November 6, 2004


Blue in a Red America: The values of Red America are ascendant: Fear, intolerance, and an insistence on imposing a pinched notion of morality on everybody else (DAN KENNEDY, 11/06/04, Boston Phoenix)

THE FIRST instance of an angry Democrat blaming Kerry for his loss may have come on Tuesday, before the polls had even closed. The New Republic posted on its Web site an essay by Joseph Finder that argued: "If Kerry loses the election, his failure to speak honestly and strongly about Bush’s pre-9/11 failures will likely go down as his most significant mistake." (I have no idea if Finder is a Democrat, but he sounds like one; more to the point, TNR is a Democratic publication that endorsed Kerry.)

The problem with Finder’s criticism, though, is that it’s so pre-11/2, so — well, reality-based. I’m not sure that any external issues mattered in Bush’s election Tuesday night. That’s because we have entered a new era, one described in chilling detail several weeks ago by Ron Suskind in the New York Times Magazine. Suskind described a chewing-out he once received from a "senior adviser to Bush" after he’d written something for Esquire that the White House didn’t like. Suskind wrote: "The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.’"

Now, Suskind’s piece wasn’t so much about empire as it was about Bush’s embrace of messianic Christianity, a sort of created reality that informs much of his decision-making, one that leads him to separate the world into simplistic categories of good and evil and to believe, always, that he is on the side of good, and of God. It’s a nice thought — but if you’re George W. Bush, how do you know whether you’re really on God’s side? Trouble is, he acts as though his religion leads him to believe he’s always right. And there’s little doubt that his most ardent supporters feel the same way. Consider the war in Iraq, which was — or least should have been — the overarching issue in this campaign. It is as clear as any politically charged fact can be that Bush exaggerated, relied on dubious intelligence, and lied in order to come up with a pretext for the war — that is, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and had provided a base of operations for Al Qaeda. None of this, as we have known for many months, was even remotely true. More than 1100 American soldiers, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians, have paid for this tragic folly with their lives, and there is no hope that we can be extricated from the Iraq quagmire anytime soon. Yet even though this may prove to be an even more grotesque foreign-policy blunder than Vietnam, Bush’s most enthusiastic followers seem not to care. Polls show that a majority of Bush supporters actually believe that we have found WMD in Iraq, and that Saddam even had some nebulous involvement in 9/11. Thus we have Bush creating his own reality — a faith-based war for which tens of thousands of human beings have paid in actual blood. And those of us in the reality-based community are left to look on in horror.

After what happened on Tuesday, I’m reluctant to cite exit polls, but cite them I must, since I have no other, uh, reality-based standard on which to rely. So: according to exit polls conducted by NBC News, 21 percent of voters on Tuesday said "moral values" were the most important issue to them. (Why aren’t they ever asked if "hate and the opportunity to discriminate" were what brought them to the polls?) Believe it or not, that was higher than the percentage of voters who cited either the economy or terrorism as the most important issue. Of those who identified "moral values" as their key issue, 78 percent said they had voted for Bush. Fully one in five voters was a self-described evangelical Christian.

If Boston — along with New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles — is one of the capitals of Blue America, the NBC exit polls describe the very definition of Red America: bigoted, intolerant, fearful of the unknown, ever ready to impose its own version of morality on everyone else. Let me admit right here that I’m struggling — much of what I’ve written about Red Americans this morning strikes me as intolerant of them. As a devoted secularist with a number of religious friends, I certainly don’t want to come off as though I’m denigrating religion itself. But the essence of liberalism is that religion must exist in its own sphere, and though it needn’t be private, it has no business poking its nose under other people’s tents. If you’re opposed to abortion, then don’t have one. If you think homosexuality is a sin, then don’t have sex with someone of the same gender. Now, this all makes perfect sense to me. The trouble is, tolerance is perhaps the most vital component of a liberal value system, and it’s at the heart of what makes Blue America what it is. And Red America values neither tolerance nor liberalism. Not to sound too arrogant, but I don’t think we would have any trouble living with them — it’s they who have trouble living with us.

And now they’ve won.

