L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 301, December 19, 2004
Happy Ngu Year!
The Moral Values Racket
Special to TLE
In the wake of the presidential election on November 2, 2004, the election exit polls, within hours after the American electorate had reelected President George W. Bush to the White House, indicated that 22 percent of the electorate voted for Bush largely on the issue of "moral values." Aside from other leading issues such as the economy and terrorism, "moral values," according to those polls, was the top reason for Bush's political victory this election year.
The top immediate reason that was sold to the American public and to the media as to why voters believed that this issue was the primary deciding factor for Bush's campaign victory was the gay marriage issue, which had previously dominated the national media spotlight. (Recall the Federal Marriage Amendment and Republican Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) well-publicized controversial statements on the matter?) The second reason given was abortion, with the third being stem cell research.
Of course the statist Republicans, while trying to look good being branded with the "conservative" label, had jumped on the GOP bandwagon, citing the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in 11 states - proposals that would amend the constitutions in those states to allow only a marriage between a man and a woman - as the reason for galvanizing conservatives to get out the massive right-wing vote. (For the record the 11 states that overwhelmingly passed those initiatives are Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.)
Sure enough President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney told campaign supporters via their touchy-feely victory speeches that they have ushered in a "mandate," a "historic victory," and that America "has spoken."
What total claptrap!
First of all, what "mandate?" What "historic victory?" What evidence do they have supporting their claim that "America has spoken?"
The obvious answers to those questions are - there is no "mandate," the so-called "historic victory" is a gross exaggeration, and the claim that "America has spoken" doesn't even hold large amounts of water whatsoever.
In a nutshell, the "moral values" claim is total bunk. Plain and simple.
In order to examine the theory that such a "mandate" green-lighted another four-term term for Bush and his collectivistic stalwarts, one would have to take a good gander at the election data in comparison to the 2000 election data.
The theory that Bush gained votes because of the anti-gay marriage referendums on the ballots in those states is awfully dubious. As a matter of fact, the data would suggest that he would have done much better if said measures did not appear on those ballots. According to Liberty editor and publisher R.W. Bradford, Bush, for example, had increased his vote share from 53.33 percent in 2000 to 54.17 percent this past election in states where the electorate voted on the gay marriage ban. That means the Bush vote had increased by a paltry 0.84 percent. However, the Bush vote share experienced an increase from 48.82 percent in 2000 to 50.78 percent this year in states where the bans did not show up on the ballot. We're talking about an increase of 1.96 percent. That means the Bush vote skyrocketed more than twice as much in states where the bans were not on the ballot.
The gay marriage measures also appear to have harmed Bush's reelection efforts as well. As Bradford notes in the January 2005 issue of Liberty:
"The evidence suggested that the gay marriage measures actually hurt Bush - and hurt him substantially. And this makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Sure, the gay marriage measures may have brought more religious anti-gay voters to the voting booth, and these voters may have voted mostly for Bush. But it is just as likely that it brought a lot of other new voters to the ballot box: young, urban gays who were offended by the proposed ban on gay marriage. And these young voters may very well have influenced others: virtually all gays have heterosexual parents, and although these parents may not be crazy about their progeny's sexual orientation, they also may strongly prefer that their offspring get involved in more-or-less monogamous relationships, if only for health reasons. These groups and their families may very well have outnumbered anti-gay-marriage Christian voters."
It doesn't, however, change the fact that the media, the Religious Right, the Left, and many key lackeys of the Bush administration kept feeding the American public with this misguided, myopic view that the gay marriage initiatives helped Bush. Within 24 hours after the election, news channels and print and online periodicals declared the "moral values" issue as Bush's calling card for his reelection. Unsurprisingly the general populace gobbled it up as the gospel truth, without even taking into consideration that the evidence runs contrary to those claims.
So what propelled Bush back into the White House for a second term? It was the terrorism issue that convinced voters to reelect.
