The New York Times is finally publishing a conservative voice other than the arrogant William Safire’s. The latter’s irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton (among other things) has long since disqualified him as a representative intellectual of the right wing. David Brooks, on the other hand, seems to be able to think things through, at least as far as his beliefs will allow.
Today he writes to deny the “values-voter” narrative of the election just past, pointing out that the percentages of evangelical voters, and of voters who specifically believe that (for example) abortion is wrong in all cases, did not change from 2000 to 2004.
The fact is that if you think we are safer now, you probably voted for Bush. If you think we are less safe, you probably voted for Kerry. That’s policy, not fundamentalism. The upsurge in voters was an upsurge of people with conservative policy views, whether they are religious or not.
It may be policy, but it’s partisan policy, not policy based on what’s good for the country as a whole. As Adam Felber puts it in his brilliant “concession speech”:
We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about ‘em. We in the blue states are the only ones who’ve been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name… Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us… we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values.
Felber’s emotional reading of the election is eloquent but typical. If Brooks is right that the “red state” majorities voted for Bush because they believe he has made them safer, then they believe what to most in the “blue states” is an obvious falsehood. The Bush majorities (if indeed they were majorities, but that’s another story) – seem to have turned their backs on us who live in the target areas and who don’t feel safer at all. Their actions seem wilfully blind, if not outright hostile. It’s no wonder the idea of the red-state/blue-state divide has become such a vivid presence in political discourse, on both sides but especially on the left.
Percentages aside, so-called “moral values” do play an important part in many voters’ choices. It’s no coincidence that the same year in which these “moral values” started to seem so important has also been the year of the anti-gay-marriage amendments. Such amendments are hostile in exactly the same way as votes that are putatively based on “feeling safer.” My observation is that many gays throughout the country are feeling personally attacked, and it’s no wonder, since discrimination and prejudice have now been written into eleven state constitutions. “Civil unions,” even if invested with the same rights as marriage, embody the “separate but equal” doctrine, which was decisively rejected by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.
Gays simply must be allowed to marry if they wish. Even if you believe (with the equivocating John Kerry) that it’s a state matter, states must be required to recognize all marriages performed in other states. Anti-gay-marriage amendments are government-endorsed discrimination, plain and simple. The Nazis began their persecution of the Jews with small measures, annoyances really. No one believed it could escalate to death camps and the “final solution” – not until it was far too late, anyway.
We may trust our traditions of democracy and civil rights to prevent the U.S. from becoming a full-fledged fascist dictatorship, but it would be foolish to forget our parallel history of slavery, genocide, lynchings and internment camps. So it would be wrong. To. Assume. Anything. Because you know what happens when you assume.