The buzz is that moral values were the deciding factor in the late Presidential campaign. I suppose liberals are now scared about what's going to happen to the country.
Don't worry, folks. The Christian version of the Taliban does not exist, and even if it did, what's the worst that's going to happen? President Bush may or may not have the opportunity to appoint anywhere from one to perhaps all nine Supreme Court Justices. (We don't really know, do we?) But he wants to put in a token Hispanic, and if any of the other tokens retire, they'll have to be replaced with another token. Karl Rove and the President will probably be smarter than Bush I on this score, and nominate "pre-emptive" tokens. If an old white dude croaks or retires, they'll nominate a woman or black. Or maybe even a Moslem or homosexual. Clarence Thomas would have breezed through in 1990, if Bush nominated him instead of Souter when William Brennan retired. Two blacks on the Supreme Court! Instead, he didn't nominate Thomas until the next year when Thurgood Marshall retired. Hardly anybody could stomach this cynical tokenism, and the liberals did their darnedest to make sure there was hell to pay.
Everyone knows that the Democrats are going to filibuster any Supreme Court nominee with a conservative paper trail. Bush II may make some effort to nominate conservative justices, just for show, but those are fights he will engage in just to appease the Religious Right. Bush, whose public confession of faith sounds like that of a broad-based Billy Grahamstyle evangelical (like that of Jimmy Carter) rather than of a narrow fundamentalist, doesn't govern to advance the agenda of religious conservatives, he just plays political games that will win their votes.
Besides, even though the Religious Right came out in droves for Bush, it isn't Jesus that draws inspiration for the typical Republican voter. The "fundamentalism" of Pentacostals and Baptists is not the doctrine of the Minnesota Lutheran or Nebraska Methodist. Let alone of the Ohio Catholic. There are many varieties of the Christian faith. If the Presbyterian in Des Moines voted for Bush, don't assume that it was because he thinks the End Time is imminent, or because abortion and gay marriage top the list of his concerns.
The conservatism of the Midwestern and Mountain states isn't the same as the supposedly dangerous theology of Southern fundamentalists. It isn't called "middle America" or the "heartland" for nothing. They are not creepy Yankee northeasterners, alienated Southerners, or (aptly named) Left Coasters. That the heartland goes for Bush says to me three things:
- The USA has been very, very good to them, and they are proud to be Americans;
- They believe what their government school textbooks tell them about how America saved the world time and time again over the course of the 20th century despite huge costs in life and treasure, and that the War on Terror is a similar battle;
- In a time of war, you support the President.
Americans went overwhelmingly for Richard Nixon in 1972, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, the only times in the history of the Union (1864 doesn't count), that a sitting President with a war on his hands stood for re-election. The captain is the captain; it's a risky thing to change commanders in the heat of battle.
There's more to it, of course. For whatever hypocrisies and shenanigans of the last four years, the Republican Party still comes across as the party of lower taxes, freer markets, and greater self-reliance and personal responsibility. Even if it's a "lesser of two evils" question, the self-reliant are bound, out of their self-interest and values, to favor the Republicans over the Democrats.
The Republican Party is the party of Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Dennis Miller, Rudolf Giuliani, and John McCain, every bit as much as it is the party of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Bush is supported more by those who believe that the world should be made safe for democracy and capitalism, than by those who view abortion or gay marriage as their single issue in voting. Maybe the Religious Right gave Bush the majority vote he needed for the political capital he coveted. But I doubt they provided the margin of victory in any battleground state.
The question was to support the President in wartime, or to punish him for his faults. Loyalty, not to Jesus, but to the Flag, determined the outcome.
November 10, 2004