The real loser in Tuesday’s election wasn’t Democrat John Kerry, but the media and intellectual elites who demonstrated, once again, how out of touch they are with the American public. In the final analysis, John Kerry and running mate John Edwards accepted their defeat with dignity and grace.
It remains to be seen whether their supporters among the intelligentsia will do the same. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was typical. Writing “without knowing the election results,” as he admitted in the column that appeared the morning after the election, he nonetheless felt he should lecture “the millions of farmers, factory workers and waitresses who ended up voting utterly against their own interests for Republican candidates.” The common folk, you see, just don't know what's good for them. That attitude explains why the elites continue to get it wrong.
There is simply no way to explain away the Republican Party's stunning victory Tuesday. Not only did the president win some 3.5 million more votes than his opponent, but he did so despite a relentless onslaught of bad press in the final days of the campaign. The president prevailed in spite of vicious attacks on his personal character and integrity by an array of well-funded partisan attack dogs. The president won re-election even though Democrats and their allied groups outspent Republicans by an estimated $70 million.
And it wasn't just a personal victory for George W. Bush. Republicans overall made impressive gains in the House and Senate, including defeating Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. When all the votes are finally counted, the GOP will likely hold a 55-44 edge in the Senate, a 234-201 majority in the House, and will control 29 of 50 governorships.
This was not supposed to happen.
The pollsters told us so; Bruce Springsteen told us so; and so did Bill Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Jon Stewart, George Soros and a lot of other very important people. The theme was echoed by CBS, ABC, CNN, MTV and most of Hollywood. The only problem was, the American people just weren't listening.
When it came time to go into the voting booth, Americans went with the candidate and the party that reflected their core values. They chose not to be cowed by the naysayers who said we can't win in Iraq. They chose not to be intimidated by 11th-hour threats by Osama bin Laden, who emerged from whatever rock he's been hiding under to lecture Americans on everything from security to deficit spending, echoing talking points that sounded like they could have been written by Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe or film propagandist Michael Moore. They chose not to be divided by class warfare, or scared by outrageous claims that their Social Security benefits would be slashed or that their sons would be drafted if the president were re-elected. Americans went with the man whom they thought they could most trust because he is most like them.
No doubt Maureen Dowd, Michael Kinsley and their crowd will spend endless hours poring over exit polls searching for clues about what makes John and Jane Q. Public tick. I expect they'll end up blaming the outcome of the election on the voting public's ignorance. Americans confuse the war in Iraq with the war on terror, they'll fume. Middle-class Americans actually think the Bush tax cut benefited them, the intellectuals will lament. If only more voters would read the New York Review of Books or take their instruction from those who do, things might have turned out differently.
I have some advice for these learned souls. If they want to understand the American electorate, maybe they should spend less time at Starbucks sipping double lattes over the Sunday Times and more time at church or the local high school football game or in line at a Wal-Mart. They might actually learn something about the values that drive most Americans: faith, family and an abiding love of their country. Maybe if the elites would stop lecturing and instead start listening to the American public, they'd be less surprised at the outcome of our elections.
Linda Chavez is CEO and President of the Center for Equal Opportunity. And the author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics . You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page.