Even before the Nov. 2 election, when I cast my first presidential vote as a naturalized American, I was a man of faith.
No, not that kind of faith every pundit seems to be writing about these days — I don’t even attend church or any other house of worship. I mean that I had faith President Bush would be re-elected.
I am a relatively recent arrival to Seattle. Having previously lived in locales as diverse as New York City and Iowa, and many other places in between and beyond, I was fairly convinced that a sizable majority of Americans would support the president over Sen. John Kerry.
I wasn’t confident because I lived in a cocoon of like-minded conservatives. I have friends with diverse ideological views. Of my two closest friends, one is a younger, self-described “creative” type, formerly of Hollywood, who now lives in Virginia. He is fiscally moderate, but otherwise solidly progressive, and confided that he planned to vote for Kerry despite living in an assuredly Republican Virginia.
The other friend, older, a former military officer and prosecutor who now lives in a very “blue” community in Iowa — where he is not always popular for his vocally conservative views — is a gun-toting, pickup-driving Catholic. He was voting for Bush in a state that went to Al Gore in 2000.
I was concerned and even at times unnerved by the seesawing polling numbers, but I intuitively grasped from my experience of living all over the red-blue map that more Americans would pick Bush over Kerry in the end, because Bush’s steady leadership and personal conviction appealed to them more than Kerry’s nuance and moral relativism.
In other words, despite having at least some Ivy League and Manhattan cocktail-party pedigree, I still had faith in the common-sense decision-making ability of those whom elites often disdainfully describe as ordinary folks in flyover country.
To my great surprise, however, many Puget Sound area conservatives (many of them religious) I surveyed on the day before the election were doom and gloom. They were rattled by the relentlessly negative coverage of the president by the mainstream media, as well as some discouraging last-minute polling numbers. Many of them expected a Kerry sweep, as if the first Bush term had been a fleeting mirage, never to be seen again.
Observing their doomsday prognostication made me realize that, while conservatives who congregate in highly left-wing areas often develop very sound arguments and positions in order to “survive” in a hostile environment, they were also relentlessly defeatist, precisely because they had known little else but defeat. It was difficult for them to have faith in their fellow Americans, when most people around them consistently voted the other way.
On the other hand, Seattle liberals with whom I discussed the election beforehand were convinced — that is to say, they had a fervent faith — that most Americans would turn on Bush as they had, judging him “so obviously” incompetent, criminal, stupid and so on.
Many of them had visceral and emotional hatred of Bush rather than any specific, policy-oriented opposition to the incumbent administration. Their faith that other Americans must share their views was quite zealous, something that struck me as being almost religious in nature.
In other words, at least here in Seattle it seemed, the conservatives had too little faith and the liberals too much of it.
So here is my post-election reprimand for the Puget Sound-area conservatives: Have some faith, for goodness’ sake. There are Americans — many of them — who share your moral beliefs, intellectual bent and ideological compass, and they vote.
As for the stunned and grieving Seattle area liberals, a caution: For good or bad, the rest of America is not Seattle. Do not be assured by the collective moral self-righteousness of your own bubble. Many Americans do not share your faith, and in fact think, for example, that politicians like Jim McDermott and Patty Murray should be castigated, not re-elected by a wide margin.
James J. Na is a senior fellow in foreign policy at Discovery Institute in Seattle (www.discovery.org). He also runs the “Guns and Butter Blog” (gunsandbutter.blogspot.com). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org