Saturday, November 06, 2004

David Brooks and My Good Graces

I've said before that I've never really cared for Brooks, in that he's obnoxious, represents the anti-libertarian wing of conservativism, and a host of other reasons. That said, I'm very surprised to find myself in agreement with him for once. Mark the date.

This is from his autopsy of the election.

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

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.

This dovetails very nicely with boffo's theory about why the election turned out the way it did:

The conventional wisdom that is beginning to coalesce around the election is that Bush won by firing up his base on social issues, especially gay marriage. I'm skeptical of this explanation, because it smacks of the media/left saying "We lost because the evil people were being evil."

I tend to think that Bush won for two reasons:

1. People didn't think they could trust Kerry on national security, which both swung moderates and fired up the base.
2. The noxious behavior of many of those on the left turned off moderate liberals and fired up the conservative base.

I have my own little analysis, and proposal for Democrats, that I'm working on now, and should have posted here soon.


Blogger Lindsay Beyerstein said...

The liberals aren't promoting the unprecedented evangelical turnout narrative. The evangelicals are. David Brooks' voodoo psychology doesn't explain half as much as simple self-interest. As we speak, Ralph Reed, James Dobson, and other leaders of the religious right are self-consciously strutting in the media spotlight. They want to make sure that the Bush administration acknowledges its debts to religious conservatives. The Bush administration is nodding back at the religious right by stepping up the FMA rhetoric again.

Of course, the RR is going to get stabbed in the back. Remember Bush's last-minute reversal on gay marriage? Just before the election he said that he was in favor of recognition for civil unions or domestic partnerships. The evangelicals came out to support him anyway, thereby proving that are easily placated.

Big mistake from the RR's point of view. In politics, there are no unenforceable debts. To see how little the Bush administration respects the religious right, consider the odds on favorite to succeed John Ashcroft--Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice, pro-gay, Catholic. Can you imagine a bigger "fuck you" to the religious right? Except maybe keeping Arlen Specter as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which seems overwhelmingly likely after a perfunctory act of contrition by Specter.

Monday, November 08, 2004 12:59:00 PM  

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