November 03, 2004

Which 'moral values'?

Over at Political Animal, Amy Sullivan has an excellent post that takes some of the 'common wisdom' that pundits and the press is spinning about the election results — that Kerry lost because his campaign foundered on the issue of 'moral values':

I gotta say, it doesn't help much when exit polls and sloppy reporting use terms like "moral values" and "moral issues" as shorthand for very narrow, divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage, feeding into twenty years of Republican rhetoric. Opposition to the war in Iraq is a moral issue. The alleviation of poverty is a moral issue. Concern about abortion is a moral value, yes, but you can stay at the level of empty rhetoric about a "culture of life" or you can talk about how to actually reduce abortion rates, which is what most people care about more. (Did you hear once during this election season that abortion rates have risen under W. after they fell dramatically during Clinton's eight years in office?)

"Religious" does not mean Republican. And "moral" does not mean conservative. There's going to be a lot of discussion about all of this over the coming weeks and months, and it's incredibly important to make sure we're neither sloppy about our terms nor overly broad in how we characterize "the faithful."

We couldn't agree more.

Posted by Magpie at November 3, 2004 11:09 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

I want to ask: what is with the protesters in Portland and elsewhere who are challenging the vote results and the president's legitimacy? Do they not understand that the majority of Americans do not think the way they do? I don't understand how they cannot realize that democracy worked as it should, i.e., the will of the majority prevailed. They may not like the majority opinion, but that is how it is, and he is their president, no matter their denials. Please, someone, explain this to me, because these protesters just appear to me and the vast majority of the country (yes, even Democrats) to be way off-base, and they are giving the Democratic party a bad name.

Unrelated to that and in regards to the "moral values" post, the polling surveys asked voters what their priorities were, and the number of respondents who said "moral values" was their first priority were overwhelmingly Republicans. The pundits were not saying that "conservative" equates with "moral" any more than "liberal" does; they were merely saying that Republicans tended to label their chief concerns differently than did Democrats. This is a product of the mindsets of the individuals polled more than a social commentary on the place of "morality" in segments of our society. Don't read so much into it.

Posted by: Iris at November 4, 2004 04:46 AM

those protestors have a constitutional right to express their opinion, and it's not for the rest of us to argue that point -- although if we disagree with their opinion, we can certainly say so. and i trust that you're not saying that because dubya was re-elected, we all have to close ranks and support him ...

as for the demonstrations reflecting bad on democrats, they do so only if democrats allow that to happen.

as to 'moral values,' the pollsters used a fairly meaningless buzz word in asking their question. and the criticism isn't that voters consider 'moral values' important, it's that both the polls and the pundits are tossing around a phrase that can mean just about anything one wants. concern about 'moral values' can easily cover, for example, a person who believes abortion is murder but also believes that war is murder and supports gay rights is overed by the 'moral values' label, as is anotehr person believes that abortion is murder, homosexuality is a sin, and abstinence is the only proper form of sexual behavior for unmarried people. i'm sure you'll agree with me that those two sets of beliefs are very different from each other and stem from very different interpretations of Christian scriptures. lumping them together under the label 'moral values' hides differences and impoverishes any discussion of the proper role of religious belief in public life.

Posted by: Magpie at November 4, 2004 09:06 AM

For most people (20 % answering the question favorably), moral values isn't a grey area of which ones but more of a black and white area of all of them. That would include gay/ lesbian lingho in text books, prayer in the schools, break down of moral quality in the media, television and movies, being called hicks and banjo players by our more liberal cousins on the coasts, ect, ect , ect.

Posted by: Ray Buck at November 6, 2004 01:39 PM