For all the noise, the fact remains that President George W. Bush won re-election, with over 60 million voters placing their votes in trust to him. The fact also remains, than more than 57 milion voters this year preferred John Kerry for the office. The sheer volume of these numbers is staggering, which may explain why no one yet has addressed the peculiar paradox of this election:
America remains sharply divided between the values of the Democratic and Republican parties, yet
President Bush's re-election this year was decisive in all respects.
A look at the demographics helps illustrate this peculiar condition. Younger voters tended to support Kerry, while older voters preferred Bush. Single voters supported Kerry, while married voters preferred Bush. Urban voters preferred Kerry, while Rural voters preferred Bush. And of course, the Coasts (as states) went for Kerry, while the Heartlands went for Bush.
On the other hand, when compared to his 2000 numbers, President Bush in 2004 improved his results in every major demographic sector. Also, Bush did well with Catholics and better in Massachusetts against Kerry than he did against Gore in 2000; additional evidence that Bush was gaining national support, even in his opponent's base.
I don't know, however, that I agree with the assumption that the United States is rejecting the Democrats as a major party. History shows that even an overwhelming win, which 2004 was most definitely not, or a series of wins, may not accurately foretell a dynastic dominance. On the other hand, it would be wise for Democrats to understand and accept that George W. Bush has now exceeded expectations in five consecutive high-profile elections. His two elections as Governor of Texas were upsets in their caliber; the first was a stunning victory of Ann Richards, whom the Democrats not only considered unbeatable in Texas but a rising star with national ambitions. His victory over then Vice President Al Gore in a time of peace and prosperity in 2000 was so unexpected, some Democrats today remain in denial about it. In 2002, Democrats were so sure they would gain in both the House and Senate's elections that they began to leak speculations about changes in Committee leadership, yet when the results were known, it was the Republicans, not the Democrats, who had gained in both the House and Senate, and later examination revealed that it was personal campaigning by President Bush in key contests which made the difference. And of course, this year's campaign included the use of forged documents by CBS in a blatant smear attempt, a major motion picture was produced and distributed for the specific purpose of propaganda, a foreign billionaire personally vowed to try to buy the election out of spite, and Democrat '527' groups outspent Republican '527's by a factor of 12, yet when the votes were counted, George W. Bush withstood everything thrown at him, and won.
Another way to look at the present balance, is to consult America's Paternity source, the Declaration of Independence, specifically those Rights named from the beginning: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
To Democrats, values which some label as "Liberal" are very important, and one key disappointment many leading Democrats feel from Clinton's Presidency, is that they feel Bill Clinton was forced to water-down his programs and goals, and to compromise his politics to appease the Republican-controlled Congress. In many Democrats' minds, there has not been a truly Democratic Presidency in full power since Johnson. I don't agree with that, nor do all Democrats, but this sense of frustration is what is driving the Liberal wing of the Democratic Party, especially that the lesson has been made again, that only a Moderate Democrat can win the White House in this climate.
As I just mentioned, there are essentially two wings to the Democratic Party, but they both hold the same values, if to differing degrees. The value of "Life" means that most Democrats oppose the Death Penalty or the unilateral use of Military Force. The meaning of "Liberty", to Democrats, means that Social Values outweight individual preferences, that freedom of the group is the essential, but also that special accomodations must be made for any and all declared minority groups, excepting traditional groups, who are presumed to enjoy privilege. The "Pursuit of Happiness" applies to protection of individual preferences, including minority beliefs and protection from the presumed oppression by the majority. Many aspects of these values have virtue in their own right, but it bears noting, that they are generally focused on the minority of every debate, which suggests a political cost.
Republicans, despite the foul imprecations by the Left, represent the heart of America, and have enjoyed a growing base since Reagan declared his candidacy for the 1980 Presidential campaign. Republicans are actually a 3-wing party, which is not understood by most of the Old Media and the Liberals of the Democratic Party.
Republicans are Conservatives, Moderates, and 'Big Tent' Republicans. Like the Democrats, Republicans tend to hold the same values, but again to different degrees. Republicans believe in "Life" in the most essential terms; so precious that a murderer should lose his life for taking one, and the innocent are so precious that their life is inviolate even before their first breath. "Liberty" means that the Rights enumerated specifically in the Bill of Rights must be observed and protected without dilution or compromise. "The Pursuit of Happiness" means that using the powers of government to promote a 'social values' position or opinion is wrong, and does nothing but corrode the trust given by the public to those in office.
Democrats believe in using government to solve social problems; Republicans believe that government must act only where individuals and smaller governments cannot handle the task.
Democrats believe in limiting America's authority outside our borders; Republicans believe in establishing American authority worldwide in the protection of our national interests.
Only extremists hold only to the absolutes in these values, but there is a clear difference between the Left and Right in all of this. One benefit from this last election, is the clarity of position. Everyone is confirming or learning their position, and this will bear results in the coming elections.
The best course for everyone, in my opinion, is to consider your values carefully, and discuss them. You won't win over everyone, but there is a larger audience now, than ever before.