If the people of the world were to vote in the US elections, George W. Bush would not be reelected this November. A July-August survey by the research group GlobeScan Inc. and the University of Maryland, USA, found that a vast majority of people in 30 out of 35 countries prefer the Democratic Party’s John Kerry over Bush for president of the United States.

Out of this 35, in only three countries did those surveyed express a preference for Bush—in he Philippines, Nigeria and Poland. It’s a group that has no discernible commonality, although we know that in the Philippines, the most successful experiment in colonialism in all of human history might have something to do with it. There’s also the dominance of US media over global information, which results in world affairs’ being perceived through American lenses.

Most Australians, Britons and Germans were noticeably for Kerry. But it isn’t because they’re familiar with Kerry or his platform. It’s because they’re familiar with Bush, who lied about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s supposed links with Al Qaeda to justify the March 2003 attack on Iraq. They’re also familiar with the bare-faced arrogance of the Bush administration, which thought it could go it alone in Iraq, disdains international opinion, and believes that US military might makes right.

The results of the poll in the 30 countries were not surprising. They mirror the growth of the international movement—“the second superpower”—opposed to US intervention and war plans, and which affirms the right of nations to decide their own fates. Millions strong, this movement has taken root in Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Spain and many other countries of Western Europe deep enough to affect not only survey results but also government policies. In Spain, opposition to the Aznar government’s alliance with the US led to its defeat at the polls. Britain’s Tony Blair is at the nadir of his popularity, and Australia’s John Howard could lose in the elections he has called for October.

It is only natural that one of the consequences of the global loathing for Bush and his Neanderthal policies should be a preference for Kerry. The assumption is that no one can be worse than Bush. The same assumption drives US liberals, who correctly characterize the US elections this year as critical, and who have made the defeat of Bush their first priority.

The bad news for US liberals is that, for all their efforts and whatever the rest of the world thinks, Bush is likely to be reelected this November. The surveys uniformly show a Bush lead over Kerry, which though still slim, has already put him out of the danger zone for incumbents. The latest surveys show that 50 percent of the US electorate is likely to vote for Bush, among other reasons because they approve of his handling of the war on Iraq, and even of his (mis)management of the economy. They also think him more resolute and decisive, and more likable than Kerry.

If based on these “reasons,” Bush’s reelection in November would affirm the power of manipulation over thought, ignorance over knowledge, and of the seductive power of the trivial and emotional over the significant and the reasoned.

It would also re-affirm not only the well-known fact that the US electorate doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks, but also a more critical truth. That truth is that the US electorate’s power to elect officials to command a military capability that has been used to kill millions and to destroy parts of the world in the last 50 years is not matched by any corresponding sense of responsibility to humanity.

The US electorate is primarily—and most of the time solely—focused on itself and its limited concerns. In the present instances, those concerns are security, security, and security, and it happens that it believes that Bush and his gang can best assure it.

Although Bush and company could not prevent the attacks of September 11, 2001, they have succeeded in creating a black hole of deceit so dense no light can penetrate it. Some 43 percent of Americans still believe today, despite the work of the US Congress’ own 9/11 Commission, and the reports of independent media sources, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Through constant repetition by Bush’s Vice President Richard Cheney, and again despite the 9/11 Commission’s findings, some 60 percent believe that Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda, and fifty percent approve of the attack on Iraq and Bush’s handling of it.

The compliant US media—which by the admission of such pillars of “press freedom” as the New York Times and the Washington Post swallowed almost whole the panoply of Bush lies on Iraq, WMDs and Iraq’s “links” to Al-Qaeda– of course have something to do with the misinformation driving the US electorate to reelect a man universally despised except in the Philippines, Poland and Nigeria.

Media manipulation doesn’t explain everything, however. Part of the reason why the US electorate is so out of sync with the rest of the world is the chauvinism and racism dominant in US culture, which disdains other countries, regards the rest of the world as inferior and incapable of solving its own problems (such as, for example, dealing with the Saddam Hussein dictatorship), and is ultimately focused on the self-interest, well-being and safety of the dominant (white) majority.

This is the putrid soil from which a Bush victory in 2004 would spring. In arguing that racism and ignorance do not decide US elections and much of any other political issue, US liberals say Bush wasn’t really elected in 2000, and that therefore one can’t blame the US electorate for his “victory” then. And yet no protest of any credible size or intensity was ever in evidence against the 2000 travesty of US electoral processes.

The same liberals argue that the ignorance of the US electorate is due to media manipulation, but no one except a tiny handful today—certainly not the millions who still believe Bush and his lies– even notices.

What emerges is the picture of an electorate that has been manipulated and lied to, but still doesn’t know it; which believes that the leadership that in 2001 could not protect it from the WTC and Pentagon attacks can protect it against future attacks; whose racism and bigotry believe that the United States must attack other countries because the latter don’t know any better; and which as a result will vote for someone it considers “likable” because he is so much like everyone else.

The likely result is the reelection of the one person that, for all his likeability to the US electorate, has done more to make the world unsafe in the last four years than a clutch of countries armed with nuclear bombs, and what’s worse, has caused more death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq than ten September 11 attacks.

The immorality and illegality of US pre-emptive strikes are not being debated in the US elections, however. What is truly astounding is how the debate can be focused on Mom’s being able to keep that gas-guzzling SUV so she can take the kids to soccer practice, Dad’s keeping that job at the local defense plant to keep himself in beer and cigarettes, and generally, everybody’s continuing to live the same life of convenience and and ease.

This would be natural and even desirable if the United States had ever been a country that has stayed within its own borders and if it had not bombed and blackmailed, threatened and harassed other countries, while the planet, with considerable help from US troops, goes to hell.

The truth is that it hasn’t, and it won’t. The less illiterate segments of the US electorate know it, and even its most ignorant suspect and assume it. In these circumstances the candidate who sends them the message they understand best—that the US can continue to keep Americans in the manner to which they’re accustomed, and to that end will use US power to bully the world into submission—will win this November.

It could still be Kerry, who has after all promised his fellow citizens the continuation of Bush policies, though with a little more style and a bit more finesse. But right now it looks like Bush. As this column argued last September 4 (“The government they deserve”), that may be the US’ loss, but the world’s gain.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. Dr. Clarita R. Carlos of Center for Asia Pacific Studies and Mr. Klaus Preschle of Konrad Adenauer Foundation cordially invite you to the launching of the book “Towards Bureaucratic Reform: Issues and Challenges.” Guest of Honor is Budget Secretary Emilia T. Boncodin.

    This will be on September 23, 2004, 10:30 a.m. at the Pasay A & B Function Rooms of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel.

    A copy of the book with a CD will be given after the program.

    We hope you can grace us with your presence.

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