“I feel like we’ve finally got our country back,” a lady told my wife the morning after John Kerry conceded.
George W. Bush was re-elected president as his father was not because he converted the election of 2004 into a triumphant and epic battle of the culture war, as his father refused to do in 1992.
As much credit as Karl Rove is due for Bush’s victory, let us not forget the indispensable Margaret Marshall. She is the chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, who, a year ago, ordered the legislature and Gov. Romney to begin handing out marriage licenses to homosexuals.
Her 4-3 decision stunned and instantly radicalized Middle America. On Tuesday, 11 states, including Ohio, held referenda to outlaw gay marriages. All won handily. It was this issue of gay marriage that produced the massive turnout of evangelical born-again Christians, who were 23 percent of all the voters on Tuesday.
These evangelical Christians went 78-21 for George Bush.
Among the 22 percent of the electorate that considered “moral values” decisive, Bush won 80-18. He carried 54 percent of the Catholic vote and 59 percent of the Protestant vote.
Liberals and the Hollyleft — with their sneering contempt for the Religious Right, their celebration of “alternative lifestyles” and their canonization of Justice Marshall and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom — got Kerry crushed.
Only among those who considered terrorism the critical issue, 19 percent, did Bush do as well, carrying 86 percent of that vote.
As for the 20 percent who believed jobs and the economy were the primary issues of 2004, Bush lost 18-80, the exact reverse of his landslide on moral values.
This should tell the president that America’s patience with a trade policy that is outsourcing factories and jobs is now exhausted. Had it not been for the moral values issue, the jobs issue would have killed Bush in Ohio, and he would not be president after Jan. 20.
Among those who considered Iraq the major issue, 15 percent of all voters, the president lost three-to-one. This suggests that President Bush has no mandate for a five-year war and had best end this conflict soon, or it will end GOP dominance of Congress in 2006.
Did Bush’s bloating of the Department of Education with No Child Left Behind and his prescription drug benefit for seniors help in 2004? Hardly. Of the 12 percent who listed education or health care as the most important issue, Kerry won three-to-one.
In the last analysis, then, President Bush won because of his religious convictions, his leadership in the War on Terror and his relentless fight for lower taxes.
John Kerry, despite the hours he spent in churches and the constant reminders he gave us that he had been an altar boy, could not convince traditional Catholics or evangelical Christians he was one of them in his beliefs, and not some closet secularist.
But now President Bush must deliver for those who put their trust in his religious convictions and moral values. For, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist in declining health and three other justices cancer survivors, the probability of early openings on the Supreme Court becomes a near certainty. The last best chance to overturn Roe vs. Wade is at hand.
Yet already, Sen. Arlen Specter, who would not have been renominated by Pennsylvania Republicans without Bush’s support, has put the president on notice not to elevate any pro-life judge or constitutional conservative to the Supreme Court. What gives Specter’s warning weight is that he will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, replacing the term-limited Orrin Hatch.
Testing time, then, for President Bush and the new GOP Senate comes early. Now that Specter has thrown down the gauntlet to the president, Bush and Senate Republicans must pick it up. They should warn Specter that if he opposes Bush’s Supreme Court nominees on the grounds they might vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, Senate colleagues will act to remove him as chairman of the judiciary committee for imposing the John Kerry litmus test for Supreme Court justices.
If Specter intends to be an obstructionist on an issue of vital import for the largest block of loyal voters President Bush has, the president must stand with his people and against the senator.
With re-election, President Bush has been given a historic opportunity to use nominations and legislative restrictions to end a 50-year rampage by the Supreme Court against the values of the middle class. Whether he accepts this cup, or lets it pass away, will tell us whether or not the lady was right when she burbled, “I feel like we’ve finally got our country back.”