As Frontpagemag.com's Ben Johnson puts it:After the preliminaries, the interviewers allowed Carter to get to the real
Ever since the election of 2004, liberals have made a concerted effort to make their image more palatable to "values voters". "Values voters" were 2004's biggest surprise, and they may have put President Bush over the top.
The phenomenon of the "values voter" is probably not as clear cut as one might think. When exit pollsters asked voters what had motivated their vote, the number one answer given was "moral values". Still, this answer was given by only 22% of those polled. The second and third most burning issues in the voters' minds were "economy/jobs" and "concern over terrorism", with 20% and 19% respectively. Also, only 80% of "values voters" voted for Bush. While this is a significant amount, that means that 20% of values voters voted for Kerry or a third party candidate. Only 17.6% of voters chose Bush because of "moral values". While not as daunting as it may seem, no candidate for president can afford to dismiss 17.6% of the population, especially when elections can be determined by as little as three percentage points.
Given the fact that not all "values voters" voted for Bush, you can see that "moral values" was just one small piece of a very complex election result. I would encourage the Democrats to drop the cheap montra that a misunderstanding about "values" was the only thing that did them in. The Democratic Party has been roundly rejected for years now, and they're going to have to make some real--not just cosmetic--changes, if they want to appeal to middle America. I'll even give them some tips--try your best to pretend that you love America and you want to see Americans win the war in Iraq. Also, stop hanging out with Barbara Streisand and taking your marching orders from the ACLU and People for the American Way.
While the "values voter" may not have been as decisive as originally thought, this was still a jolt for the Democrats. As they watched John Kerry's concessions speech with teary eyes, they must have wondered "what happened?". Not to worry--in the age of cable news, there is always a "talking heads" show to break it down, analyze it, spin it, and serve it up for American consumption. The term "values voter" was born on the political talk show circut in the days after the 2004 election.
Democrats, who had previously dilluded themselves into believing that they're in touch with average Americans (although they hadn't won a popular majority in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976, a full twenty-eight years earlier) were shocked that they had lost. Then the pundits came to the conclusion that it had been religious conservative "values voters" who had made the difference in Bush's victory.
Democrats were stunned and furious. The "Jesus freaks" had done it again! Then they started talking about getting the heck out of "Jesus-land" and moving to Canada. It never occurred to them that their definition of a "Jesus freak" includes a massive segment of the American population (perhaps even the majority), and they can't claim to be "in touch with America" when they show such blatant contempt for huge swaths of American society.
They realized that they had been singing the wrong tune throughout 2004. Their election strategy had been simple--Iraq is a disaster and the economy sucks. If you want these things fixed, you're going to have to vote this Bush bum out of office.
It didn't work. Bush retained the White House and the Democrats took losses in both the House and the Senate. In the most heated election of my lifetime, the Democrats made the fatal miscalculation of not even knowing what was important to the American people. While they were busy talking Iraq and jobs, Americans were worried about things like gay "marriage", stem-cell research, and abortion.
After an initial hissy-fit, in which Democrats cursed the Heartland and lamented the rise of "Christian fundamentalism" and "the religious Right", the Democrats went back to the drawing board. If they were going to make any gains in 2006, they were going to have to jump onto this moral values train and ride it.
Soon, every prominent Democrat was talking about "morals" and "values". They were shocked--shocked!--that so many Americans didn't equate the party of Ted Kennedy with traditional values. Democrats made a concerted effort to show the nation that the Republicans don't have a monopoly on faith, that Democrats have guiding moral creeds and go to church just like Republicans do. In fact, they're the real Christians, they just don't wear their faith on their sleeves like those phony Republican "Christians".
But there are a few problems with their new-found image. First of all, Democrats don't go to church. Oh sure, a few of them do. But as the Pew Research Center found after the election, people who attend religious services weekly supported Bush 63% to 37%, and those who never attend religious services opposed Bush 62% to 38%. Keeping in mind the large block of black voters in the Democratic Party, who are usually church-going folk, you can see that the Democratic Party is made up mostly of black Christians and white people who haven't been to church since their mothers stopped making them. Okay, so I'm painting with a broad brush, but the truth is that religion and the Democratic Party don't exactly go hand in hand.
Attitudes toward religion and faith are a major public-opinion fissure in this country. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying here, but there are two sides to the culture war we're engaged in now--the approximately Judeo-Christian side, and the hostile Secular Humanist side. People of faith bare almost no resemblance to people of little or no faith. They think differently, spend their time and money differently, raise their children differently, and live their lives differently. It's no surprise that they vote differently as well. And because they don't vote the same way, the are not likely to join the same political party. That's how you get such different attitudes about religion in our two major parties.
