Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Why President Bush was reelected?
FUSE Hiroshi / Journalist

December 10, 2004
The result of the US presidential election reaffirmed the strength of the conservative base in the US with President George W. Bush securing his second term by aggressively propagating "war against terrorism". Bush's victory is likely to push US foreign policy further toward unilateralism through the next four years especially with Colin Powell, soft-liner Secretary of State, resigning in January.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a favorite with Japanese diplomats, is also leaving the administration. Condoleezza Rice, the successor of Powell, might not be more hawkish than Powell, yet North Korea has long kept a hostile eye on her. We may have to keep in mind a scenario in which Japanese policy designers are flustered by the incoming Secretary's uncompromising approach toward North Korea.

In this year's election, the Republicans have won a sweeping victory in both houses of Congress. President Bush, though he had to fight against the growing tide of anti-war sentiment, won against Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, by an impressive margin of 3.5 million votes. Bush must be gleeful all the more because he has been rankled with the popular-vote loss of half million against Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, in the 2000 election.

Why were the Republicans able to rack up the overwhelming victory? According to US news media, Karl Rove, Bush's brain and the chief campaign strategist, had estimated that about four million right-wing Christians did not vote in 2000 and had ordered his team to ferret out these potential voters and make them go to the polls. The get-to-the-polls strategy enabled the Republicans to garner considerable ballots from the conservative base.

Though the explanation seems to be too plausible to assume it all to be true, yet unless this Rove tactic is taken into account, it is difficult to explain why the Democrats came short of their expectations in spite of the steep rise in the voting rate, for swing voters are generally considered as leaning toward the Democrats rather than the Republicans. If the Republicans won because of the Rove strategy, we may have to conclude that the United States is a country where the conservatives stand up and take a unified action whenever the odds are against them.

However, I am inclined to think that the decisive element in the election was the two candidates' ability to express themselves in simple and understandable language. Senator Kerry, while criticizing the Iraq war, insisted that he would be a better commander-in-chief than Bush once he was elected. On the other hand, the Bush side detracted Kerry's credibility by pointing out his voting records on the Gulf and Iraq Wars and discredited him as a flip-flopper, while never wavering in their portrayal of Bush as the forceful protector of the country however poor Bush's debate performance might have been in comparison with Kerry.

The image of a strong President must have gripped the heart of "security moms" who are conscious of their family's safety as well as the swing voters who are relatively uninterested in foreign policy. As a matter of fact, I found it difficult to discern any differences in the two candidates' arguments. Probably Kerry could not make his position clear enough because Americans are imbued with the social code that has existed in America since long before 9/11. Almost all Americans believe that at the time when their fellow countrymen are fighting on foreign soil to meet their death, they should never criticize their government. Senator Kerry had had to challenge the tacitly agreed upon social rule in order to demonstrate that he was different from Bush.

The election reminded me of the one that took place in Israel in 1992. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir who led the right-wing Likud, was undaunted to promulgate the Greater Israel policy by accepting a legion of Jewish immigrants of Russian origin. By tactfully dodging negotiations with the Arab leaders and by placing the prime importance on the Israeli security, he pursued what might be termed as hedgehog-style diplomacy.

On the other hand, Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, who led the Labor Party, did not give an impression of bigotry as Shamir did. He had been Chief of the General Staff of the military during the Third Middle East War and had an impeccable military career. Mr. Rabin won a sweeping victory in the election by permeating the image that he was the person who was able to pursue peace while protecting the country at all cost.

It is interesting to compare the election in Israel in 1992 and the current one in the US. Senator Kerry can be likened to Mr. Rabin and President Bush to Mr. Shamir. Then, Senator Kerry, who appealed to fight against terrorism with a wider and nuanced perspective rather than to encapsulate the US in the narrow hedgehog diplomacy, must have had a good chance to win. The reason why he could not might, as was pointed out many times from the beginning of the campaign, be the lack of personal charm to capture the hearts and minds of voters.

The writer is an editorial writer of the Mainichi Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

布施 広 / 毎日新聞社 論説委員

2004年 12月 10日









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