Perhaps the most surreal and dispiriting element in the vote was how closely it tracked that of 2000. Hardly any states switched from one party to another. New Hampshire, which Bush had narrowly won four years ago, moved to Kerry. The two states that Al Gore won by the smallest margins — New Mexico and Iowa — may yet end up going for Bush. Unless Ohio magically flips, the political map of the U.S. remains unaltered except that Bush’s margins in the red states were somewhat larger.
Think of that. It’s as if the Iraqi war and the president’s miserable economic stewardship had never happened — or were counterbalanced by Bush’s war on terrorism and his religious faith. It’s as if after four years of one of the most dramatically failed presidencies of American history, the election proceeded as a cultural census, and the provincials prevailed.
And now, Bush can plausibly claim a mandate. That he couldn’t four years ago didn’t deter him from charting just about the most single-minded, divisive and factional course a president has ever taken. Expect more of the same now, only worse.
Inmates run the asylum. The men who failed to plan for the war that they began keep on mismanaging it. The men with the worst economic record since Herbert Hoover still set economic policy. The men who enraged the rest of the planet still strut their stuff. Tuesday was a long night’s journey into hell. And it’s only going to get worse.