Another reason that Democrats have such a difficult time feighning piety is that they're so fake. They're like Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, emerging from that Baptist Church with the Bible under his arm and crocodile tears in his eyes. Reporters were pre-positioned to catch the whole thing. Meanwhile, he was seeking spiritual guidance from the "Reverend" Jesse Jackson, who happened to be engaged in an extra-marital affair himself at the same time.
Or how about Howard Dean, the man who learned how to talk religion in the 2004 campaign, after he angered Southern voters with his comment that "We have got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays." Dean has a talent for putting a foot in his mouth, and he was later informed that this was not the way to attract Southern voters.
So Howie found God. His conversion to Christianity was cheaper than a crackjack toy, but he was a true-believer nonetheless. He was fond of saying profoundly arrogant things like, "(I)f you know much about the Bible, which I do..." A few minutes later, a reporter asked Dean what his favorite book of the New Testament was, and he replied "the Book of Job".
Jeez, Howie...isn't that in the Old Testament? Well let me refer to my handy-dandy New Catholic Bible here, and...yes it is! Score one for Howard. He confused two books that were written two thousand years apart. But I'm sure he's a real Christian nonetheless. Not like those Republican baby-starvers!
Another reason that Americans don't associate the Democratic Party (and liberalism by extension) with moral values is because they show much disdain for the term itself. Don't believe me? Walk into a room full of liberals and drop the "F" word--"family values" (okay, that's a term, not a word) and see what happens. They absolutely despise the word "values" because they associate it with the Christian right. It wasn't until the election of 2004 that they learned that the term "moral values" doesn't elicit snickering and eyerolling in Kansas quite the same way that it does at Manhattan cocktail parties. Unfortunately for the Democrats, "values voters" didn't gravitate towards the party that sneers at the very word "values" and dismisses anyone who doesn't agree with them as a mouth-breathing hick. By the time the Democrats figured out to change their tune, it was too late. They had already lost.
After the election, the American Left exploded in anger over the phenomenon of the "values voter". Their slogans were trite and predictable, and they tried desperately to redefine themselves while not really changing anything about their pathetic party. They tried to cast all issues as moral issues, of which they were on the right, or "moral" side.
Common phrases from irrate liberals included, "A living wage is a moral issue!" "Isn't there something immoral about forty-five million Americans without healthcare?" "What about welfare? Wouldn't Jesus have supported that?" As dyed-in-the-wool liberal columnist Ellen Goodman predictably wrote after the election, "Well, speaking for the designated 'immoral minority,' there are a whole lot of folks who believe that starting a preemptive war on false premises is a moral issue. There are a whole lot of people who believe that giving tax cuts to the rich and a deficit to the grandkids is a matter of values. " They were just exasperated that abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell research are considered moral issues, but health care, the war in Iraq, and tax cuts are not.
I will help out any confused liberals by explaining to them why their issues are not considered moral issues. The reason is because liberals have always told us that they do not "legislate morality" (a term that very few liberals understand). They always insisted that they believed in keeping their morals to themselves, and made a point of saying so whenever debating any other issue.
Take abortion for example. It's absolutely morally indefensible to kill one third of the American population in the womb. I would compare the slaughter of forty million unborn children since Roe v. Wade to the Holocaust, but the Holocaust just doesn't measure up to abortion in terms of pure evil. Liberal "pro-choice" (their word, not mine) advocates don't even try to defend it on moral grounds, because they know they don't have an inch of moral ground to stand on. Instead they tell you to keep your morals to yourself, to butt out of a woman's "private decision" (to salt poison her unborn child), to "keep your laws off of my body". In other words, when the debate turns to the obvious immorality of our current policy, they invariably try to shut you up. Lucky for me, I don't allow liberals to dictate the rules of debate to me, because I know that they will win every time if I do.
So if liberals claim they never "legislate morality", then why are they surprised that people don't find their issues to be moral issues? To put it another way, if healthcare is a moral issue, and liberals want to legislate healthcare, then liberals want to legislate morality. They're "shoving their morals down our throats" as they so frequently accuse the Right of doing. And because everyone knows that liberals never bring their morals to the political debate, then it must be assumed that healthcare is not a moral issue.
This is the pickle the Democrats have put themselves in. They still want the moral argument against abortion (and other issues) to be off-limits to pro-lifers. Meanwhile, since their 2004 humiliation, they've wanted to turn every issue into a moral issue.
