Explaining my failed predictions.
Well, I was wrong. Two weeks ago, I gave the reasons why Bush will lose. Four million of the Christian conservative base of the Republican Party stayed home in 2000. I figured that the War on Iraq and various domestic compromises and betrayals gave them no reason to vote for the President now if they didn’t then. Yet Bush beat Kerry by some 3.6 million votes, and gained some eight million votes over his 2000 total.
I saw predictions from places like Idaho and Alabama that figured Bush would walk away with it. They have an advantage. I live in a diverse immigrant community in a “blue state” megalopolis. My perceptions of what people out in the sticks were thinking were just that - perceptions, not experiences. I misjudged the priorities of the American people.
My mistake was in under-estimating the role of moral issues. I think the gay marriage scare that started in June, 2003 when the Supreme Court legalized sodomy, followed by legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, put the “cultural” questions to the forefront. It reminded people of the differences between modern liberalism and cultural conservatism.
The other mistake was in under-estimating the number of people who support what we’re doing to Iraq, uh, doing in Iraq. At least half of the American people seem to support it. They merge Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden together, and not a few of them have eschatological reasons for supporting Israel, believing that the Second Coming of Christ is imminent. But even atheists like Christopher Hitchens support the concept of the War on Terror (including the War on Iraq) as a clash of civilizations, a war to the death between the West and militant Islam. And, despite zero evidence in the last fifty years, many Americans believe that American force can make other countries free, democratic, and prosperous.
So here we have George W. Bush, a practicing Christian. At home comes attacks on Christianity from the Left, and abroad comes attacks on Christianity from Islam. God put President Bush here for a reason, and that is to protect our freedom and our values from these evils. The liberal socialist John Kerry will permit pornography on the airwaves and appease the terrorists.
The underlying cause of my errors are cultural. Raised as a northern American Christian in a moderate evangelical church, I grew up with a sense of the “separation of Church and State” which is unique, culturally, only in the northern United States. In all other parts of Christendom, including the South, the Lordship of Jesus Christ applies to all areas of life. Biblical standards of right and wrong apply not only in personal life but also in politics. The most important thing about President Bush is that he’s a Christian.
In other words, millions of Americans, far more than I would have imagined, scarcely have a secular or “liberal” mindset at all. Their fundamentalist faith commands everything in their lives. And I don’t disagree with this. I’d rather have a prayer before a football game and maybe even a small tax to support a state church, just so long as the government otherwise left me alone. The “separation of Church and State” isn’t as important to me than keeping the powers of the State small, limited, and well-defined.
Those who hate and fear Christian fundamentalists most are Liberal Fundamentalists. Those who are rigid about the “separation of Church and State” are so because they fear the Church more than they do the State. But their view of a purely “secular” public order fails to comply with basic logic. Whatever are your deepest held values is your religion and will by necessity be applied to public affairs. Secularism isn’t rational, scientific thought, it is a rival religion.
Many people, especially in the “red states” of the South, feel like they are constantly under attack. They never asked Washington DC to outlaw sodomy or abortion nationally. They never asked Washington to force Californians to say the Pledge of Allegiance “under God.” They never asked Washington to determine the science curriculum in Seattle. They never asked Washington to over-rule gun control statutes in New York. They want to be left by themselves and make the laws for the state and local communities as they see fit.
And when the attacks of their beliefs make their way to the schools and television screens, who’s to blame them for rallying around a President who appears to understand their concerns and take their side?
That said, maybe I’m overstating the case. Maybe for many, it came down to economic freedom. Bush, for all his faults, will tax a little less and regulate a little less. Many Americans do not want the government handouts Democrats promise from election to election.
If that’s the case, the Democrats have a problem. They lost because of their foreign policy multi-lateralism, social liberalism, and economic socialism. How can the Democratic Party regain power without giving up the very things that define the Democratic Party?