There was never any chance that a war somewhere else was going to be the most important issue in an American election. Americans, for obvious reasons, are primarily concerned about their own country. So the President was going to benefit enough from a reasonably good economy that his victory was inevitable. And because the economy was not an issue for most of us, but the prolonged assault on traditional values by an elite judiciary, media, academia, and Democratic hierarchy was it left an opening for morality to emerge as the most important issue for most voters. Mr. Kennedy may not wish to sound intolerant, but he does sound like a bigot. The bigger problem though is that his is the bigotry of a minority for the majority and you don't need to be a political scientist to know that the few who despise the many rarely fair well in politics. Their attempt to impose their own morality--or lack of same--upon an entire nation is a project that is especially unlikely to succeed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2004 7:03 PM

This guy is also incoherent in his arguments.

1) What is "simplistic" about the categories of good & evil? Unless, of course, you believe that neither good nor evil exists.

2) "his religion leads him to believe hes always right." He has this exactly backwards. (Another example of liberal conflation of cause and effect.) It's not that Bush always believes he is in the right. It's that Bush only does things that be believes are right.

3) "None of this, as we have known for many months, was even remotely true." and "Iraq quagmire" He had fallen for the fallacy of thinking that saying it's so makes it so.

4) "a faith-based war for which tens of thousands of human beings have paid in actual blood" ... "those of us in the reality-based community are left to look on in horror"
Yeah, but the 300,000-500,000 bodies in mass graves don't bother them one iota.

5) "If youre opposed to abortion, then dont have one. If you think homosexuality is a sin, then dont have sex with someone of the same gender." And if you think murder is wrong, don't kill anybody. But, OTOH, if your neighbor thinks that murder is OK, then you must not object.

Posted by: ray at November 6, 2004 9:14 PM


I did find it amusing that, in connecting (a) Bush's alleged belief that he is always right with (b) failures of pre-war intelligence, the author never gets around to discussing whether toppling Saddam (the result) was right.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at November 6, 2004 9:26 PM

I agree with your analysis. The NBC poll did show total domestic issues trumping Terror/Iraq. However, Bush got 16.38% of his votes based on 'moral issues' and 18.9% based on Terror/Iraq.

As for SSM, it is liberals who conflate faith & governance. It is an article of the liberal "faith" that SSM is fair and reasonable. And anything fair and reasonable is already in the Constitution. The perfect Manufactured- Consent closed-circle.

There are few things more bigoted than stealing a people's right to govern themselves.

Posted by: Noel at November 7, 2004 12:54 AM

Where did he get the idea that Bush is a Messianic Christian? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that where you practice Judaism as well as believe in Christ?

100,000 Iraqis dead? Huh?

And what about these WMDs. My wife's cousin was gassed in Iraq. Two of his buddies were killed. Maybe news like that doesn't get out because of the secret and sensitive work he does, but he was lucky to survive.

Dissimulation does not a point make.

(Sorry for posting anon but maybe news like that is NOT supposed to get out. I don't really know.)

Posted by: at November 7, 2004 1:16 AM


Are you saying your wife's cousin was in Iraq this time?

As for the President's religion, he seems to be a pretty much mainstream Methodist. He is not an Evangelical, or a Charismatic, or a "Fundamentalist", though trying to explain that to a liberal is a loser's game.

The "100,000 dead Iraqis" is an attempt by the British medical journal "Lancet" to sway the election. The methodology is dumb and has been picked apart on various blogs. Even dumber is thinking that the number of dead Iraqis would effect the American election at all. This isn't quite as counterproductive as the Guardian's efforts in Clark County as Americans just don't care.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 7, 2004 8:47 AM

Some Americans do actually care.

Posted by: at November 7, 2004 4:10 PM

Yes, David. He was in Iraq 2003 when that happened. His second deployment recently ended and he is not due back until next summer.

Posted by: at November 8, 2004 1:53 AM

The "Pinched Notion of Morality" that could have gotten me a wife by now if we hadn't Evolved Beyond All That back in the Sixties?

Posted by: Ken at November 8, 2004 1:00 PM


No American cares if 1 or 1,000,000 Iraqi's were killed in the course of the war, other than as it confirms their pre-war political positions.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 8, 2004 5:09 PM
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