Like ancient priests who stirred chicken entrails to divine the course of events, news media analysts and Democrat operatives stirred the entrails of the presidential election and divined the reason George Bush was reelected. It was the triumph “morality/values” as a voting issue
They asked themselves, What caused this? Their answer: hordes of evangelical Christians who had sat out the 2000 election came out of the woodwork to register their votes against gay marriage and abortion and were joined by large numbers of rubes in fly-over country.
Having satisfied themselves, the news media analysts have spent the days since then stroking their chins, wondering what the Democrats must do to revive themselves. Democrat operatives, not content with chin-stroking, have actively discussed tactical mistakes, opportunities missed, and so forth. Some have even come up with remedies. One was quoted the other day as saying, “We need to learn the language of faith.”
While Bible study might have a salutary effect on their outlook, these folks need to include close examination of the electoral map in their regimen. No, not the red state-blue state, discouraging as that must be to Democrats. Far more telling is the county-by-county breakdown. It finds the Democrats clinging to coastal margins and some urban clusters in between.
For example, California, which shows up large and blue on the state map, on the county-breakdown map shows a thin line of blue on the coast north and south from San Francisco, plus Los Angeles. The rest of the state is red. Also blue are some urban pockets in the interior west, the upper Midwest, the Lake Erie coast of Ohio, the urban strip from Delaware and Philadelphia north through New York City, most of New England, and southeast Florida around Miami. These slivers and pockets swim in an ocean of red.
This can’t be explained only by the presence on 11 state ballots of measures defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Something much larger was at work here. More likely, it was an unspoken protest — a revolt even — against several things: the relentless nihilism of Hollywood’s products; the dreck churned out by television; the campaign of atheists and their friends at the ACLU against public display of the Ten Commandments (a metaphor for their determination to drive religion out of sight) and, perhaps most of all, the disdain of media and academic elitists for ordinary people;
Candidates for office, especially for president, become vessels for the hopes and grievances of voters. Voters listen to incumbents pointing with pride and challengers viewing with alarm, and make up their minds based on who they think will best realize their own desires. Votes are cast, not on the merits of this or that nine-point plan, but upon attitudes, perceptions, impressions.
Candidates are thus emblematic. John Kerry was seen as brainy (though he got mostly C’s at Yale), lawyer-like in his carefully constructed statements, patrician and aristocrat, rich, aloof, and elitist. George Bush, with his sometimes clumsy locutions, was Everyman called to make tough decisions. His earnestness and passion were seen as genuine. He seemed like the kind of neighbor you’d be comfortable inviting over for coffee.
Since there are many more ordinary Americans than there are elitists, the Republicans went after them with single-minded intensity — and they got the votes of enough of them to strengthen their control on both houses of Congress as well as to convincingly win the presidency
Meanwhile, the Democrats are stuck with the support of the media and academic elitists, some Wall Street types, the trial lawyers and those blacks who cling to the hope that the off-key siren songs of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Julian Bond will yet bring results. Add up the numbers and you have a long-term minority party.
If those Democrat operatives take a close look at the red-blue county-by-county map, they will begin to understand that they have much more to do than “learn the language of faith.”