Take welfare for example. I am a conservative, but even I am not entirely opposed to a sensible welfare program at the state level. I don't know too many conservatives who are dead set against welfare in any shape or form. But I do know Libertarians who are. In fact, being opposed to any type of government assistance is basically what Libertarianism is all about.
My Libertarian friends all have jobs. Whenever they pick up their paychecks, they are infuriated that the government takes some of their money in order to give it to someone else. They see it, not incorrectly, as hard-working people being forced to pay their money to non-working people.
A Libertarian friend of mine told me that he really became a Libertarian when he was a young man just graduated from high school, living on his own, and barely making ends meet. He was working three jobs just to stay afloat. One of his jobs was at a convenience store, and he was always infuriated to see people come in and pay with food stamps. He couldn't understand why some people didn't have to work and were given money for free, while other people worked three jobs and got no handouts. To make matters worse, at the end of the month, the guy with three jobs had money involuntarily deducted from his check, in order to give to the person who doesn't work. To this day, he still believes that welfare is robbery and no legislative body has the right to enact wealth redistribution programs.
Now enter the liberals with their new-found love of religion and "moral values". Their newest tactic is to portray welfare as a moral issue, and Republicans as phony Christians because the obviously want to starve children. After all, is that what would Jesus do? Well they're right--Jesus's message was one of love and charity. But he did not say that charity had to be a function of the government. He was commanding individuals to love their neighbors, not governments to give handouts. As abolitionist and philosopher Lysander Spooner once said,
"Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to
feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick,
protect the defenceless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But
these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in
each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will,
In other words, charity is up to each individual's conscience. But liberals don't like it that way. They think that people should be forced to give their money to the less fortunate, whether they want t0 or not. And lately, they've even gone as far as to say that it's a "moral issue". Once again, I'm not a Liberatarian, and I am not entrirely opposed to welfare, but I must play the devil's advocate here. If welfare is such a moral issue, and all of you Democrats are such church-going folks, then do your charity through your church. Also, do your charitable works with your own money, not mine. And most of all, don't expect the government to do the Lord's work--that's "legislating morality", and everyone knows that it violates the ficticious "seperation of church and state" that liberals invented to ensure that they win every debate.
Well, that's how my Libertarian friends feel about it anyway. They have no problem with charity, but they do have a problem with welfare. And when they hear some Democrat go off on his "we have morals too" tirade, they think about all that money missing from their checks every month. The Democrats are legislating their morality with money they involuntarily took from people who work.
After the "values voter" election of 2004, I naively believed that the Democrats new strategy of mentioning the word "values" in every breath would mean that they were finally willing to admit that the morality of a particular issue--abortion for example--is not out of bounds. After all, if Democrats have morals too, then it must now be okay to talk about values without a liberal jumping down your throat. Wrong. Even though every Democrat from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton is now on the "moral values" bandwagon, it's still not okay to for a conservative to use the term in connection with something like abortion. For years, too many conservative pro-lifers have been too timid to call America's greatest evil--our infanticide mills that we euphemistically call "women's health clinics"--by their name. And their name is 'Evil', with a capital 'E'. Fortunately, I'm not timid. I tell people what I think, and I call evil by its name.
But nothing really changed. It's now quite fashionable for a liberal Democrat to drop the "V" word all over the place. But they also jealously guard it for themselves, and chastise any conservative for even questioning the relative morality of a forty million murdered unborn children.
I wish Democrats would just quit it. In my opinion, we should throw out the old debate rulebook that tells us that "moral values" are not permitted to affect how a person votes. Or should I say, how a conservative votes. Let's write a new rulebook that allows all people of all political stripes to vote their consciences, and no one will throw a fit and hurl accusations that conservatives who do so are a threat to democracy and need to be stopped before we all return to the days of the Spanish Inquisition.
Once we have our new rulebook, I say we have a national debate on all issues. The conservatives will present their values, and the liberals will present theirs. Then we'll let the people decide whose values they better identify with.
The American people would surely decide on a mixture of liberal and conservative values. In my estimation, however, their mixture would be a bit heavier on conservative values than on liberal ones.
But we can't do that right now, because the Democrats won't allow it. While they're busy running off at the mouth with their "values" talk, they still think that morality is not permitted to affect the hotbutton issues of the culture war, abortion in particular. In other words, the only people who can talk about morality are the Democrats. It's time we told the Democrats that they don't own that word, and they don't determine who can and can't use it, and in what contexts.