Thursday, November 04, 2004

The "Moral Values" vote.

The exit polls suggest that "moral values" was the top issue in this election, and the pundits are looking at the importance of the evangelical vote.

While channel surfing last night, I flipped past the vacuous "Anderson Cooper 360" show on CNN. He was talking about the effect religious people had on the outcome. And of course, his guests were Jerry Falwell and Jesse Jackson. (Transcript here.)

Couldn't these media types find anyone else besides these two? Why is it always Jackson and Falwell? They're like an old vaudeville team that no one finds the least bit entertaining anymore, but they keep doing Hollywood Squares and guest spots on The Love Boat because it's the only way to keep up their "celebrity" status.

I'm tired of people thinking that Falwell is the evangelical pope, and that we all hang on his every word. I think the media picks Falwell because he's predictable. He'll provide them with exactly the image of evangelical Christianity that they want. Consider this exchange:

COOPER: What is it do you think that the Republican Party understands about American morality, the way it is right now, that perhaps the Democrats do not?

FALWELL: Well, I think there are two major burning issues. They're not the only ones. But clearly the sanctity of unborn life, the -- we believe Christians believe, evangelicals, conservative Catholics, orthodox Jews, that life begins at conception and therefore that abortion is wrong.

And secondly, we believe the family consists exclusively of a unit that begins when a man and a woman legally marry, period. That means diverse family forums polygamy, same-sex marriage, et cetera, are all unacceptable and the president introduced a federal marriage amendment to hopefully, and we hope we can bring it back up again in January, to define family permanently.

And there it is. Bring Falwell on the show and you can characterize Christian voters as two-issue voters: abortion and gay marriage. (It used to be just abortion, so at least we're branching out.)

Meanwhile, here's Jesse Jackson:

COOPER: I want to read you another quote I read in an article in Reuters today. It says, "in many ways the Democrats have become a coalition of minorities, blacks, homosexuals, Jews, the unmarried and the unreligious." Does it seem to you that the current Democratic Party, I mean is afraid of talking about moral values?

JACKSON: You know, that's interesting that 20 percent of the gays and lesbians voted for Republicans, for example. Speaking of stereotyping. It is true that Mr. Bush, 80 percent of his vote was white. So there is a great racial coalition, polarization and the growing gap between the top 10 percent and the rest of America. We must, in fact, close those gaps. But Democrats must assert the very language of values. Feed the hungry, clothes the naked, defend the poor, deliver the needy.

COOPER: But is it possible that the Democrats are simply, not in tune with where American morality is?

JACKSON: You can't define morality so narrowly. For example, at one point morality was defined as justifying slavery. Slave obey your masters. It was defined as segregation. Martin King said the most segregated isle in America was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) church service.

It finally happened. I agree with Jesse Jackson. At least, I agree with him on this: You can't define morality so narrowly. As important as these are to believers, you can't limit moral issues to abortion and gay marriage.

If we now know that the exit polls that showed a clear Kerry victory were bogus, why do we also believe these same exit polls put "moral values" out in front?

But if we accept that they're right about "moral values" being the top issue for votes, why do we limit that to abortion and gay marriage? Isn't it possible that moral values includes such things as national security, a strong defense, the spread of liberty across the globe? And yes, also feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, defending the poor, etc? Isn't it possible that "moral values" is a catch-all category, or more likely, a phrase that means different things to different people, making it pretty much a meaningless statistic?

Christians shouldn't get the impression that we are now power-players with the leverage to get favored legislation passed. We should continue to work as we've always worked: changing hearts and minds one by one.

As a side note, here's what Paul Begala had to say on Cooper's show:

[President Bush] raised issues in the right way, he found those folks, he motivated them, he got them out to vote, and now's got, you know, now he has a real mandate. I spent four years saying that he wasn't fully legitimate. He's fully legitimate now. And he's got a majority of the vote in a high-turnout election. There's nothing more legitimating than that.

That's an amazing admission coming from Begala. I was stunned.

UPDATE: Power Line's Deacon has this to say:

Does gay marriage explain Bush's approval rating? I doubt it. Bush has proposed a constitutional amendment on the subject, but it hasn't been a prominent part of his presidency and it's not going anywhere. I submit that the approval rating has much more to do with tax cuts, surging employment figures, the response to 9/11, and the absence of subsequent terrorist attacks. Indeed, the 50 percent approval figure is pretty consistent with a blend of the poll data regarding approval of his handling of the economy, the war on terror, and Iraq.

Yep. Those are "moral values," too.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts here.


At 12:13 AM, Blogger Michael_the_Archangel said...

Morals are what a person defines it as, what I consider moral you may not. Your level of morality may be much higher or lower than mine. Items like abortion and gay marriage rank much higher on the moral meter than feeding the poor; afterall, the Bible tells us that the poor shall always be with us. That does not mean that we should stop helping them and trying to feed, cloth and shelter them; but it does mean that while we do that we will fight to keep marriage as God defined it (or so the religious believe). It does mean that we will fight against (as much as we can) anyone who wishes to kill an innocent life who has harmed no one. Just because we are fighting for one does not mean that we ignore the other. The democrats seemed to think that abortion is fine and gay marriage is fine - it will NEVER be fine to anyone who is truly religious.

Yes, there certainly other issues, yes, taxes, the Iraqi war, the war on terror, social security, healthcare, but they pale compared to protecting innocent children that can not help themselves. You want the religious right to drop out of voting? Bring us two candidates who BOTH support abortion, especially if both supported it all the way through late term abortions. At that point most religious people would feel that it didn't make any difference which candidate was voted in. Yes, morals DID hold a huge impact on this election.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Drew said...

I think we agree on most of your points. I'm just not sure if we should put much stock in an exit poll that says "moral values" was the top issue, and then extrapolate from that that we now have the power and the mandate to overturn Roe v. Wade and push through a Defense of Marriage amendment.

I think I read somewhere that while "moral values" was the top issue, it was still only 22%. And certainly that phrase means different things to different people.

So while I would like to see a return to "moral values," I don't think we should act as if the exit polls have given us a green light. We can progress with small steps, and perhaps be more effective than if we decide to just push forward, which may only result in a backlash.


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