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The Lesson of 2004

Don’t immediately start looking for lessons.

Nov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Thomas Friedman swallowed hard and croaked that “what troubled me yesterday was my feeling that this election was tipped because of an outpouring of support for George Bush by people who don’t just favor different policies than I do—they favor a whole different kind of America. We don’t just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is.”

This last bit of wisdom was distilled in an Internet meme known as “Jesusland.” The day after the election someone on a video-game message board posted a Photoshopped map of North America. Canada, America’s West Coast, and the northeast corridor were colored pink and labeled the “United States of Canada.” The remaining territory, colored green, was labeled “Jesus-land.” The map went on to wide acclaim and was featured on nearly every liberal blog and website in the land. There was a Jesusland book. The hipster songwriter Ben Folds wrote a song about it.

Four years later Jesusland elected the most liberal Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson while simultaneously handing his party control of both houses of Congress.

The point of all this isn’t to suggest that Republicans are on the cusp of a resurgence or to argue that all politics is cyclical. Both, or neither, of those things might be true. Rather, it’s a reminder that the future is uncertain. In 2004 Democrats believed that the culture of America had irrevocably changed. Then came the housing bubble, the financial collapse, and Barack Obama. Events happen, individuals matter, and the first lessons learned are rarely helpful. Or right.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.


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