- In the Washington Post today:
Liberal Christians Challenge ‘Values Vote’
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2004; Page A07
Liberal Christian leaders argued yesterday that the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.
Battling the notion that “values voters” swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation’s most urgent moral problem was “greed and materialism” and 31 percent said it was “poverty and economic justice.” Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage.
But the religious leaders acknowledged that the Christian right had reached more voters than the Christian left. Some said it was time for “moderate and progressive” religious groups, as well as the Democratic Party, to rethink their positions.
“One of the things a few of us are talking about is a reassessment of how the Democrats deal with an issue like abortion — could there be a more moderate ground, where even if they retained their pro-choice stance, they talked about uniting pro-choice people together to actually do something about the abortion rate?” said Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal evangelical journal Sojourners.
If the Democratic Party were to “welcome pro-life Democrats, Catholics and evangelicals and have a serious conversation with them” about ways to reduce teenage pregnancy, facilitate adoptions and improve conditions for low-income women, it would “work wonders” among centrist evangelicals and Catholics, Wallis said.
In a conference call with reporters to discuss the election and the new poll, Wallis and three other Christian leaders argued that many religious Americans do not fall neatly into liberal or conservative camps.
They contended that there is a vast religious middle, including “progressive evangelicals,” “resurgent mainline Protestants” and “socially conservative African Americans,” that could be attracted by biblically based “prophetic” appeals to make peace, fight poverty and spread social justice.
“The values that were promoted most within the conservative religious community were almost always tied to a fear factor, and that was not necessarily the case in the Democratic strategy, and I would say should not be the case,” said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance.
The nationwide telephone poll of 10,689 voters was conducted by Zogby International for the Catholic peace group Pax Christi, the New York-based civic advocacy group Res Publica and the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a think tank allied with Democrats. It had a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point.
The poll found that 42 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq as the “moral issue” that most influenced their choice of candidates, while 13 percent cited abortion and 9 percent same-sex marriage. Asked to name the greatest threat to marriage, 31 percent said “infidelity,” 25 percent cited “rising financial burdens” and 22 percent named same-sex marriage.
Tom Perriello, an organizer at Res Publica, said the poll shows that “while there may be a solid 20 percent who are very focused on abortion and gay marriage, for most Americans of faith, there are other moral issues of greater urgency, and that’s where the religious middle is.”
Throughout the presidential campaign, opinion polls showed that frequent churchgoers were far more likely to support Bush than his Democratic rival, Sen. John F. Kerry. Exit polls on Election Day found that 22 percent of voters cited “moral values” as the key to their vote, and they tilted 4 to 1 toward Bush.
The answer to this “God gap,” Perriello said, “is that progressives need to embrace the deep moral critique that people are looking for and make that case on poverty and Iraq, and not just try to talk more about God or outpace the Republicans on gay marriage or abortion.”
According to Perriello, liberal religious groups registered 500,000 new voters, made 400,000 get-out-the-vote phone calls, and raised $1.75 million for newspaper and radio ads during the campaign. But he said the post-election poll found that 71 percent of voters had heard from the religious right while 38 percent said they had heard from the religious left.
- What finer choice for Attorney General than the man who wrote the torture memo!
- Keith Olbermann continues tracking the electronic voting glitches in Ohio and North Carolina… Ohio Dems say they’re all over it. And William Rivers Pitt has a very comprehensive round-up of the problems which he summarizes thusly:
“In short, we have old-style vote spoilage in minority communities. We have electronic voting machines losing votes and adding votes all across the country. We have electronic voting machines whose efficiency and safety have not been tested. We have electronic voting machines that offer no paper trail to ensure a fair outcome. We have central tabulators for these machines running on Windows software, compiling results that can be demonstrably tampered with. We have the makers of these machines publicly professing their preference for George W. Bush. We have voter trends that stray from the expected results. We have these machines counting millions of votes all across the country…”
- Another observer who takes issue with the idea that moral values won Bush this election – Rick Perlstein. According to his analysis, rich Republicans won him the election:
Pundits blow hot air. Political scientists crunch numbers.