Here's how: it was Slate.com that was one of the first news sites to dispute the exit poll findings. According to guest columnist Paul Freedom, "The theory is intriguing, but the data don't support it." Furthermore, he notes:
"The morality theory rests on three claims. The first is that gay-marriage bans led to higher turnout, chiefly among Christian conservatives. The second is that Bush performed especially well where gay marriage was on the ballot. The third is that in general, moral issues decided the election.
The evidence that having a gay-marriage ban on the ballot increased voter turnout is spotty. Marriage-ban states did see higher turnout than states without such measures. They also saw higher increases in turnout compared with four years ago. But these differences are relatively small. Based on preliminary turnout estimates, 59.5 percent of the eligible voting population turned out in marriage-ban states, whereas 59.1 percent turned out elsewhere. This is a microscopic gap when compared to other factors. For example, turnout in battleground states was more than 7.5 points higher than it was in less-competitive states, and it increased much more over 2000 as well."
Of course, Freedom also noted, "His [Bush's] vote share averaged 7 points higher in gay-marriage-banning states than in other states (57.9 vs. 50.9). But four years ago, when same-sex marriage was but a twinkle in the eye of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Bush's vote share was 7.3 points higher in these same states than in other states."
However, the data, once inspected closely, doesn't support that point. Liberty's Bradford disputes Freedom's claims, noting:
"Unhappily, this analysis provided little detail and made a claim that was contradicted by the actual data, viz., that Bush's "vote share averaged 7 points higher in gay-marriage-banning states than in other states (57.9 vs. 50.9)." In actual fact, Bush's vote share in the states with ballot measures was 3.39 points higher than in other states (54.17 vs. 50.78).
It also claimed that in the 2000 election, "Bush's vote share was 7.3 points higher in these same states than in other states." This also is false: Bush's 2000 vote share in the states that had the ballot measure in 2004 was 53.33, versus 48.82 in other states, a difference of 4.51 points."
Ten days after the election, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer even challenged the theory advanced by the exit pollsters. He noted,
"It is a thin reed upon which to base a General Theory of the '04 Election. In fact, it is no reed at all. The way the question was set up, moral values were sure to be ranked disproportionately high. Why? Because it was a multiple-choice question, and moral values cover a group of issues, while all the other choices were individual issues. Chop up the alternatives finely enough, and moral values are sure to get a bare plurality over the others."
Moreover, he also states, "'Moral values' encompass abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood's influence, the general coarsening of the culture and, for some, the morality of preemptive war. The way to logically pit this class of issues against the others would be to pit it against other classes: 'war issues' or 'foreign policy issues' (Iraq plus terrorism) and 'economic issues' (jobs, taxes, health care, etc)." He even points out that if both groups are locked against each other, the moral values matter "comes in dead last: war issues at 34 percent, economic issues variously described at 33 percent and moral values at 22 percent," thus making the latter much subtler than the others.
However, as good as the reasons with which these writers have come up, it doesn't address the fundamental issue: why did it take so long for them to debunk the theory? The reason is that, as Bradford recently (and correctly) points out, politics "is a sport." Political journalists, like their sports journalist counterparts, have little to no interest in examining the facts as they are presented. Political junkies, like sports junkies, have no complaints with this process. After all, the consumers of political commentary have no qualms about the moronic (yet highly partisan) brand of punditry supplied by conservative collectivists like Sean Hannity or liberal collectivists like Michael Moore. And they have a predilection for this nonsense as opposed to the stuff penned by the highly seasoned Krauthammer or even Yours Truly.
Unfortunately, the welfare-warfare statists - from the general populace to the federal government - refuse to accept that painful truth, despite the evidence in support of this reasoning.
As noted earlier, it was the terrorism issue that primarily got Bush reelected as opposed to the widely-held and publicly-claimed conventional wisdom that "moral values" paved the way for Bush's electoral victory. However, that is not the only reason for this. Another significant factor in Bush's reelection was the expanionist welfare-warfare state that has wrongly and foolishly guided America for generations, even since the late 1800s.
The American voters surely reelected Bush with the foolhardy and wrongheaded tenet that the president can adequately centrally plan the economy (i.e. "create jobs, putting people to work, and produce all the goods and services in the country") and that he can "protect" the American people by preserving his precious War on Terror (which has made us more susceptible and more vulnerable to terrorist attacks than ever). But it goes beyond that.
