Whose values II
: The NY Times op-ed page today reflected the post I wrote Thursday on the bogus impact of “moral values” on the election as measured by the bogus exit polls (proving only that print punditry has a helluva lead time):
: Gary Langer, head of polling for ABC News, said he fought against including the “moral values” question in the joint exit poll because it was so vague and it was the ultimate mom-and-apple pie question: Who’s against moral values here?
Pre-election polls consistently found that voters were most concerned about three issues: Iraq, the economy and terrorism. When telephone surveys asked an open-ended issues question (impossible on an exit poll), answers that could sensibly be categorized as moral values were in the low single digits. In the exit poll, they drew 22 percent.
Why the jump? One reason is that the phrase means different things to people. Moral values is a grab bag; it may appeal to people who oppose abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research but, because it’s so broadly defined, it pulls in others as well….
Moral values, moreover, is a loaded phrase, something polls should avoid. (Imagine if “patriotism” were on the list.) It resonates among conservatives and religious Americans. While 22 percent of all voters marked moral values as their top issue, 64 percent of religious conservatives checked it.
: David Brooks, on whom I tend to be binary, writes a very good column on the bull that is “moral values” as an issue.
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.
He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.
It’s a simple and clear analysis. He then says, “The fact is that if you think we are safer now, you probably voted for Bush. If you think we are less safe, you probably voted for Kerry.” I disagree there. That assumes that terrorism is the only issue. If it were, he’d be right (and I’d have voted for Bush). But there were many issues and each of us weighed them differently. That’s why all efforts to explain an election over one issue are wrong. So he’s oversimplifying the opposition, slightly. But he’s also right about the opposition oversimplifying the victors:
But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?
: Nick Kristof says it’s time for Democrats to be more open and he’s right. He also says our model should be Labor under Tony Blair and he’s way right. He’s way wrong in a minute….
As moderates from the heartland, like Tom Daschle, are picked off by the Republicans, the party’s image risks being defined even more by bicoastal, tree-hugging, gun-banning, French-speaking, Bordeau-sipping, Times-toting liberals, whose solution is to veer left and galvanize the base….
Mobilizing the base would mean nominating Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008 and losing yet again. (Mrs. Clinton has actually undertaken just the kind of makeover that I’m talking about: in the Senate, she’s been cooperative, mellow and moderate, winning over upstate New Yorkers. She could do the same in the heartland … if she had 50 years.)
So Democrats need to give a more prominent voice to Middle American, wheat-hugging, gun-shooting, Spanish-speaking, beer-guzzling, Bible-toting centrists. (They can tote The Times, too, in a plain brown wrapper.) For a nominee who could lead the Democrats to victory, think of John Edwards, Bill Richardson or Evan Bayh, or anyone who knows the difference between straw and hay.
He’s way wrong in thinking that Edwards, Richardson, or Bayh are the people to re-energize the party. They are dull and safe. They don’t have vision. Clinton (Hillary) is a centrist who has a vision and can energize the party. She’ll piss off the opposite fringe, but that won’t matter.
He also says that the Democrats need to work hard not to be the obstructionist party over the next four years. Again, I agree. I disagree with his particular prescription for how to do that, but that’s all a matter of politics. The moral to the story is the same.
: The Democrats must find the path to:
1. Not insult the victors by acting as if they’re all a bunch of right-wing religious nut jobs if they voted for Bush. They are your neighbors.
2. Not obstruct progress in the country by insisting on only attacking the administration instead of finding ways to work with it.
3. Not hold to ideology and become the (small) party of exclusion. I know what that felt like during this election; just because I supported some of what Bush did, I was seen as a disloyal unDemocrat and I swear there were some who would rather have held onto their orthodoxy than get my vote. That’s no way to win elections.