Here’s some non-Beauchamp TNR for you. While John Judis is a good enough writer and reporter to give this piece a veneer of polemical seriousness, arguments from political psychology tend to have a strained and contrived quality to them. This article is no different. Judis basically endorses the idea that Bush was reelected because voters were grappling with their own sense of mortality and fear of death — a “terror management” theory. Why else would West Virginians be so spooked by terrorist attacks and same-sex marriage when few attacks and gay weddings were likely to happen there?
Nowhere does Judis seriously grapple with the possibility that culturally conservative voters might really just believe preserving traditional marriage is important and that Bush’s approach to handling terrorism was preferable to John Kerry’s. After all, the 2004 election did happen after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s same-sex marriage decision, the 9/11 attacks, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Secondly, Bush carried West Virginia in 2000, before any of these events had occurred and thus before the war on terror or same-sex marriage were considered as pressing as they were four years later. Bush saw even greater improvements in certain counties of New York and New Jersey, presumably because of 9/11 rather than a rewakening of these voters’ traditional religious views after they came to grips with their own mortality. Bush carried the Staten Island borough. His national vote percentage improved by three points over his 2000 showing.
I’m not sure all this requires a doctorate in psychology to understand, though it might make one sound more dispassionate when being condescending toward Bush voters.