Thursday, November 04, 2004

US election fallout

On balance, I am pleased Bush won, although I will admit that most of this satisfaction is derived from the suffering of the pompous, elitist left-liberal media elite here and in the US.

All I can say to Michael Moore, is that you are in the minority. How pompous to base most of your campaign for Kerry on the cry "Let's take our country back", assuming that he and his supporters were not only numerically superior, but also on the side of the angels. The latter assertion is unverifiable, but the former has been well and truly falsified. I look forward to his reaction, beyond the infantile picture on his website.
Similarly, the Guardian's Letters to Clark County has left that paper humiliated. It would have been far easier to accept defeat if they had campaigned on policy issues instead of personality.

As to reaction elsewhere, the majority of the liberal media and elitists have focused on "how to unite a divided America".
Robin Cook is quoted in the Times: I'm not sure whether the Bush team have got the skills to heal a divided America. Not only do we have a divided America but also a president who is highly polarising...
Stephen Pollard comments on other media reaction, including the BBC's continuation of the theme that because the country is so divided, Bush's mandate is to unite it.

The focus on a divided country is understandable to some degree because the anti-Bush crowd obviously had a very strong anti-Bush preference, but the strength of your preference is democratically irrelevant. (I think is one of the many weaknesses of democracy, but this is a discussion for another time)
Furthermore, by definition, post-election, America was always going to be divided, unless 100% voted for one candidate. Why would the US have been less divided if Kerry had won with the same figures? To some in the media, there is an underlying view that Kerry was the correct choice, and therefore the result must be explained away by inferring that Bush supporters are wrong or misinformed...

This view turns on whether you see democracy as a procedural or substantive process.
Most of the liberal elite saw it this time as a search for substantive legitimacy - ie: Kerry was the right choice and the electorate should have done the right thing by electing him. Therefore, the electorate made the wrong choice by electing Bush and Bush must try to placate the minority. This reasoning leads to front page headlines such as the Mirror's: How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb? Now if this is democracy, why not have a panel of experts run the country along the right lines? Or, better still, why not just let the non-dumb people vote?

That such views should feel repellent suggests there is an alternative, and more accurate view of democracy, as a procedural decision making process. It does not necessarily result in the correct policies (and I agree with those who argue that is mitigates against economically efficient policies - here and here) - instead it is a simple way for people to make a decision and to avoid costly unanimous decision making procedures. On this account, provided the election was fair and free (procedurally legitimate), which it seems to have been this time, there is little else to say.

To argue that substantive legitimacy somehow trumps procedural legitimacy is to argue against pretty much everything democracy stands for. It is to applaud the system when your guy wins, and cry foul when he loses. In short, it is cheating.

If all else fails, there is the Harold Pinter level of criticism: It's a black day for the world (Guardian).

UPDATE: round-up of left wing blog reaction at Instapundit.

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