Monday, November 08, 2004

Coming to Terms with Bush: First in a Series

Like most people who were desperately hoping that Kerry would win, I have been spending the past five days trying to come to terms with the election in the United States.

At first I bought into the so-called "moral values" argument: That the religious right showed up to vote in unprecedented numbers for the state gay marriage bans, thus pushing Bush over the top.

At this point, however, this argument has been proven essentially false. See here and here for a few details. Here’s the gist from David Brooks in the NYT on Saturday:
Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily....

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.
So, let’s roll up our Jesusland/United States of Canada maps and start thinking about this dispassionately. Those of us who oppose Bush's policies had better drop the "moral values" business quick and accept the fact that a lot of Americans -- more than we have been led to believe -- have warmed to the President and support him. We need to stop focusing so much on the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people and a little bit more on those hearts and minds at home in North America...

I’ve always been better at being self-critical than critical of the other side, so I’m devoting this week of On the Fence* to Dumb Things that the Left in the United States Have Done That Have Resulted in Another Four Years of George W. Bush. But I’m going to title this series Coming to Terms with Bush, because that’s a little nicer.

*Note: The expression "On the Fence" does not apply to American presidential politics.

Post-script

While the evangelicals weren’t necessarily responsible for Bush’s election, the President is certainly shoring up his support there. Yesterday, it was announced that he’s going to try to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage again.

Given the increased Republican majority in Congress, gay Americans seeking legal protections for their relationships -- and the allies of said gay Americans -– must hope that: a) Bush will reiterate his support for civil unions for same-sex couples; and b) that Republicans with a conscience and/or who believe in the integrity of the constitution will vote against this.

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