(KRT CAMPUS) PHILADELPHIA – Fear stalked this election, and fear won it for the Republicans.
Fear of another terrorist attack, said three-fourths of voters in one survey Tuesday. Fear of appearing weak to the world. Fear of switching to a new leader. Fear that another 9/11, another Beslan school massacre, another Osama bin Laden was waiting around the corner if the occupant of the Oval Office had to move house.
The fact that Osama is waiting around the corner (despite the long-ago promises that this administration would “get him”) seemed not to matter to a slim majority of the voting public.
Other, more modest fears operated among some of the electorate. Fear of gay marriage, enough to ban it in 11 states. Fear of science and secularism. Fear of “liberals,” a word some Americans now use with the same venom once reserved for “Redcoats,’’ “Nazis” and “commies.’’
I’m not sure what a liberal is any more, but it’s a handy epithet used by people who, undoubtedly, are gloating today.
So be it. The people have spoken. The process worked. The turnout was high enough to restore faith in the vibrancy of the electoral experiment.
Now some of us are left with new fears.
I fear that the mounting cost of the war in Iraq, in lives and in treasure, will further weaken the United States’ fiscal and diplomatic standing. I’m not sure that either George W. Bush or John Kerry had a creative sense of what to do next, but now the one who got us into this mess will have to get us out, and given his record so far, there’s good reason to fear that the cost will only grow.
I fear the next war the White House will launch, and only pray its prosecutors seek better intelligence and make better plans next time.
I fear my children will inherit a national economy hobbled by massive budget deficits, and by staggering debt and entitlement payments that will curtail governmental innovation and leave the nation vulnerable to the whims of lenders overseas. As Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page editor in the 1990s, I campaigned vigorously to eliminate the federal deficit _ and that was with a Democrat in the White House. And, thanks to a zealous Congress and a pragmatic president, the budget was, indeed, balanced. To see that progress squandered in a few short years is heartbreaking.
I fear my daughters may not have the right to choose what happens to their bodies.
I fear scientific exploration will slow down under an administration that mistakes its narrow values for the common good. We don’t know what secrets embryonic stem-cell research will unlock, what help it may offer to those who suffer, but the promise is tantalizing and real. As the daughter of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, I resent anyone telling me that American science (the best in the world, until now) must play second fiddle to a church choir.
And I fear that faith – more precisely, one particular brand of religious faith – is coming to play too large a role in the public square. I’m no secularist. I run a religious household, send my children to religious schools, go to services at least once a week.
The values I derive from my faith differ in major ways from the values the president derives from his. That’s the beauty of America: the ideal by which we can live side by side, without interference. Yet now there is interference. There is dominance, and coercion, by those who hold just one version of values.
So “faith” is invoked in relation to the disposition of frozen embryos but not to the concerns of the poor and hungry. “Faith” comes to the defense of marriage against the “assault” by gay people who, gosh, want to be married, but not to the defense of the environment which, last I read in the Bible, was created by the same God so often invoked on the campaign trail.
“Faith” leads some to care about the unborn, yet not about the 100,000 civilians who have died in Iraq since the beginning of a war they did not request.
These are honest differences of opinion, but I’m afraid my side is the only side that thinks so. The other side believes that it is right. End of discussion.
My fears may prove exaggerated or unfounded. That’s now in the hands of the political party controlling Congress and the White House. Its members have promised to protect us from terror, win the peace in Iraq, improve the job market, cut the deficit in half, and much more.
Now they must deliver. Now they must dispel these fears and bring about that more hopeful day. I’m waiting.