Left Misses Mark on Morals

In the wake of a crushing electoral defeat in which a plurality of voters chose “moral values” as their reason for supporting Republican George W. Bush, left-wing Democrats remained largely oblivious to the cultural blind spot that caused them to lose the presidency and seats in both houses of Congress. In analyzing the November 2 election, progressives are faulting not the social agenda that drove union members, Hispanics and other groups further toward Republicans, but rather Democrat candidate John Kerry’s failure to speak enough about his religion and use the right “values language.” “Senator Kerry is a clearly secular candidate, uneasy about talking about his faith in public,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the left-wing group Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), at a post-mortem session at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. November 5. Borosage blamed Kerry and other Democratic candidates for using the wrong terminology to address social-conservative Democrat voters. He argued that Democrats must change the definition of “values” by emphasizing progressive economic policies and class warfare. “Democrats are comfortable in churches,” said Borosage, suggesting that the left must “talk about their programs in moral terms…I think Democrats, if they’re wise, all of them are going to Bible school, and they’re going to relearn the language of values again,” he said. “They are clueless,” said Gary Bauer, a former social-conservative Republican candidate for President and president of the group American Values. “If, as a party, they can’t bring themselves to oppose partial-birth abortion, and to aggressively defend marriage as being between a man and a woman, then I don’t think there’s a Bible school long enough to help them.” Bauer pointed out that Kerry was enough at ease with his Catholic faith to discuss his service as an altar boy in two of the three presidential debates. But he brought it up as an excuse for his support of tax-funded abortions and Roe v. Wade. Less than a week after he spoke, Democrats appeared to be embracing Borosage’s suggestion. Appearing at Tufts University, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) gave a speech on how moral values have less to do with abortion and homosexuality than they do with left-wing economic policies. “No one can read the New Testament of our Bible without recognizing that Jesus had a lot more to say about how we treat the poor than most of the issues that were talked about in this election,” she said. Pollster Stan Greenberg was more sober in addressing the numbers behind the defeat. Speaking at the CAF event, he noted bluntly that Hispanics–the majority of whom embrace social-conservative views on abortion and homosexuality, even if they habitually vote Democratic–gave Bush a greater percentage of their votes in 2004 than they did in 2000, according to exit polls. National exit polls showed a 9% gain for Bush with 44%, and Greenberg’s post-election survey showed a 7% gain. “The seven-point shift on Hispanics to George Bush, I have no doubt…that seven-point rise is amongst culturally, socially conservative voters,” said Greenberg, who also noted that Bush improved with union households for the same reason. According to exit polls, Bush polled 38% with union members, a four point gain over 2000, and 40% in union households, or three points better than in 2000.