Voting Moral Values

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Now that the election is over, Andrew Sullivan seems, at least for a few minutes, to be back to his old, balanced self. He prints the following email he received:

You are wrong. Gays were NOT the issue. I'm a born again Christian, (raised Baptist, then Pentecostal!) Morals were my deciding factor also. Not anything to do with "gay" I live next door to San Francisco and have gay family and dear friends since 1976. BEFORE it was cool. BEFORE it accepted like it is today, I have had 4 friends die of AIDS. The morals I cared about? A president who meant what he said. A man who is faithful to his wife. A man who doesn't pander to Hollywood. A man who is not ashamed to say he prays and give credit to a higher power, who helps him. A man who doesn't try to please all the people all the time. A man who shares my deeply held belief about freedom and what a GREAT country America is, and someone who knew Saddam Hussein has murdered 400,000 innocent men, women and children. I did not care if there were weapons of mass destruction, Saddam himself was a weapon of mass destruction. We are better off today, with this man gone from power, who can argue that? Who are these people that say we should have not gone in there, I thought we should of done this YEARS ago.

I'm getting pretty tired of all the assumptions that the "moral values" people were voting according to were simply about gay marriage. That certainly drove out a lot of people in those eleven states, and that probably increased the number of Bush voters who considered that issue a priority, but there were so many issues in this race that fall under that label, and for many it was abortion, stem cells, and cloning.

For many it was a clear sense that Bush isn't the liar but Kerry is. For many it was about moral courage in standing up to terrorism, which Kerry appears weaker on. For many it was about judicial appointments with all the issues raised by that, not just abortion but judges willing to be harsher on crime, willing to retain the death penalty, and willing to allow law enforcement more leeway when it comes to terrorism without decrying it as a violation of constitutional rights. For many it's a stronger sense of promoting achievement and a work ethic through generally conservative economic policies, including those on race. For many it's simply a sense of understanding where Bush is coming from as a normal-seeming human being whose life and cultural values are more down-home, even if he's got more money. There's a moral element of cultural values, and it finds its place among all these moral issues in the minds of many people.

If many Bush voters find many of these these sorts of things to be important factors (as they do) and also happen to consider them moral issues (as they do), then if they also oppose gay marriage as a moral issue (as many do), that does not mean gay marriage was the deciding factor. Too many pundits seem to think moral values couldn't include anything but gay marriage. Sullivan has finally picked up on this because of a reader willing to speak his language (i.e. saying something nice about gay people). He says he agrees and hopes most of the people saying they were voting on moral values had the same idea (but suspects many in the organized religious right do consider homosexuality part of it).

I greatly respect Wink's position on legislating morality that has gotten much attention around here recently. I agree with much of what he says. I just don't think very many people use the word 'morality' the way he does. I think the average red stater (or would-be red-stater if the people surrounding them agreed with them more!) sees all the issues I just raised as moral issues, and many of them have at least some key component that fits into Wink's category of civil values. That's why I don't think

I don't agree with everything either the letter writer or Sullivan says, but it's nice to see him willing to listen and not label all politically and socially conservative Christians or evangelicals with the broad brush he's been using since Bush endorsed the FMA. The fact that he even distinguishes between the organized religious right and other ways of being in the religious right is a huge step. I may start reading him again. His portrayal of people who don't see homosexuality as morally neutral was the reason I stopped reading him every day, and not too long after that he started to push reason aside with other issues whenever he had the chance to say anything bad about Bush, as if his bitterness over the gay marriage thing had clouded his ability to perceive the truth about anything Bush did. By that point I began to visit his site less than once a month. It just wasn't worth the time. All I need to do is go to a certain faculty member's office while he's there and mention something political, and I'll get similar things. I don't need Andrew Sullivan for that. This was even true on issues I'd greatly respected his thoughts on beforehand. I'm hoping the old Andrew is now back. We'll see. His comment right below it is about as underhanded (and irrelevant) as you can get, so I don't have high hopes.

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