George Bush’s 2004 electoral victory, when he won both the electoral college and popular vote, may well be down to one unexpected but key reason – many who voted for him did so with moral issues uppermost in their minds. If this is indeed the case, then this election is historic – it consigns to history the Clintonian dictum, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’
Peter Glover offers a personal view.
I watched the unfolding drama of this election by ‘surfing’ the US cable and British news channels. The first exit appraisals led some pollsters to call this election early for John Kerry. With the highest voter turnout for decades, early voter responses and the prevailing punditry seemed to indicate a Kerry victory.
Some believed that the wave of new and young ‘predominantly liberal’ internet voters would swing the election for the Democrats.
But as observers grew perplexed at the disparity between the exit polls and the actual results, other early polling data offered an intriguing clue as to why Bush was winning.
What mattered most?
Most commentators thought that Iraq would be the key issue of this election. But while Iraq was significant for both sets of voters, it turned out not to be the critical issue for the supporters of either side.
Kerry voter concerns were centred on: Economy and jobs 34%; Iraq 24%; healthcare 14%.
But for Bush voters, surprisingly, the main concerns turned out to be: Moral issues 35%; Iraq 33%; economy 14%.
As the stunned CNN anchor who reported the figures conceded, these findings were ‘something of a shock’.
If these data do indeed reflect the way most people voted, then it provides much food for thought, especially for future campaigns. For Democrats, moral concerns did not even register on their radar. For a large percentage of Republican voters, however, they were the critical issue.
It appears that religious voters, along with others troubled about the moral decline in their nation, rebelled at the prospect of a vacillating President Kerry – open to more abortion on demand, unregulated stem cell research, and a downgraded definition of marriage and family.
Bush’s track record
In his first term, George W. Bush had signed the Partial-birth Abortion Bill, which put an end to the ghastly dismembering of babies at or during the birth process. Such appalling late-term abortions are rarely if ever conducted for medical reasons.
President Clinton, although ‘personally against’ partial-birth abortion, had refused to sign a previous incarnation of the bill – on the same pragmatic grounds that would later mark Kerry’s moral stance. He would not force his personal beliefs on the American public – even if it meant the death of perfectly healthy babies.
By this single action,George W. Bush (and I have not heard him given any credit for this in the UK) saved the lives of thousands of future unborn children. Bush makes no secret of the fact that he is ‘anti-abortion’ (though I realise he does not go far enough for many anti-abortionists).
John Kerry also believes that ‘life begins at conception’, but has no wish to impose ‘my personal views on the American public’. By default, of course, this yields the platform to those who are more than willing to impose their liberal personal beliefs on others.
This is a sign of how religion has become ‘privatised’ in our age. But the Christian faith is not (and never has been) a private matter, but is a very public faith that serves the best interests of the whole community. It has vigorous arguments against such things as abortion and these should be heard, not hidden.
George Bush has also made it clear that he believes marriage was created by God as an institution and union between a man and a woman. Once again, however, the pragmatist Kerry attempted to dodge controversy by drawing a spurious distinction between private belief and public action.
In short, Kerry’s nuanced logic is an impediment to both forming and pursuing right moral action for the common good. By severing the link between personal belief and public strategy, Kerry reveals himself to be no more principled than a man with no convictions at all.
Bush, on the other hand, is what computer buffs call ‘wysiwyg’ – like him or not, ‘what you see is what you get’. He does not hesitate to apply private belief in the cause of public good.
This is why secular pragmatists like Kerry, Chirac and Schroeder (and many others with elastic moral systems) so misunderstand Bush. If there is one thing a liberal secularist cannot stand, it is a man with convictions.
Unlike anti-Christian Europe and post-Christian Britain, the USA still possesses a national vestige of Christian faith or, at the very least, a powerful ‘memory’ of it. This often drives its people to do ‘the right thing’ when others are reluctant to do so.
As an example, the Americans are strongly criticised for military interventionism. But let us not forget that it was they who shed their blood with us in two world wars and other global conflicts last century. It was America which left its troops thousands of miles from home in Eastern Europe to neutralise Soviet aggression during the ‘cold war’. We owe a great deal to American interventionism!
Saddam Hussein found out to his cost that the American character often has a nasty habit of biting back when it chooses to. The destruction of two-thirds of the al Quaeda leadership since 9/11 reveals that it can do so effectively.
Although secular liberal ideology is steadily debilitating American society and morality, the USA still has some way to travel before it reaches the cynical, amoral condition of many European nations.
Britain itself is not far behind Europe in this decline. First comes the loss of spiritual ideology. Next comes the loss of conviction. Although much American Christianity has a superficial and pragmatic quality (like Kerry) or lacks articulated coherence (as often with Bush) America is truly the last bastion of Western Christendom – which is the ideological powerhouse of Western civilisation.
This is why non-Christian Europe despises it; why post-Christian Britain is uncomfortable with it; and why Islamic militancy wants to destroy it at any cost. By putting George Bush back in the Oval Office – with a increased popular vote and for moral reasons – the American people have delivered an answer that should encourage principled and believing people throughout the world, whatever their political stance.
The author has recently published ‘The Politics of Faith: Essays on the morality of key current affairs,Xulon Press ISBN 1-594677-96-4.