Saturday, November 06, 2004

It's the Terrorism, Stupid.

The colloquy that's been going on over the past few days began with the observation--or lament--that progressives became the obvious political minority in this country; and that there is now a good likelihood that conservative social policies, motivated by a particular political ideology, will be enacted over the next two, probably four, years. Since then, much of the discussion has focused on gay marriage.

David Brooks in the New York Times today has take on the election that seems to be gaining currency: Bush didn't win the election because the Republican party was able to mobilize the anti-gay marriage vote: he won broadly, and he won on terrorism. Here's the meat of the article:

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. The upsurge in voters was an upsurge of people with conservative policy views, whether they are religious or not.

I think there's a lot to this. Not to minimize the value of the current discussion, but if Brooks is right, then it may be easier for progressives to persuade voters than it might otherwise be if "moral values" (whatever that means, according to Brooks) were the key to this election.