View From Lodi, CA: Joe Broods On Dubya


Just hours before beginning this
column, I listened to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
and

President George W. Bush
deliver their

post-election
speeches.

As I mulled over their comments, I
asked myself the same question that has been repeating
itself in my mind since Election night: "How did Bush
pull it off?"

With no apparent effort, the White
House

subordinated
important questions about matters that
should concern Americans—jobs,
the economy, the deficit, the mess that is Iraq—and
deflected attention toward issues that don`t directly
impact more than one in 100,000 voters—gay
marriage,


abortion
and other social hot button topics.

Bush was re-elected even though
most Americans believe the

Iraq war
is going poorly, that

health care costs
are

rising
, that their

jobs are threatened
, that their taxes will not go
down and that the

economy
is precarious.

But despite those fundamental
concerns, the Bush team`s perfect game plan centered on
"values." 

The marching orders were clear: 
"Don`t talk about anything important. Make sure you
label Kerry a `Massachusetts liberal.`"

Take, for example, jobs. Voters
refused to either press Bush on that vital subject.

Here`s an example.  On Election
Day, the New York Times published a story by
reporter Elizabeth Becker titled

"Textile Quotas to End, Punishing Carolina Towns."

Becker wrote about Leann
Herrington. Once a North Carolina textile plant worker
who earned a living wage, Harrington now considers
herself lucky to be employed as a waitress at the Towel
City Junction Cafe making

$3.00 an hour plus tips
.

The mills that employed Herrington
have been systematically closed over the last decade.
Apparel manufacturers have

off-shored
their

plants to Third World countries
in their tireless
search for the cheapest labor.

Now, however, things are poised to
get worse for struggling workers like Herrington.

Pursuant to

World Trade Organization
demands made over a decade
ago, the global quota regulating the $495 billion
textile market will be eliminated in January 2005.

North Carolina will soon become
dotted with

ghost towns.
Even a modest job at the local café may
vanish as people realize that budget restaurant meals
are a luxury they can no longer afford.

The cruel irony comes when you
realize how little Bush has done to help

North Carolina.

In an April address at the Piedmont
Central Community College, Bush said:

"In
North Carolina, you`ve seen progress of your own here.
First of all, I fully understand that there are people
who hurt here. Industries like the textiles and the
furniture manufacturers are struggling, and that is an
issue that we`ve got to deal with." (Remarks
by the President on Job Training and the Economy
)

Obviously, there has been no
"progress"
in North Carolina. And Bush never did
"deal with" the lost jobs in the textile industry. In
fact, at no time did Bush so much as lift a finger to
help anyone.

Nevertheless, the North Carolina
voted overwhelmingly for him, 57%-43%.

I ask again: "How is it
possible?"

Oregon Democratic Governor Ted
Kulongoski may have the answer. Said Kulongoski:

"The Republicans are
smarter. They`ve created these …social issues to get the
public to stop looking at what`s happening to them
economically. What we once thought—that people would
vote in their economic self interest—is not true, and

We
Democrats haven`t figured out how to deal with that." [Democrats
need to connect with heartland
,
By Nicholas D.
Kristof, November 4, 2004] 

Actually, if I may correct
Kulongoski, what the Republicans have done is
"exploit"
the

social issues
, not "create" them.

Not that the Republicans needed any
help but the

hapless Democrats
infinitely aided the G.O.P. on its
road back to the White House.

If Kerry had one iota of charisma,
he would be the president-elect. But he is so bland that
he became the first candidate in presidential history to
win three debates but lose the election.

I don`t know where the Democratic
Party goes from here except into a state of deep soul
searching.

One thing is certain: Hillary
Clinton, who shares Kerry`s eastern liberal elitist
credentials, will not be the party`s 2008 nominee unless
it wants to suffer an even bigger humiliation than it
did in 2004. 

Regular readers of my column know
that I have beaten up on Bush routinely over

the last four years.
But what`s done is done.

During his acceptance speech, Bush

said
: "A new term is a new opportunity to reach
out to the whole nation."

Accordingly, in anticipation of
Bush`s conciliatory gestures toward those Americans who
make up the half of the nation that did not vote for
him, I wipe my slate clean of all past grievances.

I take Bush at his promise that it
is his "duty to serve all Americans."

And I hope I am not disappointed.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.