Color most of America purple
    by  Gene Lyons           November 10, 2004

"The men American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars;
  the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth."
     —H. L. Mencken

Oddly, supporting the winner of the presidential election seems to have made some
people angrier. In some circles, it’s considered unpatriotic, and worse," elitist" to
criticize President Bush. (I don’t recall they felt that way about his predecessor.)
Several self-styled "Christians" have urged me either to commit suicide or leave the
country in the aftermath of Bush’s thunderous three-point victory over Sen. John Kerry.
Two say they’re coming to whip me. For such pious individuals, they tend to have
awfully colorful vocabularies. None of this shocks me. It pretty much comes with the
territory, although I’m getting fed up with one obscene caller who doesn’t think I
know his identity. This time he cursed my son, who told him he was a coward.
Anyway, who’s the real elitist, I wonder, somebody who insists that God endorses
his own political opinions or somebody, like me, who says, "God help us all"?

But leave America? Goodness, the Red Sox just won the World Series, and I was
thrilled to be there. I’d be about six months in Ontario or British Columbia when I’d
hear a Trisha Yearwood song or see a football crowd on TV calling the Hogs back
home in Arkansas and start snuffling like a sorority girl at her best friend’s wedding.

So how did I get over the heartbreak? Try explaining an election to a horse. On the first
sunny day in November, I went for a long ride on the farm where my two stay. We saw
a bald eagle sitting in the top of a cottonwood along the river. Later, we walked up on
a flock of wild turkeys, who didn’t notice me on Lucky’s back until we were almost
among them and never took flight. A big buck standing on the edge of a tree line snorted,
leaped a 4-foot barbed-wire fence and bounded into the woods, the white flag of his tail
visible after the rest of him had vanished in shadow.

Roughly a year ago, when Washington pundits were assuring us that Vermont Gov.
Howard Dean had a lock on the nomination, I asked my wife if there was any chance
a liberal New Englander could win her native Arkansas, a state with five Democrats
among its six person congressional delegation, with gay marriage on the ballot.
She thought a minute and said, alas, no.

After Kerry got nominated, we talked ourselves halfway out of it, partly because we
imagined his Vietnam War record would insulate him against being seen as a figurative
"girly man. "

Then came the Swift Boat smeara classic Bush family dirty tricks campaign—and the
Kerry campaign’s bewildering failure to fight back. There followed the so-called liberal
media’s (particularly cable TV’s) unwillingness to call a liar a liar. Kerry’s seeming
strength was effectively neutralized.

Just as the U.S. Supreme Court decided the last presidential election, so the
Massachusetts Supreme Court (with help from the mayor of San Francisco) surely
settled this one. I think it isn’t even bigotry for the majority, which could accept civil
unions. It’s more a question of having their arms twisted. Even decisively beating the
badly overmatched Bush in debate couldn’t save Kerry from the cultural uneasiness
his candidacy inspired.

Not the real John Kerry, understand, the symbolic one. Anybody who thinks that
Hillary Clinton, whom I both know and admire, can win in 2008 needs to ask himself
why Republicans are pushing the notion of her inevitability so hard.

Even so, the results are being wildly over-dramatized, both by my "Christian"
correspondents and horrified cosmopolitans lamenting "the obtuseness and short-
sightedness" of the "redneck" states in The New York Times.  Examine the results on
a voter-proportional electoral map and the "two Americas" turn out to be almost
identical in size.

Residing in a "blue" city in a "red" state, I noticed that my brother’s home county in
New Jersey supported Bush. Most of America is some shade of purple. Writing in his
Weblog at washingtonmonthly. com before the election, Kevin Drum flirted with the
idea that Democrats might do better in the long run if Bush won. That way, he’d end up
bearing complete responsibility for his own screw-ups and misrepresentations,
particularly the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq and the looming fiscal crisis created by his
budget and tax policies. Aghast at his own cynicism, Drum concluded that the stakes
were too high to risk a second term for Bush. But it wasn’t up to him or me. Was he
correct about how the majority will react when reality bites back, as reality always does?
It’s a political science experiment I’d have preferred not to have.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author
and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

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