollsters at Harris released their latest findings in two versions. Using the model of likely voters that proved accurate in 2000, Bush led Kerry by 51 to 43. However, if you discard that model and use some new model factoring in a lot of folks who didn't bother to vote in 2000, Bush leads Kerry only by 48 to 46. Which is accurate? The first? The second? Neither? Harris can't say. Is there a third model that shows Kerry leading by 73 to 26? Doubtful. If there was, some pollster would surely have come up with it by now. Maybe some other model entirely is the one to use, but it seems unlikely any one will devise it before next Tuesday.
So my hunch that that first Harris poll is the correct one is only that a hunch that Bush is ahead outside the margin of error. Unfortunately, on election day, he also has to be ahead outside the margin of lawyer, which is a tougher call. The Democrats already have thousands of chad-chasers circling the courthouses in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and even New Hampshire, alas. It's important for Bush to win big enough both to compensate for Democrat fraud and to deter litigation.
In lively elections such as this the media usually run endless features on 'angry white men', a demographic to which they're not notably partial. After 'angry white men' threw out the Democrats' congressional leadership in the 1994 elections, Peter Jennings, the exquisitely condescending Canadian who anchors ABC News, sniffed that 'the voters had a temper tantrum'. But this time round the angry white men are all on the Democrat side, and the media seem to think it's perfectly normal.
The other night, for example, Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC's 'Senior Political Analyst' (i.e., Democrat hack), discussed John Kerry with John O'Neill, spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. This is a flavour of the senior political analysis offered by the Senior Political Analyst, although for the full effect of his shrieking over Mr O'Neill's attempted answers you really need the big 72-inch screen with quadraphonic surround-sound ranting and digital-quality close-up of his facial contortions:
'That's a lie, John O'Neill! Keep lying, it's all you do!... Lies!... That's a lie! It's another lie! That's a lie! Absolute lie!... You're just lying...It's a pack of lies!... He just lied to you! He spews out this filth!... You liar!... You just spew lies!... I just hate the lies of John O'Neill. I hate lies...O'Neill's a liar, he's been a liar for 35 years...They lied!... Lies! Just tell me the initials, you liar! Creepy liar!...'
A day after this calm measured display of quiet confidence in Senator Kerry's campaign, his fellow MSNBC honcho, ol' Pitchfork Pat Buchanan, read a prepared statement by the network apologising for its senior analyst going bananas. Out on the street, meanwhile, angry white men have burgled Republican offices in Spokane, Washington; lobbed cinder blocks through Republican offices in Flagstaff, Arizona; shot up Republican offices in Knoxville, Tennessee; assaulted female Republican students handing out flyers at the Gophers football game in Minnesota; and are currently bullying early voting Republicans at polling booths in Florida. If this campaign went on another two months, they'd be seizing GOP county chairmen and beheading them on video. As it is, if Bush wins by a few hundred in Ohio or New Mexico, these fellows don't seem inclined to take it lying down.
I say 'angry white men' because it's not clear that the Democrats' ethnic constituencies blacks and Hispanics have the Bush Derangement Syndrome to quite the same degree. In 2000, Bush got just 9 per cent of the black vote. Recent polls show he's pulling about 18 per cent. If that holds up on election day, John Kerry's finished. It will also be interesting to see whether Bush can peel away any significant chunk of the hitherto loyally Democrat Jewish vote. Given that he's already damned as a tool of the Jews by such star ignoramuses of British diplomacy as Sir Ivor Roberts, Her Majesty's man in Rome, and Sir Crispin Tickell in these very pages, the least the sinister Hebrews could do is show a little more enthusiasm for their puppet in the voting booth. Just a small per cent in the right place retirees in New Mexico, for example would pay off very nicely.
It seems unlikely to me that we're in for another nail-biter of a chad-dangler. It would be astonishing if, after all the epochal events of the first term, it all comes down to a 270-268 squeaker in the electoral college as if the waters of the mighty storm of the last three years had briefly subsided to reveal the landscape utterly unchanged. Most presidential elections aren't close and, for all the talk of the 50/50 nation, it's not quite that even a divide: in the 2002 House races, the Republicans took 53.4 per cent, the Democrats 46.6 per cent. A small sliver of voters concluded that, though we live in interesting times, the Dems have nothing interesting to say and parked their votes elsewhere. The polls didn't pick up that trend until the results started coming in on election night.
The question now is whether the electorate is closer to the 2002 or the 2000 model. Andrew Sullivan and the other moulting hawks claim that, whatever his inner agonising, a President Kerry will have no choice but to fight the war on terror as robustly if more smartly and multilaterally than Bush. This rather overlooks the fact that the strongest force in global affairs is inertia. It seems most probable that, underneath the newly restored polite veneer of international relations, everyone's attention will wander and the league of nuclear rogue states will expand and so will the list of freelance players in their Rolodexes; and, while John's hosting Jacques at some summit to celebrate the new Franco-American entente, something will happen and we'll have to learn the lessons of 9/11 all over again.
So, taking a flyer on a guy who's spent 30 years siding with the Vietcong, the Soviets, the Sandinistas, the Commies in Grenada and vis-à-vis Kuwait in 1990 Saddam Hussein? No thanks.
My sense is that the 2002 model is still operative, and that the Democrats and the media, talking to each other in their mutually self-deluding cocoon, have overplayed the Bush-bashing. Next Tuesday the President will win the states he won last time, plus Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Maine's Second Congressional District to put him up to 301 electoral votes. Minnesota? Why not? Nudge him up to 311 electoral votes. Oh, and what the hell, give him Hawaii: that's 315. The Republicans will make a net gain of two seats in the Senate, one of which will bring with it the scalp of the Democrats' leader, Tom Daschle. Despite distancing himself from Kerry and running ads showing him and Bush embracing, Daschle's floundering in South Dakota, and his lugubrious mien will be even more lugubriouser within the week. Look for a handful of Republican House gains, too. And Democrats tearing their hair out or John Kerry's and John Edwards's hair, if they can penetrate the styling gel.
The above prediction needs to be able to withstand Democrat fraud, which I'm nervous about. If Tuesday goes off as smoothly as the Afghan election, we'll be very lucky.
Usually after making wild predictions I confidently toss my job on the line and say, if they don't pan out, I'm outta here. I've done that a couple of times this campaign season over Wes Clark (remember him?) but it almost goes without saying in these circumstances. Were America to elect John Kerry president, it would be seen around the world as a repudiation not just of Bush and of Iraq but of the broader war. It would be a declaration by the people of American unexceptionalism that they are a slightly butcher Belgium; they would be signing on to the wisdom of conventional transnationalism. Having failed to read correctly the mood of my own backyard, I could hardly continue to pass myself off as a plausible interpreter of the great geopolitical forces at play. Obviously that doesn't bother a lot of chaps in this line of work Sir Simon Jenkins, Robert 'Mister Robert' Fisk, etc., and no doubt I could breeze through the next four years doing ketchup riffs on Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I feel a period of sober reflection far from the scene would be appropriate. My faith in the persuasive powers of journalism would be shattered; maybe it would be time to try something else organising coups in Africa, like the alleged Sir Mark Thatcher is alleged to have allegedly done; maybe abseiling down the walls of the Presidential palace and garroting the guards personally.
But I don't think it will come to that. This is the 9/11 election, a choice between pushing on or retreating to the polite fictions of September 10. I bet on reality.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Mark Steyn