Washington - It's a sad morning in America.
The electorate almost engaged in a much-needed political correction. Instead, voters legitimized the fellow who gained the White House against the will of the majority and then pretended he had a mandate, pushed tax cuts for the well-to-do and launched a war predicated on untrue assertions.
So there will be no good-bye to reckless pre-emptive war, the war on environmental regulations, the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the neocon theology of hubris and arrogance, the ban on effective stem cell research, no-bid Halliburton contracts, John Ashcroft and Donald Rumsfeld. Did I mention Dick Cheney?
Bush lied his way into office and lied his way through his presidency. And now, it seems, he got away with it. He was not punished for leading the country into a war that was not necessary. He was not booted for having overstated the WMD threat from Iraq.
And the United States and the world remain at the mercy of a gang that will no doubt feel even more emboldened to pursue their misguided policies.
The good news: America is a divided nation. Despite the pundit hand-wringing over this fact, it is a positive thing. Nearly - nearly - half the electorate rejected Bush's leadership, his agenda, his priorities, his falsehoods. From Eminem to the chair of the Bank of America to 48 Nobel laureates to gangbangers who joined anti-Bush get-out-the-vote efforts in swing states.
Nearly half the voting public concluded that Bush had caused the deaths of over 1,100 American GIs and literally countless Iraqis (maybe 100,000) for no compelling reason. Nearly half know that Bush has led the country astray.
Other good news: Second-term presidents often hit the skids. The last three second terms were marked by scandal (Watergate, Iran-contra, Monicagate). And as top officials sprint through the revolving door to snag high-paying jobs in the private sector (while their contacts are fresh), the job of running the government during the second administration often falls to the B team.
In the post-9/11 world, this isn't all that reassuring. But the historical trend does suggest that Bush will have trouble enacting his various schemes. (Though - let's be realistic - the Senate results indicate that the GOP will expand its majority in that house.)
More good news: Bush will not be able to hand off his own wreckage - Iraq and the gargantuan deficit - to a new man. But this does not mean he will accept responsibility and deal with it. Bush has the ability to deny and defy reality. And if he can't see that the trash has piled up, he will not be hauling it to the curb.
OK, no more good news. Bush has bamboozled and frightened just enough Americans to win the opportunity to flimflam them for another four years. And the rest of the country - and the globe - has to go along for the dangerous ride.
As for John Kerry, there will be time - plenty of time - to critique him and his crew. Had he voted against granting Bush the authorization to launch an elective war against Iraq any time Bush damn well pleased, perhaps Kerry would have presented a clearer picture for the electorate and inoculated himself against the trumped-up flip-flop charge. Perhaps. He, too, will have years to ponder all this.
Kerry was no top-gun campaigner. His rhetoric often meandered. But he did vigorously criticize Bush for misleading the country into war and for screwing up (big time!) the planning for the post-invasion period. He called for expanding health care coverage and for dramatic investments in alternative energy. He advocated raising the minimum wage and vowed to take on such special interests as the prescription drug lobby.
Among those voters who say they decided in the past month, Kerry led 60 to 37 per cent. All of this almost worked.
There was a clear difference between the two candidates. One has adopted an ask-no-questions, nevermind-the-nuances, don't-look-back, tough-guy style of leadership. The other promised to consider and reach out before leaping. One said - practically boasted - that he reads no newspapers. The other came across as a man who absorbs much information before rendering a decision. The voters chose the wrong man.
But not all is lost. The Red-Blue battle - a war of culture, ideology, politics and psychology - will not end with the final tally in Ohio. The forces of Bushism appear to have triumphed this day. But life - if we are lucky - is long, and history never ends. Let the great divide in America continue.