Jan 24, 2005
During inauguration week, Bush spoke once again about fulfilling the mandate "the people" had given him.
This idea has been drummed into our heads, ever since November 2. Bush was supposed to have won a crushing mandate, and now he's going to use it to implement his program.
Not so fast!
Bush didn't win a crushing mandate. He won by fewer votes than did any other winning candidate since 1940, with four exceptions. As for the electoral college vote: only two times since 1878 did an elected president come into office with a smaller margin of victory – and one of those two times was Bush's margin last time. It was hardly an overwhelming victory.
Nor do the policies that Bush is pushing represent the ideas of the majority of the population. Just the opposite.
On the domestic level, Bush's main issue is Social Security. He wants to divert our retirement money into "private investment accounts" handled by Wall Street, while severely cutting Social Security benefits. Less than 30% of the population agrees with Bush on this proposal.
As for the war in Iraq, only 25% have confidence in what Bush says about it. Less than 40% of the population today says the war has been worth the loss in life.
Then there are those issues that Bush has pushed in order to rally a solid electorate – trying to appeal to their prejudices in order to make them forget their own real interests.
On the question of abortion, which Bush lets it be known he thinks should be illegal – only 30% of the population agrees with him.
On the question of a legal relationship between homosexual people: 27% of the population is ready to accept marriage between two lesbian women or two gay men. Another 35% think that homosexuals should be able to establish a "civil union," which would give them the same legal rights as marriage. Only 38% agree with Bush that no such relationship should be recognized.
In other words, while Bush pretends to speak for all the "people," in reality he has only been pandering to the reactionary prejudices held by a minority of the population.
And Bush can get away with it because Kerry campaigned on these issues like a pale imitation of Bush – with a few minor attempts to appear not so bad as Bush. He gave working people no real reason to vote for him, and the majority of working people didn't even bother to vote.
So now what? Bush will continue to say the people gave him their mandate. And the Democrats will pretend there's nothing they can do about it.
One thing is true – there is nothing the Democrats will do. But there's a great deal that working people can do.
The first thing is to recognize that we can't put our trust in any of these liars. We have to begin looking to ourselves. We are the ones who can protect Social Security – putting up a big solid wall the politicians will be afraid to tackle. We are the ones who can demand this war be brought to an end, sparing the loss of another Iraqi life, another American life. We are the ones who can make sure there is acceptance for all people's views and lives.
Working people, in fact, are the big majority of the population. When we organize to fight for our own interests, when we don't let ourselves get sidetracked by reactionary demagogues like Bush or false friends like Kerry, we can do a lot in a short period of time to change our situation.