By Senator Zell Miller
America's faith in freedom has been reaffirmed. With the re-election of President Bush, America recommitted itself once again to expanding freedom and promoting liberty. Only the 1864 re-election of Abraham Lincoln, the 1944 re-election of Franklin Roosevelt and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan rival this victory as milestones in the preservation of our security by the advancement of freedom.
This election validated not just freedom, but also the faith our Founding Fathers placed in average folks to navigate the course of this great nation. By weighing the greatest issues at the gravest times and choosing our path, ordinary people have again accomplished extraordinary things. With courage and caution, rather than fear and timidity, the voters chose a path to ensure others would enjoy the same freedom to set their own path.
This election outcome should have been implausible, if not impossible. With a litany of complaints bad economy, bad deficit, bad foreign war, bad gas prices amplified by a national media that discarded any pretense of neutrality, a national opposition party should have won this election.
But the Democratic Party is no longer a national party. As difficult as the challenges are both real and fabricated Democrats offered no solution that was either believable or acceptable to vast regions of America.
Tax increases to grow the economy are not a solution that is believable or acceptable. Democratic promises of fiscal responsibility are unbelievable in the face of massive new spending promises. A foreign policy based on the strength of "allies" such as France is unacceptable. A strong national defense policy is just not believable coming from a candidate who built a career as an anti-war veteran, an anti-military candidate and an anti-action senator.
Democratic Party policies haven't sold in large sections of America in decades, and the only success of Democrats in presidential elections for 40 years was when they pitched themselves as pro-growth, low-tax, strong-defense, fiscally responsible, values-oriented candidates.
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton hummed the tune but never really sang the song, and that's why Democrat prospects have gone south in the South. In 1980, the South had 20 Democrats and just six Republicans in the Senate. As recently as 1994, the Senate had 17 Democrats and nine Republicans from the South.
A decade later, the number had reversed to 17 Republicans and nine Democrats. With this election, it is 22 Republicans and just four Democrats from the South.
When will national Democrats sober up and admit that that dog won't hunt? Secular socialism, heavy taxes, big spending, weak defense, limitless lawsuits and heavy regulation that pack of beagles hasn't caught a rabbit in the South or Midwest in years.
The most recent failed nominee for president stands as proof that the national Democratic Party will continue to dwindle. The South has gone from just one-fourth of the Electoral College in 1960 to almost a third today.
To put this in perspective, that gain is equal to all the electoral votes in Ohio. Yet there was not a single Southern state where John Kerry had any real chance. Would anyone like to place bets on the electoral strength of the South by 2012? Maybe they should tax stupidity.
When you write off centrist and conservative policies that reflect the will of people in the South and Midwest, you write off the South and Midwest. Democrats have never learned from the second or third or fifth kick of a mule. They continue to change only the makeup on, rather than makeup of, the Democrat Party.
And so we have a realignment election. For the first time, in an "us vs. them" election and in the toughest of situations, Republicans have been re-elected to the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Confronting an opposition that can win a divided electorate in the worst of times and that has a growing electoral base, the national Democratic Party has a choice: continue down this path toward irrelevance or reverse course. As the last Truman Democrat, I hope my party makes the right choice but know I will not be allowed to be part of it. Such is the price you pay when you love your nation more than your party.
And so while I retire with little hope for the near-term viability of the party I've spent my life building, I retire with a quiet satisfaction that after witnessing the struggle of democracy over communism and fascism, the fear I once held that America might not rise to meet this new challenge of terrorism has vanished like a fog under the radiance of a new dawn. While the threat is still real, the shadow looming across a promising future is gone.
And the credit for that goes to one man. Like the last lion of England, Winston Churchill, George W. Bush has stood alone and risked all to give the world a new, clearer path to the advancement of freedom.
Abraham Lincoln, in his second annual message to Congress, stated: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom for the free honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth."
George Bush has injected into a region of enslavement an incurable dose of freedom, and thus nobly saved that "last, best hope of earth" free men.
Senator Zell Miller is the outgoing U.S. Senator from Georgia. This Commentary first appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.November 4, 2004