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It didn’t take the neoconservatives long to figure out the real truth about the election and explain to us, hanging breathless, what we should think about it.
David Brooks in the New York Times was perhaps the first to unveil it to the rest of us out here in the boonies.
The truth, you see, is that “it is certainly wrong” that the “moral issue” was the driving force in the election. That delusion comes from a “poorly worded question” in the exit polls.
“When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote,”Mr. Brooks writes,
“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 Values-Vote Myth, November 6, 2004]
And if you want a misleading result before you ask the question, you get neocon propaganda. Neoconservatives don’t like the “moral issue” or the white Christian evangelicals who take that issue seriously enough to vote on it.
What the neoconservatives care about is foreign policy, especially how all those white Christian cattle in the backwaters can be rounded up to fight the Middle East wars the neocons are slobbering to wage—“World War IV,” as neocon guru Norman Podhoretz likes to call it.
Mr. Brooks, despite occasional reservations about the Iraq boondoggle, is on board for that agenda too, and much of his column sought to explain how the election was really “a broad victory for[President] Bush” and that a national consensus behind the “war on terror” was what led to his victory.
Yet, as I have noted before, only 51 percent of the voters supported Mr. Bush at all, and while he did win the election, there was nothing “broad” about it.
The broad victory was not that of Mr. Bush and his foreign policy but of the moral issue—the massive and simultaneous success of 11 state ballot measures that rejected same-sex marriage.
There’s no “misleading question” involved here. It was straight-forward and so simple even neocons could grasp it, which they do, which is why they are so eager to explain it away before the rest of the country starts talking about matters they don’t want to talk about.
The neoconservatives of course are not the only people who don’t want to talk about such matters—namely, the moral direction of the nation and its culture. The Republican establishment doesn’t want to talk about it either, which is why, as the Washington Post reported last week, evangelicals had to drag the GOP kicking and screaming to support the marriage amendments at all.
In Michigan, state Sen. Alan Cropsey, sponsor of a bill to ban homosexual marriage, told the Post “the Republican Party was not helpful at all. It’s not like they were the instigators. They were the Johnny-come-latelies, if anything.” Several other activists say the same.
So far from Republicans or the White House using the ballot measures to crank out the evangelical vote, the evangelicals themselves—and in some areas Roman Catholic groups—created the movement. Evangelical leader Charles Colson says, “The White House guys were kind of resisting it [the marriage issue] on the grounds that ‘We haven’t decided what position we want to take on that.’”[Evangelicals Say They Led Charge For the GOP, By Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall, November 8, 2004]
What the election returns really tell us, then, has little to do with President Bush (who a week before the election defended “rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that’s what a state chooses to do,” and explicitly renounced the GOP platform on same-sex marriage on ABC’s Good Morning America), let alone his foreign policy.
What they tell us is that the Republican Party including its top leader still doesn’t get it and that it still prefers to take its signals from neoconservatives like Mr. Brooks and the cultural and ideological ghetto they represent.
The White House and the GOP didn’t want to support the grassroots movement against same-sex marriage because the people who staff those institutions are more comfortable with the people who write the Washington Post and the New York Times than with the Middle Americans whose votes they desperately want and need.
It’s not easy to argue that a party able to win the White House and both houses of Congress is the Stupid Party, but stupidity is largely a matter of being unable to learn, and what this election tells us more than anything else is that, at least up until Election Day, the Republican Party had learned nothing.
Nor has Mr. Brooks. He and his neocon allies now have four more years to plot how to derail the Middle American Revolution toward which this election clearly points.
If Mr. Bush is not stupid, he’ll derail the neocons from the White House now.