The ugly American mark two is dead. Overnight six years of glib European
identification of "American" with right-wing fundamentalism is over. The
gun-toting, pre-Darwinian Bushite, the Tomahawk-wielding,
Halliburton-loving, Beltway neo-con, damning abortion as murder and
torturing Islamo-fascists has been lain to rest, and by a decision of the
American people. Americans should be proud and the world should take note.
Yesterday's result could hardly have been more emphatic. George Bush's
election wizard, Karl Rove, said he would make America's midterm elections
"a choice not a referendum". He would ask them to choose a congress not
vote on his boss. The electorate did both. In a high turnout the majority
rejected the tenets of the religious right and of "big government"
neo-conservativism. They expressed concern over the corruption and
warmongering of Washington and the state of their economy in Bush's hands.
For the Republicans there were no consolations.
The new congress is mandated to press ahead with a higher minimum wage, an
end to pork-barrel budgeting, immigrant amnesty, energy conservation, stem
cell research and radical changes to the drugs bill and welfare generally.
Most of these may fall by the wayside, but they have behind them the winds
of a mandate. Congress must find a way of curbing Bush's uncontrolled
federal expenditure if a new Democrat president after 2008 is not to endure
agonies of retrenchment. Whether Bush will decide to cooperate with such
change in the hope of rescuing his floundering presidency is up to him.
Certainly the only Republican of any stature, the war sceptic Senator John
McCain, seems disinclined to help him.
A CNN exit poll of swing issues put Iraq, terrorism, the economy and
corruption of equal concern to voters, with the Republicans scoring badly
on them all. The politics of fear has now lost its post-9/11 traction.
Republicans mouthing dire threats of "islamo-fascists" under every bed are
scorned. The most ferocious ad I saw had a solitary figure on any empty set
telling Americans that they had become less popular round the world, that
terrorism had become worse, that Americans were less safe, that gasoline
was more expensive and Osama bin laden was still free - all because of one
thing, "the war in Iraq".
Over 60 per cent of electors want American troops withdrawn now or soon.
The White House ran on a "pro-victory" ticket and lost. Yesterday's reports
from Baghdad indicated widespread expectation and relief that American
policy in that country is about to change. The American military is know to
want to leave and Iraqis, whether those in power welcome it or not, sense
the occupation is de facto over. At such a moment insurgency knows it has
won, however long it takes the occupying power to go. Retreat becomes the
only option. A wretched era of American interventionism has come to an end.
A new day has dawned.