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Remember all of that talk about "healing" four years ago, when President Bush took over a riven nation after promising to be "a uniter, not a divider"?

We all know how that turned out.

So let's not kid ourselves this time. If he didn't unite us when he had no mandate, what are the odds he's going to start now after winning both the popular and electoral vote and seeing the GOP strengthen its grip on Congress?

Despite Wednesday's rhetoric about reaching out "to the whole nation," we know what we're going to get. For Buffalo and any other economically depressed area, it's not going to be pretty.

We're going to get more corporate subsidies and tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy, further dividing the rich from the middle and lower classes. And we're going to get bigger deficits our kids will have to pay, dividing one generation from another and making it apparent why the Bush states were colored "red" Tuesday night.

So much for healing economic wounds.

During the campaign, Bush refused to appear before the NAACP, refused to sit down with the black newspaper publishers association, went on "The O'Reilly Factor" but snubbed Black Entertainment Television news and refused to go on "The Tom Joyner Morning Show," which is hugely popular with blacks.

The message was pretty clear: None of those constituencies matter. So I think we can scratch racial healing.

Ditto for mending international relations. After escaping electoral punishment for starting the war in Iraq, he has been given a license for more unilateralism.

All of which makes it hard to envision what kind of healing anyone really expects.

Of course, there is one bright spot: This election proved that middle- and working-class Americans are not nearly as self-centered as some thought.

The exit polls -- just like The Buffalo News' pre-election interviews in some battleground states -- show that moral issues were a key factor in Bush's victory. In other words, poor people don't care about their pocketbooks. Isn't that refreshing?

So if you're one of the victims of the Bush economy, cheer up: Help is on the way.

Lost your job? Take solace in the fact that gays can't get married.

Sick but have no health insurance? Comfort yourself by knowing that, with Supreme Court vacancies likely, women who accidentally get pregnant will soon be forced to have babies.

In fact, it makes perfect sense that Bush scored well with churchgoers: Many of them take seriously the old hymn's promise of milk and honey on the other side. If they're middle- or working-class, that's where they'll have to get it.

Of course, that also makes clear that Democrats will have to do a lot more than just boost turnout if they want to reverse their fortunes.

After the 2000 election, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University surveyed both voters and nonvoters. The nonvoters were split between Bush and Al Gore, just like the rest of the country, leading analysts to conclude that "their decision to stay at home appears to have had no impact on the final outcome."

Medill apparently was right. The nonvoters came out in significantly higher numbers this time, and the result was the same: Bush still won -- and the country is still split, with no healing in sight.

At this point, we can only hope that the late John Lee Hooker was right. Before his death a few years ago, the legend had a pop hit by singing that "the blues is a healer."

For the next four years, lots of middle- and low-income people are going to have the blues.

That's the only healing we're likely to see.


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