Magazine article The Nation

The People Speak

Magazine article The Nation

The People Speak

Article excerpt

The election was difficult for those who are patriotic enough to think well of the country. The majority of the voters responded to the Reagan-Bush message--a strident fusion of vulgar chauvinism, covert racism, unashamed sexism and systematic selfishness. Their response, however, was ambivalent.

The new patriots celebrated the victory over Grenada, but they showed no enthysiasm for figthing tougher opponents. The Republicans did not dare propose conscription. We are in many respects a nation of blowhards. Many who call for strength are not ready to pay the personal price of empire.

The majority's racism is no less dishonest. An election analysis by Prof. Samuel Popkin in the November 11 Washington Post expresses it with elegant brutality, or brutal elegance. The blacks and the weak generally will have to succeed on their own, he wrote, just like the rest of us. That admonition ignores history. The economic and social ascent of American Catholics and Jews was made possible by political action and organized social pressure.

Sexism among the electorate was deliberately exploited by George Bush. In a fine mixture of snobbery and selfabasement, his wife seconded his condescension toward Geraldine Ferraro, and joined in his insults. Indeed, the Presidential theme of our standing tall surely had a double anatomical reference: the Republicans mobilized the almost limitless anxieties of American men about their potency.

As for selfishness, the electorate displayed no blindness to its long-term interests. …

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