An Open Letter to George W. Bush:

17% Does Not a Mandate Make

by Carol Norris

Dissident Voice
January 10, 2003



Dear George,


Happy New Year.  And, I know it is for you, because you (and when I say “you,” I mean Dick, Karl and the Carlyle Group) now have control of both houses of Congress.  You must be sitting on top of the world, your oyster.


You declared that the mid-term elections were a mandate from the American people.  The People, you claim, speak with one voice.  George, you can bang The Majority Has Spoken drum all you want, but here are the facts: a meager 33% of all Americans voted.  And of that 33%, some 15% voted Democrat, 17% voted Republican and 1.1% voted Green, Libertarian, Independent, etc.


I know school, in general, was not your best subject, so let me help: 17% of the vote, only two percentage points more than the Democrats, DOES NOT A MANDATE MAKE.  Perhaps if you print that sentence out and tape it on your desk at the Oval Office to remind you, it might help.  (Then again, as you take more vacations and spend less time there than any other President in history, maybe not.) 


Capturing only the minority of votes in the 2000 Election, yet still winning the presidency, might make the term “majority” a bit confusing for you.  (Let’s not even bother with all that extra stuff about the Electoral College and the Supreme Court.  It’ll just confuse you more.)  Here are some examples that might help you with the concept: 


* Between 60 and 75% of ALL non-organic supermarket food tests positive for the presence of genetically engineered ingredients, unbeknownst to the consumer.  Either number, George, constitutes a majority.  There is no legislation requiring GE foods to be labeled as such, despite an estimate that between 80-95% of the people want this labeling (most want the labeling so they can avoid GE foods).  Again, 80-95% is a healthy majority, George.


* Some 75% of all military recruitment centers are in low-income areas and the “projects.”  75%.  Another solid majority.  The military must know that poverty, despair and almost no hope for a viable future make wonderful recruiting agents.


* Last September, radio’s Democracy Now! surveyed 70 Republican and Democratic Senate Offices, asking about constituents who had contacted them about a possible war against Iraq.  Aides for both Republicans and Democrats reported an “overwhelming” majority of people calling, faxing and emailing against the war.  In some cases, the calls, etc. were running 200:1 in opposition of war.  Now this might get confusing because we are talking ratios, not percentages.  But this ratio of 200:1 represents a huge majority of people who don’t to go to war, don’t you think?


And finally, 99% of your new tax cut proposal benefits the rich.  Almost 100%.  Now, that’s a real face-slapping majority.


Are you getting the hang of it now, George?


Actually, come to think of it, you’re right:  the majority – the whopping 83% that didn’t vote with your party - HAS spoken.  And it said:  I’m too disgusted with U.S. politics to vote for any of you; or corporations control everything anyway, so what’s the point; or you’re alright, I guess, but I don’t want to miss the 16 hours of reality shows I taped to go vote; or I’m uniformed and the media won’t cover the real issues that affect me that would certainly motivate me to vote; or I think you are the most shameless special interest lackey the Oval Office has ever seen and I wouldn’t vote for you if Charlton Heston had one in his arsenal of guns pointed at my head.


So, let’s be clear.  The People did not say:  “I, the singularly-voiced American People, housed from sea to shining sea, bequeath to thee a mandate to continue on thine path – to further thine special interest, neo-conservative agenda.  With haste, Anointed One, go.” 


Your agenda is being furthered by default, George.


But, kudos to you and yours for trying to convince the American people otherwise; that the majority thinks the way you do and everyone is 100% behind you.  It’s certainly shaping up to be a public relations victory, much like the made-up story about Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators.  That was powerful stuff, that lie.  There was an absolute outcry from the American people.  That rumor really helped drum up public support for your daddy’s Gulf War.  Much of the credit goes to the PR firm Hill & Knowlton for that one.  What a good job they did, coaching the “source” for the story, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. 


Interestingly, despite knowing scenes in it are patently false, HBO is still rebroadcasting “Tales from Baghdad,” which includes, among others, the false incubator story.  Yes, yes, they do have a little disclaimer tucked away in the end credits, saying the facts are “unsubstantiated.”  But we know that very few, except for those credited, sit and read the end credits.  And people are so very willing to believe what they see on TV, later quoting it as fact.  I wonder why HBO would continue to circulate that tall tale?  I don’t know, but it certainly does help demonize and dehumanize Iraqis all over again and will probably drum up support for your very own Gulf War, don’t you think, George? 


And then there are those “opinion” polls people believe; the polls whose job it really is to influence opinion - not collect, quantify and report it.  (The same goes for the bulk of the mainstream media who are loathe to report the truth, lest they be branded “unpatriotic.”)  “Oh,” say the people who hear polling results, read the papers and watch TV, “I guess most people agree with the President.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m the only one who feels the way I do.” 


And your popularity rating is really just a media-generated, five-scary-Arab-men-on-the-loose,-we-heard-from-some-guy-and-have-absolutely-no-proof,-but-will-report-it-nationally-anyway,-so-for-chrissakes,-protect-us,-Mr.-President,-protect-us fear rating.  People don’t love you, George, remotely as much as you would have us believe.  They are mostly just afraid.  It is the well-known psychological Rally ‘Round the Flag phenomenon that your strategists exploit spectacularly.


It must give you a moment’s pause, though, to think that if the Democrats could only find a way to use the veritable cornucopia of potential campaign issues spoon-fed to them by the Republicans, they would only need to kick their percentage points up a few notches to win future elections.  I bet you’re keeping your fingers crossed Nancy doesn’t figure that one out.


