First off, I voted for Kerry. I didn't vote for Kerry because I strongly believed in what he was proposing (which I found rather hard to get straight), but rather I was hoping that a gridlocked Congress might stop spending so much money. I also hoped that having someone different in the White House would help improve our international relations. I also voted for Kerry out of frustration for the current situation in Iraq, and because I feel like the war on terror could have been fought more aggressively in Afganistan before turning to Iraq. I also like the idea of having someone of a more intellectual bent in the White House - as a bit of a policy wonk myself, I appreciate others who have an eye for detail and research. I admit, all of these reasons are not exactly great reasons for voting for (or against) a president.
Despite having voted for Kerry, I actually feel pleased, and in fact a bit relieved that Bush won. I was really surprised by my feelings, as I am very concerned about many of the moves Bush made towards the social conservatives during the election period as well as other issues previously mentioned. I've spent some time thinking about this over the past couple days, and I think it comes down to this: I think that Bush is, at his core, a pretty standard small government type Republican, much like recent previous Republican presidents and nominees. Even though Bush identifies himself as a born-again Christian, I don't think he has the same agenda many of the social conservatives do. For that matter, Jimmy Carter was a born-again Christian too, and I don't think he has much in common with the extreme social conservatives either.
I feel like this is further evidenced by Bush's press conference on Thursday. He stated "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it." and then went on to describe his primary goals for his next four years. The goals were traditional, mainstream Republican goals like simplifying the tax code (in a revenue neutral way, even) and reforming Social Security - no mention of marriage, abortion, or other social goals. Bush seems to be much more interested in spending his political capital on economic issues rather than social issues, which I think is in line with his personal priorities. As someone with vaguely libertarian sentiments, I can definitely get behind the goals Bush outlined at his press conference. I just hope he can get Congress to do it in a way that will reduce the financial burden on future generations. I also hope that the social conservatives in Congress won't try to force Bush to spend some of that political capital on their goals, but I'm sure that's a hope in vain.
Time will tell though, time will tell. One final thought: Bush won this election, by 3.5 million votes. Yes, I know it all comes down to the electoral college, but I still think the popular vote matters. A greater percentage of voters turned out this year than in any election since 1968. This is a legitimate and substantial win, and I think that in itself makes me feel more kindly towards the president. I'm willing to give the president a second chance with this new term, and I think I'm willing to start over to a certain extent. I think it will be a far more useful and productive way of viewing the next four years.