I voted for Bush but I am a social liberal, an economic and environmental moderate, and a strong believer in the separation of church and state. Based upon what I have been told by many on both sides of the Great Divide, I should be very concerned about what the 2004 election results say about our nation, a result to which I contributed with my vote.
But I am not worried about the social and moral state of the nation more than usual, and think voters are a lot smarter and more nuanced than many are giving them credit for: a vote for Bush was not necessarily a vote against social tolerance or any other broad-based agenda. In my case, I just thought it best to return Bush to office to (attempt to) finish what he began regarding the war on terror. I simply thought he was the best choice at this time under these circumstances: that's it - no broader agenda than that.
I didn't give the guy a "mandate," I gave him a vote based upon my own personal juggling and balancing of priorities, just like most of the rest of the nation that doesn't have a stereotypical "agenda" and set of litmus tests. And a lot of people vote Republican out of a perceived preference from their wallets, whether they admit it to pollsters or not.
And then there is the whole red and blue nonsense: a stark graphic that purports to reveal so much more than it actually reveals as to end up a net knowledge — or at least insight — loss. The red and blue depiction (see below) DOES reveal the political realities that derive from our winner-take-all electoral college system for the states in presidential elections, but otherwise it fails both on geographical and on social/moral levels because its surface is so glossily shallow it obscures equally or more important underlying truths and realities.
As to the moral issues, for once I agree entirely with Frank Rich, who as a political columnist I typically view as a fine theater critic:
- There's only one problem with the storyline proclaiming that the country swung to the right on cultural issues in 2004. Like so many other narratives that immediately calcify into our 24/7 media's conventional wisdom, it is fiction. Everything about the election results - and about American culture itself - confirms an inescapable reality: John Kerry's defeat notwithstanding, it's blue America, not red, that is inexorably winning the culture war, and by a landslide. Kerry voters who have been flagellating themselves since Election Day with a vengeance worthy of "The Passion of the Christ" should wake up and smell the Chardonnay.