Four years ago, it seemed clear that even the most desperate of measures by Karl Rove and company would not save President Bush from defeat. Though the astonishing events of the third debate–Vice President Dick Cheney emerging from the wings dragging a humbled and repentant Osama bin Laden by the scruff of his neck–had given the Bush campaign a badly-needed boost, things had taken a turn for the worse following news of Halliburton’s no-bid contract to drill for oil in the soon-to-be-privatized National Parks. Kerry was well on his way to amassing a three-million-vote edge in the popular contest when the networks announced razor-thin Bush victories in Florida and Ohio, giving the incumbent a two-vote margin in the electoral college. Though Democrats demanded a recount in the latter following Bush’s remarkable 93 percent showing among Cincinnati’s Diebold-equipped polling precincts, they were stymied by yet another 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court, featuring Justice Scalia’s novel “original intent” interpretation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause. (“Surely the Founding Fathers would have thought it unthinkable that a candidate such as Sen. Kerry could hold the presidency; and since the Constitution is an admirable example of rational thought, it thus follows that what is unthinkable must be unconstitutional. It is thus unconstitutional for Sen. Kerry to assume the White House. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, opined “What he said.”)
In the wake of this disaster, however, lay the seeds of the glorious events that were to follow. First came what we now call The Great Trek North. For years, such prominent liberals as Alec Baldwin had warned that, should Bush be reelected, they would leave the country. Past promises regarding Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush had, of course, gone unfulfilled–but this time, it turned out, they meant it. In the weeks after Bush’s reelection, a trickle of prominent Americans relocated to Canada; as the creative community experience firsthand Canada’s more liberal social welfare policies–and how much farther American currency went up north than it did at home–the trickle became a mighty flood. From P. Diddy to Willie Nelson, from Ben Affleck to Rob Reiner, from Chris Rock to Larry David, from Steven Spielberg to Adam Sorkin, from pundits to new economy titans, from academics to artists, the greatest thinkers and creators of our age took up residence in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver.
An intemperate response by the new attorney general, former Alabama judge Roy Moore, only made things worse: By closing the border to all imports from “the new deserters”–including all movies, TV shows, records, and books–the Bush administration deprived Americans of their favorite diversions, and left the entire entertainment industry in the hands of Bush supporters. The Joan Rivers-hosted “Daily Show” flopped, as did the “Spiderman” sequels produced and directed by Roger Ailes. (It turned out Al Franken didn’t make a very good super-villain, especially in those tights.) The last straw appears to have been Moore’s appointment of Sean Hannity as the first Government Authorized Standup Comedian. (“Why did the chicken cross the road? Because that’s where the rest of the anti-war wimps were!”) It wasn’t long before even Jeff Foxworthy was endorsing Democrats for office.
Sports, too, fell under the heavy hand of the Bush administration. With every baseball game now required to include “God Bless America” every half inning, the time of the average game stretched to more than four hours, and attendance plummeted. When the new Secretary of Traditional Values, John Ashcroft, banned all tattoos and piercings, the NFL and NBA were crippled by strikes and rulebook slowdowns.
The result? Sweeping Democratic gains in the 2006 midterms that put both houses of Congress firmly in the hands of the opposition party. Impeachment proceedings against both Bush and Cheney were launched soon after, and by 2007, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had taken over as president. The prompt repatriation of America’s cultural elite instantly put the federal budget into surplus, all but assuring that the Democratic ticket would sweep to victory. Of course, as I write this, the Democratic convention is now entering its 106th ballot, with President Pelosi, Vice President Obama, Sen. Clinton, and former senator John Edwards struggling for supremacy. But whoever wins, a brighter day looms. Or, as Sen. Kerry put it, “Le jour de gloire est arriv!”
Jeff Greenfield is a CNN senior analyst. His books include The People’s Choice and Oh Waiter! One Order of Crow! Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History.