Another conservative columnist is taking issue with the belief that traditional moral values helped elect Bush. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post is disputing that social conservatism played a role in the Bush victory. Why? One reason is that he is apparently upset that liberals are using the results to depict the Bush majority as Christian, bigoted and redneck. Moral values were the top priority for 22 percent of the people surveyed.
Krauthammer, who also disputes the definition of the term and the data, writes that moral values can “encompass abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood’s influence, the general coarsening of the culture and, for some, the morality of preemptive war.” But the Iraq war was a different option in the poll and this issue hurt Bush. Seventy-three percent of those who chose the Iraq war as an issue voted against the President.
Of the small percentage of those who cited this as an issue to vote for Bush, can it really be maintained with a straight face that this is because of an abstract moral theory about preemptive war? Conservatives have to be honest in saying that the Iraq war was a loser for Bush at the polls. On the other hand, the war on terrorism in general was a winner.
Of those who chose moral values, 80 percent voted for Bush over Kerry. Other pollsters found similar results. Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company determined that 16 percent of the electorate chose “morality and family values” as critical to the vote. Conway says that the “strong presence” of the values voters, “including those who were energized by ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriages in their states, was also apparent in other questions posed in the survey.” For example, she found that 52 percent of those voting for Bush reported that his religious faith was “very important ” in their vote. Of those who voted on the Iraq war, she found that 75 percent chose Kerry and only 25 percent chose Bush.
Krauthammer dismisses the idea that the gay-marriage referendums “pushed Bush over the top, particularly in Ohio,” as “nonsense.” He says that the “great anti-gay surge was pure fiction” because their passage didn’t help Bush. Some of the difference is explained by those who voted for the anti-homosexual measures but against Bush because of Iraq, the economy or health care. Krauthammer is assuming that at least some of those voting for the anti-homosexual measures would have voted for Bush, based on the belief that Bush, too, favored those measures. But Bush never campaigned for any of them. Instead, he talked generally about family values, noted his support for a marriage amendment on the federal level during one of the debates, and even endorsed homosexual unions a week before the election.
That leads to the conclusion that Bush could have benefited from the passage of those ballot measures if only his position on them had been much more explicit. In short, Bush may have achieved a landslide if he had handled the issue more adroitly. Some of the values voters, who passed those anti-homosexual measures, were not given enough of a reason to vote for Bush.