The Values-Vote Myth

David Brooks sums up quite nicely what I’ve been saying this week regarding the reasons why Bush won the election. The popular myth seems to be that this victory was as a result of social conservatives coming out to vote for W en masse. Brooks takes a closer look at the numbers and disagrees:

Every election year, we in the commentariat come up with a story line to explain the result, and the story line has to have two features. First, it has to be completely wrong. Second, it has to reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them.

In past years, the story line has involved Angry White Males, or Willie Horton-bashing racists. This year, the official story is that throngs of homophobic, Red America values-voters surged to the polls to put George Bush over the top.

This theory certainly flatters liberals, and it is certainly wrong.

Here are the facts. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center points out, there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year. Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.

Please make sure to read the entire piece. This part was especially on the mark, considering the rantings of people such as Jane Smiley who are still in denial over why the Dems lost the election:

But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?

What we are seeing is a diverse but stable Republican coalition gradually eclipsing a diverse and stable Democratic coalition. Social issues are important, but they don’t come close to telling the whole story. Some of the liberal reaction reminds me of a phrase I came across recently: The rage of the drowning man.

Liberals and the mainstream press want you to believe this election victory for W was as a result of the homophobic, bigoted, intolerant voters came out and voted in large numbers on moral values as they related to gay marriage, abortion, etc. Don’t believe them for a second.

More: Slate picks up on this as well.

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