Wednesday, November 03, 2004

the gloat

Are hope and realism incompatible?

It's a good one to ponder. As someone interested in the irenological dimension of interreligious dialogue, I have to believe in the compatibility of hope and realism. People haven't changed over the centuries, yet in my own way I'd like to work for change.

It's a two-edged sword. Human nature exhibits a certain stasis: I can understand the motivations of Sophocles' characters because, despite two millennia, I'm still the same kind of human being that Sophocles was. Around and around we go, always the same. That's not the end of the story, though: human societies exhibit progress. There have been obvious and significant changes in overall quality of life on the planet; this is undeniable. Is history a crushing, samsaric circle, or is it an eschatological line? I don't think either image quite captures who we are and the cosmos we live in. The cosmos is bigger than our puny metaphors; there's plenty of room for both hope and realism.

But you have to know which attitude suits which situation. In the case of this election, I'm more of a realist than someone burdened-- and deluded-- by hope.

Right now, it's after 3PM in Korea, which means the United States is on the dark side of the planet. Votes are still being tallied, and it looks like my modest prediction will come true: Bush by a nose.

How did I know this? Because I'm a realist. I take an empirical approach to matters wherever possible. I could see my country's mood from afar, probably better than many currently in the States. I'm not one to let hope obscure truth, especially in times like these.

So now I'm gloating. Not because I take pleasure in a Bush win: this blog has documented plenty of complaints about Bush. I'm gloating because I'm witness to what blind hope does to people who really should have been more practical. There was no way Kerry was going to win this. The overall mood of the country was too obvious to ignore, but many Kerryites chose to ignore it, anyway, in making their confident predictions.

Take heart, though, Democrats: the worm will turn. While I doubt Hillary will make for a plausible candidate in 2008, the Dems will field somebody better than either Kerry or Gore, and that person will likely kick the shit out of whomever the Republicans offer.

Bush's reelection means four years as a lame duck. It's not going to be easy or pleasant for him. It wasn't for Clinton, who had to deal with the Monica Lewinsky scandal during his second term. I haven't checked the congressional numbers carefully, but it looks like Bush is going to be wrestling with the new Congress, which will be well-stocked with Democrats.* Bush will also have to deal with a world that just doesn't get our national mood. Bush's answer to this will be inarticulate "moral clarity." As a buddy of mine pointed out, Bush can be scary because his vision of things is so simple. This doesn't wash well with other countries, and doesn't always benefit us at home. The result will be domestic and international conflict.

Then there's my worry that Bush will want to mess with Iran. I can see this happening, because Bush is already capable of ignoring world opinion-- a trait that is, in itself, neither good nor bad. Sometimes world opinion should be ignored; sometimes it shouldn't. But I think Bush has Iran in his sights. It's a source of al-Qaeda activity, it's the site of a pro-democracy struggle, and it's going nuclear. Bush and his advisors won't ignore all these factors as they make their plans.

I don't trust Bush on the economy, nor do I trust his stance on social issues. My hope is that, when the tally is finalized, Bush will find himself wedded to a majority-Democrat Congress. As some pundits have said, this will keep Bush on his toes, just as Clinton was at his best while struggling against a mostly-GOP Congress.

I do trust Bush's assessment that we're in a war, however. Nothing Kerry has said has convinced me that he understands the fundamental nature of the situation. Bush has this right, but I question his methods and attitude.

In the meantime, I gloat because, despite a bit of wavering a few months back, I've been pretty sure, for a long time, that Bush would win a second term. Hope-deluded liberals, listen well: hope may spring eternal, but it's also a seductive bitch and can "lead you down the dark path," as Yoda would say. This is, for you guys, one of those times. You let yourselves get suckered, and now you have to either acknowledge you were out of touch or continue to shake your heads in denial. And by the way: the absolute worst thing you can do for your own cause is to claim that most of your countrymen are stupid. You simply confirm the stereotype that liberals are arrogant and elitist. You can be better than that. Fight smart next time around. Don't proceed on the basis of delusions.

To the world I say: strap yourselves in and get ready for another four years. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

*UPDATE: Take that with a grain of salt. The Congress will indeed be well-stocked with Democrats, but it's still going to be GOP-controlled. In my opinion, this isn't a good thing. I prefer balance, not monopoly.


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