My wife has a tiny phobia. She’s afraid of flying. The remedy that seems to work best is to remind her that the odds of crashing on any one specific airline flight are about 8,000,000 to 1. The phrase that helps her walk down the jet-way to the plane is, “Be good at math”.
This past week I have seen and heard scores of people reacting to the election who need to take repeat this particular mantra to themselves a few times. They range from panicky Democrats to knee-jerk pundits to a gloating President. Few of these folks seem to grasp the simple fact that this was a really close election, 51.3% for Bush, 48.3 % for Kerry. Do the math: 3 points. That’s it. Bush won, but not by much.
To listen to the President speak last week when he said he had won a “broad nationwide victory” one would have thought that he had repeated Ronald Reagan’s trick of 1984 and won 49 states. Then he boldly stated, “I will reach out to every one who shares our goals”, the president basically told 48.7% of the electorate to shove it. Our re-elected Chief Executive is either really bad at geography and math or just quite arrogant. Or maybe both. (Who’s elitist now?)
Karl Rove is very good at math. He had to be to figure out the Electoral College. And he even let slip on Fox News Sunday that his model Presidential race was William McKinley’s 1896 victory which, in Rove’s own words, was “similarly narrow.” (visit http://www.presidentelect.org/e1896.html
for some serious déjà vu! We’ve been a divided country for a very long time.) Karl, of course, caught his slip and corrected himself with, “Not narrow, similarly structured”. But Rove knows the math. He’s just spinning a tale to try and convince America that 3% is really a monumental mandate.
Republicans have been bragging that George W. Bush received more votes for President than any candidate in history. Do you know who is in second place on that list? Ronald Reagan? Nope. The answer is John Kerry. These triumphant revelers should really learn how to count and then learn something about population growth.
The many pundits, politicians and analysts who are now convinced that the Democratic party is doomed if they do not rediscover “values” obviously got into college based upon their English SAT scores and not the math component. The data shows that the GOP did a phenomenal job of mobilizing their evangelical base to vote on such issues as “character” and gay marriage. However, this constituency did not make up the majority of the electorate or even a majority of Bush voters. They were not swing voters and would never have voted for Kerry unless photos surfaced of George Bush hugging Satan. Even then they probably would have just stayed at home.
No, the election was won on fear. “W” had the advantage on the terrorism gap. I have come across several likely Kerry backers who voted for Bush simply because they were afraid of switching horses in the middle of a murky jihadist stream replete with Osama videos. Somewhere deep in their collective subconscious this block of voters feels safer with an Orwellian Big Brother holding their jittery hand on the way home from school. Polls show that the some of the voters who feared terror more than any other factor came from the left side of the political spectrum. This cut into Kerry’s base. The “values” crowd did not. (When did “values” become an anti-gay code word?)
So is it any surprise that one of the first items that the White House is going to spend their mythical mandate’s political capital on is a massive overhaul of the tax code? The trial balloons being floated mention the elimination of the income tax in exchange for a national sales tax. (Funny. Mr. Bush never mentioned this particular agenda in his stump speech.) Many of the President’s wealthy supporters know that most of their income will not be taxed at all under this scheme. Heck, with the repeal of the estate tax and dividend tax, their descendents could potentially never pay anything except sales tax ever again. That’s a pretty sweet deal if you qualify. These particular Republicans seem pretty darn good at math.