David Brooks runs the exit poll numbers in The New York Times and finds that gay marriage was not the defining issue of this election. In fact, evangelicals weren’t any larger a voting bloc in this election than they were in the last as a percentage of the electorate. Yes, more evangelicals voted, but turnout was up among all groups. As Brooks notes, hitting it right on the head:
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.
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. That’s policy, not fundamentalism. The upsurge in voters was an upsurge of people with conservative policy views, whether they are religious or not.
The red and blue maps that have been popping up in the papers again this week are certainly striking, but they conceal as much as they reveal. I’ve spent the past four years traveling to 36 states and writing millions of words trying to understand this values divide, and I can tell you there is no one explanation. It’s ridiculous to say, as some liberals have this week, that we are perpetually refighting the Scopes trial, with the metro forces of enlightenment and reason arrayed against the retro forces of dogma and reaction.
In the first place, there is an immense diversity of opinion within regions, towns and families. Second, the values divide is a complex layering of conflicting views about faith, leadership, individualism, American exceptionalism, suburbia, Wal-Mart, decorum, economic opportunity, natural law, manliness, bourgeois virtues and a zillion other issues.
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?
And that’s the question at hand: for all the talk about how open-minded the left is, the incredibly petty and bitter reaction to Bush’s reelection has belied any such notions. For example, look at the post from The Daily Kos:
Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush’s victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.
So, the poster of this piece wants to see that it’s an inaccurate characture that liberals don’t have strong moral values, in order to do that they’re going to spread a blatant lie. The irony in that statement couldn’t be any more clear.
Liberals, here’s why you lost: because in the marketplace of ideas your products don’t see. Statism doesn’t work. Government programs don’t create wealth, they diminish it. International institutions that pay lip service to justice then make deals with tyrants are worthless. A media that is willing to peddle lies to get a candidate out of office is unbefitting of a democracy. A resume is not a replacement for having a position on the most critical issue of our time. Petulance is not the same as policy.
So long as the left wallows in their own self-superiority, they will lose again as they did in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004. For all the supposed intellectualism of the liberal elites, the fact that they can’t even grasp the reason why they lost speaks volumes.