Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2004 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
Fear is legitimate motivation for voting
Fear. "The majority of Americans voted out of fear, and that's why they reelected George W. Bush," huffs the opinion page of the New York Times, as well as most liberals, Europeans and East Coast elitists.
"People were afraid to change Presidents during a war," some sneer.
"Domestic priorities are out the window, because people allowed themselves to be overcome by fear of terrorism," some sigh.
John Kerry made a gracious and sincere concession on Wednesday and accepted the outcome of the election. But many of his supporters have not.
In 2000, those on the losing side held fast to the belief they had been aggrieved because, they alleged, not every vote was counted and the Supreme Court "selected" Bush over Al Gore. They turned the outcome of the 2000 election into a monument of injustice and tenaciously clung to it. That's understandable; there is some nobility to be found in victimhood, in being on the right side of a grave wronging. It makes defeat easier to bear.
But this year, there is no doubt surrounding Bush's victory. There is little nobility in being soundly rejected by a clear majority of the popular vote, and losing the Electoral College decisively. And so, to maintain their status as the aggrieved, many Kerry supporters are casting a pall of invalidity over this election. Not in the form of a recount, but with the charge of fear as though fear is not a legitimate reason to vote for one candidate over another.
Indeed, fear may be the soundest reason to vote one way or the other. Only a fool in denial doesn't fear another terrorist attack; only a fool in denial wouldn't vote for the candidate better equipped to protect himself and his family.
Someone who believes Kerry would have protected us better than Bush is still voting out of fear. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing to be ashamed of for installing stronger locks and better alarm systems in your home because you fear burglary. There is something to be ashamed of if you give in to the criminal's wishes by letting him come in and take whatever he wants from you. But both courses of action are driven by fear.
Spain reacted the wrong way by voting in a new government after a terrorist attack. Americans, justifiably afraid of another attack, voted the right way in giving Bush a second term.
This fear, so maligned by dejected Bush opponents, extends beyond terrorism. Americans in the red states, they snarl, turned out in record numbers because they fear gays. They're homophobic. That's why they voted against same-sex marriage in the 11 states where the question was on the ballot, the other side growls.
What's wrong with fearing that society is headed in the wrong direction, and that soon, too few children will know the benefits of a home life that includes a female mother and a male father? What's wrong with fearing that society is turning a destabilizing corner, and that polygamy could very easily be the next marital option? Why is that an illegitimate motivation at the polls? Doesn't the other side vote the way it does because it "fears" the agenda of the so-called "Christian Right?"
It's perfectly fine to feel fear, as long as the reaction is courage. And Americans showed great courage in the face of fear on Tuesday.
Americans knew the terrorists and our European friends would prefer John Kerry as President, but a majority of us voted for Bush anyway. Americans knew they would be dismissed as easily led sheep if they supported the President, but 51 percent of us did it anyway. Americans knew they would be labeled religious zealots and homophobes if they voted for "values," but we did it anyway. Smart Americans are afraid in these times. They're courageous enough to admit it, and courageous enough to do something about it.
So liberals, Europeans, elitists and the opinion pages of the New York Times, give us a little credit. Don't delegitimize our voice just because the election didn't go your way. Man up, and have the courage to admit you might be in the minority for a very valid reason.
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© 2004, Bernadette Malone