This weekend someone very close to me told me she'd voted for George Bush in last year's election. The conversation went something like this:
She: "...and what could they do? They can't afford insurance."
Me: "Thank you, George Bush."
She: " I don't want to talk about politics with you."
She: "Besides, I like him."
Me: "You voted for him, didn't you?"
Me: "Why? Name one good thing he's done."
She: "He married Laura. I like her."
Me: "Okay. But name one good thing he's done as president."
Me: "You can't, can you? You can't name one thing."
She: "Well, I wasn't going to vote for Kerry. I can't stand him."
Me: "Yes, gawd forbid we'd give a decent, intelligent guy a shot to do a better job than a president who in four years did not do one good thing that you, who voted for him, can think of."
She: "Kerry's an idiot."
The conversation went on for a few more minutes, but what it boiled down to was this: She just likes George Bush. She couldn't tell me why. Apparently, the fact that Laura Bush, who seems a decent sort, loves him is enough for her to like him as president.
I was, and continue to be, dumbfounded. I must admit here that I simply do not understand. She, this person who is very close to me, is as loving, compassionate and caring a person as you could imagine. She's pro-choice, and (mostly) anti-war. She's a non-denominational Christian, with a nurturing nature and a soft-spot for the poor. She believes the minimum wage is too low, and that health care is too expensive. And yet, she likes George Bush very much, and thinks he's a good president, despite the fact she can't name one good thing he's done, and that his policies (if not his speeches) seem to directly contradict a large hunk of the things in which she believes.
And she's not alone, not by a long shot. A few weeks ago, a survey was published. It was conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post. It asked people whether they approved or disapproved of the way George Bush was handling six seperate parts of his job as president. On none of these six areas of his job did he score higher than 45%. On average, on the six major issues which most folks would say were the important "talking points" of the day, he averaged only a 37% approval rating. Yet, when those same people were asked whether they approved or disapproved of the job the president was doing in general, 47% said they approved. 47%. Not a single one of his individual scores was higher than 45%, his average score was 37%, and yet his overall approval rating is somehow 47%.
Somehow, George Bush and the electoral machine that surrounds him have created a kind of super-persona which transcends policy, which transcends issues or politics, and drives straight into the brains of nearly half of America. When pressed, it is clear that they don't like the things he's done. And yet, they still like him. He's like my childhood friend Harvey Skees. Harvey was a con-man, a nuisance, a marginally bad kid who dragged good, dorky kids (like me) astray, as far as my parents and teachers were concerned. And yet, with his curly blond hair and his crooked smile and his freckles, everybody liked him, including my parents. No matter what he did, they couldn't not like him. (For the record, Harvey never did anything really bad -- he was a good, if slightly mischevous kid.) Somehow, George Bush is like that. When he messes up, when he leads us astray, it has the potential to wreak havoc not just on one skinny sixth-grader's summer vacation, but on the whole country, the whole world. And yet, he shakes his head and smiles his half-sheepish, half-cocky grin, and the country (at least 47%) forgives him, and 51% even vote to re-elect him.
Like I said, I can't pretend to understand. I guess we just have to live with the idea that, while a large majority of Americans can acknowledge that President Bush isn't very good at his job, a near majority are happy for him to have it. It makes no sense, but that's who America is right now. All we can do is get the issues out there, air them out and hope that by 2006 and 2008 people will begin to come to their senses.
Keep your fingers crossed.