November 6, 2004


The Values-Vote Myth (DAVID BROOKS, 11/06/04, NY Times)

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. [...]

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

He was a popular incumbent with a good ecenomy in a fairly conservative nation--everything else is window-dressing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2004 9:25 AM

Brooks decided for a change not to be cutesy and actually write something of value.

Posted by: Bart at November 6, 2004 10:43 AM

He ought to have done better, then, you'd think.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 6, 2004 1:55 PM


Why? He did as well as any wartime president has. FDR lost control of Congress in '42 and barely beat Dewey in '44. Truman and LBJ had to retire.

Posted by: oj at November 6, 2004 2:51 PM

What about Nixon in '72?

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at November 6, 2004 3:07 PM

He was there to end the war Democrats had started.

Posted by: oj at November 6, 2004 3:13 PM

Ray Fair predicted Bush would get 57.7% of the two party vote. His error term is ~+/- 2.5%. Since Bush had 51.5% of the 2 party vote. That was 6.2% short of Fair's model and 3.7% outside of the error term.

In July, Evan Thomas of Newsweek claimed that the MSM would give Kerry a 15% advantage. In October, Howard Kurtz interviwed him and he backed down and claimed 5%Link

There are 2 ways of looking at this. One is that Kerry should have had the full 15% and the two party vote should have been Kerry 57.3% (100 - 57.7 + 15) Bush 42.7% and that Kerry ran one of the most inept campaigns in human history and p;$$ed away 10%.

The alternative is that Evan Thomas was playing Gorillas in the Mist in July and was more realistic in October.

The 5% fits nicely with Fair's prediction, and explains why reality fell short of the model. i.e. Fair Model of 57.7% - Thomas Media Factor of 5% = 52.7% , which is within 1.2% of the Actual result of 51.5% and fits within the error term of ~+/-2.5%.

I do not think the 15% was ever anything but boasting. Consider that no northern liberal Democrat has been elected President since Kennedy, and he was not really very liberal. 5% may be about the limit of what the MSM can do, and they may not be able to do it again.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 6, 2004 4:20 PM