The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Democrats: celebrate diversity

Bill Rinner | Friday, November 12, 2004

The most compelling yet unsurprising lesson to be learned from the 2004 Presidential election is that the wave of alarmingly hateful anti-Bush rhetoric backfired in Middle America, where voters are more likely to trust the advice of their neighbors than pampered Hollywood elitists and condescending Northeastern liberals who act in the “best interests” of the heartland.

Glancing at the Barnes and Noble “Current Events” bookshelf last weekend, I couldn’t help but marvel at the now-outdated screeds accusing President George W. Bush of every ill facing American society today. Though my initial reaction was one of pity, I took solace knowing the financial success of these authors utilizing their God-given talents speaks volumes for the inclusive power of free-market capitalism.

For months I feared the literati’s wave of disdain directed at the president would overcome the calm-headed rationale of the American voters and propel Sen. John Kerry’s intentionally ambiguous platform to success. I feared George Soros and his ilk would declare victory and fuel even greater funding towards “independent” 527-groups and political action committees. I feared the increasingly partisan mainstream media would feel vindicated for their glaringly preferential treatment of the challenger, and I feared that misguided European animus would overpower the will of American exceptionalism.

The electoral and popular vote results allayed my longstanding fears, but the election’s aftermath indicates that Kerry supporters are far from learning their lesson. The results hit anti-Bush circles with shock and awe, and critics have latched onto anything that lends an air of intellectual or moral superiority.

Notably, the exit poll results, which gave Bush a hefty lead among those who cited moral values as their primary voting concern, offered fodder for bashing social conservatives as the standard buzzwords “ignorant … intolerant … homophobic … gun-crazy” surfaced on the editorial pages of the nation’s most respected newspapers. A personal favorite, the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd cited “fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule” as the culprits behind Bush’s unspeakable reelection. Her counterpart Paul Krugman, whose columns have demonstrated the revolting danger of professorial partisanship, whined about Bush’s “radical agenda” that a majority of voters endorsed for the next four years.

Down the ranks, if one discusses the election results with a strong Kerry supporter, a slam towards the sheltered Middle America or religious bigots is virtually inevitable. At this point, they are still searching for any comforting notion to assure them Kerry truly was the candidate America should have chosen were it not for Karl Rove’s devious campaign strategy.

In an effort to extend the olive branch towards those who found Bush’s reelection unspeakable and now consider moving to Canada an attractive option, I implore my friends on the left to consider their most favored values – diversity and tolerance. I speak not of the superficial concept of racial diversity, but the deeper and more substantive diversity of thoughts and values that transcend the standard definition. America contains the most diverse set of robust religious values in the world, heightened by the fact that religion in America has not declined as noticeably as in Europe, the other bastion of Western tolerance.

Democrats, liberals, progressives (liberals who don’t like being called liberal) and every other shade of blue champion the value of tolerance foremost, but far too often their righteous inclusion falls far short of its goal. While they position themselves on the moral scale so their unifying value is merely value-neutrality, any strong system of beliefs that diverges from the mean immediately earns their condescension and thinly-veiled contempt.

Politically speaking, striving for greater moral and religious inclusion may stand to revitalize the party that increasingly suffers defeat at the polling booth. Perhaps blinded by their own partisan rage against the president, who happens to be openly religious, the liberal intelligentsia openly mocks Bush’s invocations of God and faith. During the 1990s, President Clinton discussed religion in a combination of personal belief and political utility, and voters flocked to his down-to-earth vision for America’s future. Bush’s religious references occur as frequently as Clinton’s, yet the contempt leveled at him by intolerant liberals only pushed away voters who appreciated his heartfelt conviction.

Democrats have the opportunity to seize the moment and prove their version of diversity and tolerance is not simply a means of positioning themselves higher on the scale of elitist delusion. Unchecked arrogance drowned out the voices of the silent majority of Americans who approved of Bush’s presidency or at least found him superior to the challenger, and Democrats must now look themselves in the mirror and realize that hubris does not win elections. The best hope for shifting America away from Republican dominance is for Democrats to prove to the voters that the values of diversity and tolerance they so frequently invoke are more than skin-deep.

Bill Rinner is a senior economics major. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.