Pity the poor world. George W. Bush is once again President of the United States. For those of us who try to analyze such things rationally, it is tough to understand. The economy is in the tank, the war in Iraq is a disaster and master villain Osama bin Laden remains at large. What exactly has Bush done to deserve re-election?
But this election was not about reason; it was about fear and hatred.
About a month ago, an American cousin came north to visit my elderly mother. He’s about ten years older than I and grew up in Florida. Today he is a religious Jew, working with an engineering firm in New York City. He supported Bush. His explanation included the most overt racism I’ve heard in a long time. “We should round up all the Muslims and put them in internment camps like we did with the Japanese during World War II,” he told us. A Jew supporting internment camps. That’s when I had an idea of what was coming in this election.
It’s not that Bush has hoodwinked Americans; it is that he has mobilized them using fear and hatred, racism and homophobia. In a strange way, Bush’s support comes from the same place as Osama bin Laden’s. Neo-liberalism is a soulless ideology that preaches greed and power Ã¼ber alles. The appeal of religious fundamentalism whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish is to speak to those who have not benefited from the drive to greed and profit with a simple message of right and wrong, good and evil. In the case of Bush, the moralism is a cover for the same neo-liberal policies. In both cases, propping up patriarchy through violence and the oppression of women is the central operating dictum. Tariq Ali calls it the Clash of Fundamentalisms in his 2002 book of that name. In a complicated world, we are right and they are evil is a simple and powerful message.
It is no accident that a resolution on same sex marriage was on the ballot of 11 states. The vicious electoral mastermind Karl Rove made sure that this would happen to mobilize the religious right to vote and vote they did, delivering Bush a clear popular majority and themselves a lot more power.
The backlash to feminism and equality rights in general is an important factor in the rise of right-wing Republicanism and almost no-one is talking about it. The backlash to feminism began in the United States in the late 1970s and resulted in the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. In her book, Memoirs of a Feminist Revolution, Susan Brownmiller opines that the womenâe(TM)s movement died in 1980. If there was ever a time for its resurrection as a full-fledged, multi-issue feminist and peace movement, it is now.
There is no question that abortion rights are threatened. Four Supreme Court justices could retire any day. They are Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80; Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 74; Justice John Paul Stevens, 84, and, to a lesser degree, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 71. There is little doubt that Bush will replace them with anti-choice judges. The battle in the Senate will be monumental. NOW (The National Organization of Women) is already mobilizing its members for the battle, calling for the Democrats to filibuster any anti-abortion Bush nominee.
Public support for a woman’s right to choose is much stronger in Canada and the religious right is far weaker. Nevertheless, we have to be vigilant. The new strength of the religious right in the United States can give new life to these reactionary forces in Canada. With a minority government, it is possible that things could change very quickly.