Mourning in America? What Kerry-Backing Papers Say About Bush Win

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By: Erin Olson

George W. Bush was re-elected president Tuesday, and the newspaper editorial pages that endorsed him, justifiably, couldn’t be happier. But what about the papers on the other side of the fence, the ones that voiced their preferences for challenger John Kerry — or the ones that refused to endorse a candidate at all?

In Thursday editorials, the larger papers were gracious in accepting the voters’ decision, emphasizing the necessity of beginning anew and unifying the nation over the next four years. But there was at least one notable exception. The Philadelphia Daily News, which came out for Kerry way back in June, published an editorial titled, “The Kerry Supporters’ Survival Guide: How to Get Through the Next Four Years With Your Activism Intact.”

Using scathing rhetoric, the editorial blasted the Bush administration, urging Kerry supporters not to wander far and to continue their opposition to the Republican White House. It added, “Despite some right-wing pundits who believe the loyal opposition should just shut up now, the opposite should happen. Sorry, Dick Cheney, a four-million-vote margin of victory in an election in which more than 114 million votes were cast does not translate into an overwhelming mandate.”

The editorial continued, “Cleaning up the current putrid mess of debt, division and despair in Iraq is as beyond this administration’s abilities tomorrow as it was yesterday. We would be happy to be proven wrong, but we suspect we won’t be.”

Other papers, though disappointed with Kerry’s loss, took a more conciliatory approach. A New York Times editorial remarked that 49% of voters were unhappy with the election’s outcome, and went on to say, “Their first job is to accept the will of the majority. Then it will be time for everyone — Mr. Bush, the victorious Republicans and the people who opposed them — to decide what to do next.”

The Times addressed the country’s “yearning” for a less partisan government and said that in his speech yesterday, Bush “offered at least some hope that he was choosing the higher road.” It added, however, that “experience suggests that these conversions are short-lived.”

A Washington Post editorial called John Kerry’s concession speech “classy” and detailed the challenges that lie ahead for Bush. It said, “Even with his 3.5 million-vote margin and his friendly congressional majorities, Mr. Bush may need all the help he can get.” It criticized the Bush administration’s budget deficit and its inadequacies abroad, including its policies for the Iraq war, the Afghanistan elections, and the genocide in Darfur, but acknowledged that with his election win, Bush can finally govern “with no question as to his legitimacy.”

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which had switched from Bush to Kerry in its endorsement this year, expressed optimism for the next four years in its editorial: “To look ahead, second terms rarely look like first terms. We hope that in the coming four years we see less obvious pandering to the president’s political base, which ratchets up the partisanship that is so divisive. We hope to see less bellicose rhetoric on the world stage; there are a lot of fences here that need mending.”

The Caller-Times complimented the president on his “great victory” and the Republican party on its “solid win,” increasing its majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Rockford Register-Star in Illinois revealed a divided reaction on its board: “Bush was right in his victory speech Wednesday that ‘we have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us.’ Both Bush and Kerry remarked on the divisive campaign, and Kerry, in his concession speech, said it was time to come together.

“But not every American is ready for that, and this Editorial Board, which endorsed Kerry, reflects the diversity of reaction to the election.

“For a few members, it’s still too soon to talk of unity. The disappointment is still too fresh.

“Other board members are ready to put the rancor behind them. In the next four years, they would like to see America turn down the volume at both ends of the political spectrum and focus on the middle ground, where most people live their lives.”

Meanwhile, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, which made the decision to remain neutral and endorse no candidate for the 2004 election, suggested that Bush can “right the mistakes of his first term and create a legacy worthy of the office he indisputably holds. He has much to do.”

The Plain Dealer ended its editorial by saying, “Daunting though these and other issues are, Bush has a rare opportunity to meet their challenges by becoming the unifying force he once pledged to be.”

Following are comments from some other editorials.

The Tampa Tribune, which endorsed neither candidate: “Having carried the popular vote, President Bush has decisively shed the mantle of illegitimacy. He has the opportunity to prove he is a statesman and the chance to lead this country without the burden of facing re-election.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, which endorsed Kerry: “This Editorial Board opposed strongly a second term for Bush, for reasons detailed throughout October. But voters always get the last word. Now Bush gets four years to justify the choice the voters have made. … Nobody knows better than Bush the hard work ahead. It was encouraging to hear him in victory ask Kerry supporters to work with him, describing a second term as ‘a new opportunity to reach out.'”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed Kerry: “In the days ahead, Democrats will likely embark on a process of introspection that need not degenerate into recrimination. Important issues were debated. The answer for Democrats may simply be that a candidate cannot allow the opposition to define him and, ultimately, must persuade people to vote for him rather than just against the other guy.”

Chicago Sun-Times, which endorsed Kerry: “Now words must be matched by action. Democrats must be the party of opposition, not the party of angry obstructionism it has been. Bush must fulfill his promise of four years ago to be a unifier and not a divider.”

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