The election has cemented a much deeper meaning than the statists will ever acknowledge. It has proven that the American people refuse to contemplate a stronger, more viable alternative than what we have experienced within the last four years.
Within the last four years we have witnessed a gargantuan growth in government power at a mind-numbing (not to mention mind-boggling) rate. With the creation of a new federal bureaucracy (i.e. "the Department of Homeland Security"), new spying powers (i.e. "The Patriot Act and The Patriot Act II"), two disastrous wars (i.e. "The Wars with Afghanistan and Iraq"), a torture scandal (i.e. "the Abu Gharaib Incident"), and the most colossal expansion of federal entitlements since the Great Society (i.e. "the ownership society, the Medicare Drug Prescription Benefit, etc"), and many other federal abominations, these tyrannical acts alone make the Clinton-Gore years look like a surreal Looney Tunes cartoon in every way, shape, and form.
All in all, it makes the Democrats look like child's play next to the Republicans. That's not to say that the Democrats are bad - after all, they have been advocating tax-and-spend boondoggles for decades and the Kerry for President Campaign was no different. But the Republicans are worse, as they, along with their neoconservative and conservative collectivist cronies, are nothing but borrow-and-spend cheerleaders for the state (i.e. "inflating the money supply via the Federal Reserve to cover the Iraq War occupation costs").
What has been distressing is that none of the cronies in the media mention that the "moral values" theory did not even come into the electorate's mind weeks prior to the election. (Let's stop branding the media as "the liberal media" or "the conservative media"; instead, let's brand it as the statist media that supports tyranny across the board, as it has done time after time.) But why is that, you say?
Well, you've guessed it; the issue was never brought up weeks - or even days - prior to the election because it was never a legitimate factor for the voters who were heading to the precincts on November 2. No columnist, political analyst, or any pundit even raised the issue on Fox News, CNN, or even MSNBC prior to Election Day.
So why the fuss over this matter in the first place? The reason is that the theory was made an issue a day after the election by the media as well as the darlings of the Left and the Religious Right. And it was done for one reason and one obvious reason only: to distract us from the real issue at hand, being the War on Terror and the War with Iraq.
Should we be surprised that it happened that way in the first place?
Moreover, the "moral values" claim is a great way for the Religious Right and the Left to put on their masks and begin their theatrical performances for the American populace to see. The issue is rather subjective and not objective. Republicans spend a good deal of time conflating morality with religion in response to the "gay marriage" issue, which is something at which they are quite good. It may make them feel "moral," but it doesn't stand to reason that they are moral on the issues or any other issues of paramount importance to the electorate.
After all, whose "moral values" are we talking about here? We're not talking about the "values" of conservative Christians who claim to be moral - in this case, religious and societal ethics. We're talking about a group of individuals who, via the interpretation of their religion, irrationally believe that all sinners should be stoned (this so-called "moral value" is something they want codified into law), all forms of non-traditional voluntary sexual practices should be outlawed, all alternative religions should be banned (if practitioners are discovered, they should be imprisoned or persecuted or burned to the death), all nations should be converted to Christianity by brute force, and all forms of government power should be inflated at their whim.
Those are the people whom we are talking about.
The theory advanced by the media and the Left and the Right on the "moral values" issue is cute but is false and deceptive. There is no evidence proving that this matter had any impact on the election, let alone a substantial one. And even if it did, the impact was more than likely minute.
Whether people believe it or not - even acknowledge it or not - the "moral values" racket was a nice argument to hear, and it kept the statists moving on their feet. However, it has no real legs to stand on, as both the Left and the Right are aware of this very well.
For these reasons, it is incumbent upon the American people to reject the "moral values" theory and begin traveling back on the path to individual liberty, limited government, personal responsibility, free enterprise, federalism, and the rule of law. The future of our nation may now lie on their hands, but it will later lie in the hands of our children and our grandchildren. That has most certainly yet to come.
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