Monday, November 15 2004
HAVE YOU BOUGHT THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM?:
There are three groups that really want you to believe that the religious right and "moral values" were the driving forces in this election: 1) the religious right 2) liberals and 3) the media. All three have a vested interest in cementing the conventional wisdom that this was the election of the "values voter."

Group 1 obviously wants to overstate its role in the election to increase its power and influence on the political process. Groups 2 and 3 cling to the "values voter" theme to help rationalize what happened on election day and to paint the Republican party as captive to a fundamentalist (which in the liberal mind is synonymous with "intolerant") Christian base.

But as Charles Krauthammer explained last Friday in typical, brilliant fashion, the role of the "values voter" in this year's election is mythical:

The urban myth grew around the fact that "moral values" ranked highest in the answer to Question J: "Which ONE issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for President?"

It is a thin reed upon which to base a general theory of the '04 election. The way the question was set up, moral values was sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why? Because it was a multiple-choice question and moral values cover a group of issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the alternatives finely enough, and moral values is sure to get a bare plurality over the others.....

If you pit group against group, moral values comes in dead last: war issues at 34%, economic issues at 33% and moral values at 22%.

And we know that this is the real ranking. After all, the exit poll is just a single poll. We had dozens of polls in the runup to the election that showed that the chief concerns were the war on terror, the war in Iraq and the economy.

Ah, yes. But the fallback is then to attribute Bush's victory to the gay marriage referendums that pushed Bush over the top, particularly in Ohio. This is more nonsense. Bush increased his vote in 2004 over 2000 by an average of 3.1% nationwide. In Ohio, the increase was 1% - less than a third of the national average. In the 11 states in which the gay marriage referendums were held, Bush increased his vote by less than he did in the 39 states that did not have the referendum. The great anti-gay surge was pure fiction.

We see more proof of Krauthammer's thesis in an AP/Ipsos poll conducted from November 3-5 among 844 registered voters:

I’m going to read you a list of issues and I’m going to read the list twice. Please tell me which one issue should be the highest priority for President Bush in his second term:
The situation in Iraq.......................27
Terrorism..........................................23
The economy ..................................18
Health care.....................................14
Unemployment ................................7
Education ........................................7
Taxes ................................................2
(NOT READ) Other .......................2
Not sure ......................................... -

Granted, "moral values" were not part of the AP/Ipsos list, but no one in their right mind would argue that voters were suggesting that a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage or repealing Roe vs. Wade be higher on the list of the President's priorities than Iraq, terrorism and the economy.

That doesn't mean "values" issues weren't part of the mix in this election, but they were an undercurrent at best and simply do not account for President Bush's country-wide demographic and geographic gains.

If I had to characterize this election in a single phrase, I'd say it was an election about maturity, not morality. It was a referendum on serious issues and ultimately George Bush won because he was more serious about them than his opponent.

You've probably heard the reference before that the Democratic Party is the "mommy party" and the GOP is the "daddy party." The bottom line is that since 9/11 the country has been in no mood to listen to mommy.

Think about it. Democrats got their clocks cleaned in 2002 and again this year. They've suffered two history-defying losses in the last two cycles. As much as Democrats would like to boil these losses down to the bigotry of the South and/or the fear-mongering of Republicans, they simply can't seem come to grips with the primary reason for their failure: an inability to pass the national security test with the American people.

It's not that Democrats can't pass the test, but that they deliberately refuse to by shunning hawkish members of their party (like Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt) and by embracing antiwar leftists (like Michael Moore and Howard Dean). It's a schism that makes it extremely difficult for Democrats to be competitive nationally or in the South, and no one better represented the schism, both in symbol and in substance, than John Kerry. His campaign this year was the ultimate effort to dress mommy up like daddy, and voters could tell the difference. - T. Bevan 7:00 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 

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