You once said it would be easier if you were a dictator.  I imagine, then, you are finding things pretty easy, as you are almost unfettered while you dictate the wishes of your industry friends.  But, again, just be clear that you aren’t implementing the majority’s wishes and mandates.  Here is what the majority of the people want.  Here are just a few of our mandates, to get you started: 


Mandate #1:  Give us – all of us - quality, affordable health care.  We get sick.  We choke on pretzels.  We need access to health care, George.  Very few of us can afford to pay out of pocket medical expenses.  Those of us who do have medical coverage want our friends and neighbors to have it, too.  We are the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee health care to all its citizens (and non-citizens).  I know you’re mad at him, but maybe you should call Fidel.  With all his faults, he has created a very successful national health care system and has even extended free medical services to the never-ending supply of victims of Chernobyl.  He might be able to give you some pointers.


Mandate #2:  Please stop saying in your rehearsed I-would-if-I-could voice that there is simply not a penny to spare to fix our decaying education system as you work to reallocate literally trillions of dollars to develop a weapons defense system that even Rumsfeld admits has produced “failure after failure after failure.”  This system will not protect us from box cutters and an angry world, full of injustice.  Only justice will do that.


But you, as the book says, are the Fortunate Son.  Most of us are far less fortunate, in the material sense.  Most of us don’t get to where we are because of our name.  So, even though you had elite schooling, the fact that quality, accessible education is the major vehicle to a viable future for most of us might be hard for you to conceptualize. 


If all we focus on is trying to get our kids to eke out passable standardized test scores amidst a teacher shortage with untrained people stepping in to fill the void, crumbling schools, outdated textbooks, rising class sizes and declining quality, to show how well our failing school system is doing, then all we’re going to get is uneducated kids who can memorize answers for standardized tests. 


We want to produce creative thinkers, George; kids who have a curiosity about how things and people work; kids who know how to ask questions, whose natural inclination to learn and explore is nurtured; kids who can engage in authentic dialogue, who can see beyond themselves to create a sense of connectedness and, hence, justice.  That’s a big piece of what will keep this country going and what will make the rest of the world and us safe - not the promise of preemptive strikes and defective missile shields and the ability to choose the correct multiple choice letter. 


Mandate #3:  Enough already with pretending your proposed tax cut will help all Americans.  We know you are just paying back your friends.  We know it doesn’t help us, the other 99%.  Some 74% of your proposed tax cut goes to Americans making one million dollars per year or more, 25% goes to those making $100,000 or more, an equitable 1% goes to those making $25,000 to $99,000 a year, and finally an impressive 0% goes to those making less than $25,000 a year because God knows those of us scrambling to put food on the table certainly couldn’t use a little break. 


While the so-called trickle down “theory” was, in fact, ingenious, it was not borne from the sophisticated economic theory of erudite, impartial scholars.  It was a vehicle, during the Reagan years, to pay back special interests, veiled as a solution to help the economy.  Some say he was a good actor, so maybe Reagan actually convinced himself it would really help everyone.  I don’t know.  But, while I feel sure your economic stimulus package is stimulating, if not downright arousing, to many of your friends, those of us down here who have been waiting all these years for that little trickle to slake our parched wallets have not tasted a drop, George, not a drop.  Personally, however, I have been nearly drowned by the reality of two job layoffs and a deflated 401K.  I guess that’s something.


Mandate #4:  Never use the phrase “Axis of Evil” again.  I mean it.  Never.  The phrase originates from a speechwriter, meant to appeal to our basic “you bad, me good” fear instinct, and was reworked by some of your handlers.  But, some of your other advisors, perhaps a bit more sophisticated in international diplomacy, told you this was really not a good thing to say.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but listen to them George.  Such immature emotional reasoning is painfully embarrassing to hear coming from a president – even an appointed one.  The phrase conjures up scenes from a schoolyard.  Every time you say it, I hear: “Axis of Bullypants.” 


Mandate #5:  Give us the same amount of vacation/daily exercise time you get, Georgie.  Playing puppet is no doubt singularly taxing, but our health and well-being is just as important as yours, isn’t it?  Well, it is, isn’t it??  We are the little cogs that make this country run.  If we all got as much R&R and time for daily exercise as you do, maybe we wouldn’t need all those prescription drugs we can’t afford.  (Maybe you better not tell your pals at Eli Lilly I said that.)


Mandate #6:  Do us a favor and just call it like it is.  Stop insulting the intelligence of the American people.  As you so eloquently put it: don’t misunderestimate us.  I, for one, would breath easier amidst the winds of honestly.  Just give us the “State of the Special Interests” Address, and tell us what you and your industry friends are doing, and dispense with all this “by the people, for the people” crap. 


We may be poor or struggling financially; we may be frozen in our tracks, afraid that this war is going to make all hell break loose all over the world, leaving us infinitely less safe; we may be dying of industry-caused diseases, lacking adequate, affordable health care to minister to us; we may find ourselves without affordable housing; we may no longer have the financial promise of a carefree retirement; and we may not have gone to the elite, private schools you and yours went to – but, honestly, George, we aren’t stupid. 


Best to Laura, Jenna and the other one,


Carol Norris (A member of the vast majority who is wondering if after 480 days, in your quiet moments at the ranch, you still sometimes remember your fervent vow to get Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.”)


Carol Norris is a freelance writer and psychotherapist.  She can be contacted at