On his blog Polysigh, my favorite political scientist, Phil Klinkner, ran a simple exercise. Multiplying the turnout among a certain group by the percent who went for Bush yields a number electoral statisticians call “performance.” Among heavy churchgoers, Bush’s performance last time was 25 percent (turnout, 42 percent; percentage of vote, 59 percent). This time out it was also 25 percent—no change. Slightly lower turnout (41 percent), slightly higher rate of vote (61 percent).
Where did the lion’s share of the extra votes come from that gave George Bush his mighty, mighty mandate of 51 percent? “Two of those points,” Klinkner said when reached by phone, “came solely from people making over a 100 grand.” The people who won the election for him—his only significant improvement over his performance four years ago—were rich people, voting for more right-wing class warfare.
Their portion of the electorate went from 15 percent in 2000 to 18 percent this year. Support for Bush among them went from 54 percent to 58 percent. “It made me think about that scene in Fahrenheit 9/11,” says Klinkner, the one where Bush joked at a white-tie gala about the “haves” and the “have-mores”: “Some people call you the elite,” Bush said. “I call you my base.”
What about gay marriage? Even here the results prove inconclusive. The Diebolds had hardly cooled before Clinton operatives leaked to Newsweek that if only the Democratic campaign had listened to the 42nd president—who urged Kerry to come out in favor of the 11 state anti-gay-marriage initiatives—the Democrats would have won. Tina Brown contributed the thought the morning after the election that advances in gay rights were “the trade-off for 45 million Americans without health care.” But Klinkner ran a regression analysis comparing his 2000 and 2004 totals by state, and it suggested that though the measures didn’t hurt Bush, they didn’t help him either. “If anything,” he writes, “Bush’s vote was a bit lower than expected in states that did have such a measure on the ballot.”
How did the “people voted for the Republicans because of moral values” meme become the gospel truth about this election? The exit poll question, after all, signifies little: If a pollster went up to you and asked what was more important, your moral values or your economic well-being, what kind of cad would you be to tell a stranger that money meant more to you than morals?
All that the message about “moral values” dominating the proceedings last Tuesday means is that the Republicans have succeeded in their decades-long campaign to get what should plainly be called “conservative ideology” replaced, in our political language, by this word “morality.”
They have reworked the political calculus so thoroughly that liberal definitions of what is or isn’t a moral value don’t count. It’s as if liberals didn’t have any morality at all…
- Salon’s Eric Boehlert finds the press already donning knee pads for the president, granting him a popular “mandate” now that he appears to have actually been, you know, elected, however narrow the margin.
- Powell comes right out and warns us to expect more international bullying. James Wolcott’s response is typically pithy:
Yesterday the face of Colin Powell glared out from the front page of the Financial Times. He sounded ominous, too, announcing that with his electoral mandate, the Red King would not be trimming his sails or pulling back from his foreign policy. That he would continue to be “aggressive” in pursuing American interests.
Usually it’s Rumsfeld or Cheney or Bolton or Rice or Wolfowitz who’s sent out to look ominous and spew ash. Perhaps it was simply Powell’s turn in the pitching rotation, or perhaps he is continuing his own policy of being a stand-up guy in public for the administration while pouring out his Qualms and Grave Reservations to Bob Woodward’s tape recorder to give himself some wiggle room in the historical record.
Whatever the explanation, Powell’s declaration of further independence was a double slap to European allies and others, his Expression of Steely Resolve being all the more dispiriting since Powell was the one power player they semi-respected for being on speaking terms with reality and willing to consult with others. Now he was politely slamming that door in their faces and telling them to get used to the new rugged reality.
The truth is that the US can no longer back up the big mouths of its leaders. If America chooses to go it alone in future conflicts, it’ll be because it has no choice…
(Glad to hear someone finally addressing the patent silliness of “Operation Phantom Fury,” as Wolcott does later in that post. After the “Shock and Awe” of “Mission not-quite-Accomplished,” I would think the Military Marketing wordsmiths would aim a little lower. Perhaps “Operation Blow Up Homes And Schools While The Insurgents Regroup In Surrounding Towns?”)
- Paul Roberts, author of The End Of Oil, tries to help us to get real about oil and alternative energy.
- And if you need a little humor after all that, see Donald Asmussen’s Nov 10 Bad Reporter.