Sunday, November 07, 2004

Deconstructing the "Moral Values" Vote

Over the course of the last couple of days, I've seen enough criticisms of the meme that this election was won on "moral values" to consider a post cataloging those criticisms. Tom McGuire over at Just One Minute beat me to it (Go balloons!). Like Tom (and, I suppose, Glenn Reynolds), this snippet from David Brooks's column, The Values-Vote Myth, strikes me as hitting that pernicious nail on its head:

Every election year, we in the commentariat come up with a story line to explain the result, and the story line has to have two features. First, it has to be completely wrong. Second, it has to reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them.

In past years, the story line has involved Angry White Males, or Willie Horton-bashing racists. This year, the official story is that throngs of homophobic, Red America values-voters surged to the polls to put George Bush over the top.

This theory certainly flatters liberals, and it is certainly wrong.

This election decidedly was not about electing a candidate who represents "moral values" in a strict "you-don't-put-your-penis-there" sense. Many people, myself included, believe that morality in leadership is about doing what you believe is right, the reaction and consequences be damned. The President was willing to lose this election on Iraq -- willing to lose office over doing what he firmly believed was just the right thing to do in terms of this country's security, and the future of the world. Moral values is as much -- if not more -- about making the damned tough decisions. The President can and does make them. There was no evidence -- none at all -- that Kerry would, or even could, as aptly evidenced by his for/against the war positions in 1971 and in 2004.

In short, the bulk of the "moral values" vote was, to me, a for for leadership, and against dithering -- a vote for a Churchillian approach, and against a Clintonian approach. That's not to say that the 'morality of the penis' did not play some role in this election, but to say that the Left attributes the totality of its defeat to that branch of the "moral values" vote at its gravest peril.