According to a recent Newsweek poll Bush's ratings have tumbled to a new low. Only 31% of people asked believe he is doing a good job. At this point it's like beating a dead horse, or picking on the slow kid at school. Sad, really. But it's music to my ears, and gives me faith that we are moving in the right direction.
To give this some perspective the lowest ratings for previous presidents were:
36% for Clinton*
35% for Reagan
29% for Bush 41
28% for Carter
23% for Nixon
Rounding out the cadre, Dick Cheney, who is probably insane or, at best, an out of control cyborg high on its own power, has an approval rating of 31%; Donald Rumsfeld, who might be the most hated man in America, resigned with 24% approval.
All indicators show that the mid-term elections were lost by the Republicans rather than won by the Democrats. Reasons cited for the Democrats' success include the botched war in Iraq, Bush's crappy Presidential skills, out of control spending, and poor Republican leadership in congress.
The blog Agnoiologist (which is an excellent name by the way) notes correctly that this election was not a rejection of Republican principles as much as it was a rejection of Bush himself.
"This election wasn't a rejection or approval of any set of principles," it says. "This election was a rejection of incompetence. The people were angry at Bush. He had failed with Katrina and failed with Iraq. The Republican party was corrupt, as evidenced symbolically by the Foley scandal. It wasn't a rejection of any of the principles of family values, etc -- it was the corruption of the principles."
True. One only has to look at traditional Republican fanboys for corroboration to the new belief that Bush may be the worst thing to happen to the Republicans since inception.
And so the debate among ideologies is very much alive in America. The metaphorical witch may be dead, but we still have to figure out how to get home. Most Republicans will now say they only supported Bush as a matter of circumstance. But Bush, to many, represented a wonderful mix of Christianity and politics, heady nationalism and values, and this very mix is why he is able to view the world in such stark blank and white terms, an attribute too intoxicating for most conservatives to deny.
He painted the picture himself--you are either with him or you are against him. Just as Jesus said, "he who does not gather with me scatters."
Bush's good vs evil world view, stoked by a sense of messianic destiny, are what got us into such a deep mess. Bush's actions betrayed his belief that he answers to only Jesus, and those who are with him. Terrorists, Saddam Hussein, liberals...they are all enemies of this country, and therefore enemies of Christ. And so they can all be dealt with harshly and God will sort out the mess in the end.
He had so many followers and now they are falling away. Is it really just a simple matter of disowning him? Weren't they his followers? No? Really? No? Surely they were his followers? No!
Somewhere a rooster crows.
You can't simply divorce yourself from Bush, unless you are also willing to divorce yourself from religious fundamentalist thinking in politics, nationalism, and the neoconservative axiom that we should use our power to promote our values around the world.
Thomas Jefferson was invoked much during this campaign. His is an axiom, that the government which governs least governs best, is one everyone wants to claim. The Republicans have brutally driven this lesson home in a most ironic fashion, by trying to govern as much as they could get their hands on, including other countries, and leaving a trail of wreckage in their path. The hope was, probably, that God would bless the whole endeavor, but people like Ted Haggard, Tom DeLay, and Mark Foley distracted Him.
If we have learned anything it is that what a person uses as a basis of judgment is extremely important. We have also learned that we can not possibly enact the mandates of neoconservativism, no matter how high flung they may sound. So I would like us to try some sober judgment for a while. Some pragmatism. Some empathy. Between the extremes lies the reality you and I live in. Let's govern there too.
Most people think with the Democrats in control of congress Bush will not be able to get much done over the next two years. That, alone, is reason enough to have voted the Democrats back into power. I have no doubt hamstringing Bush will pay unseen dividends at a level even the most gnostic pundit can't divine.
I hope the Democrats will use this chance to prove that other ways are better. We need to invest in education. It should not take six years for people to see fundamental character flaws in a man like George W. Bush. We need to invest in health care and raise the minimum wage. Our rate of poverty is unacceptable. We should employ the traditional Christian principle of working on the plank in our own eye before removing the dust from our neighbors. The answers to terrorism, the environment, poverty, are all found in cooperation, not isolation.