Voting Without the Facts
- Voting Without the Facts
By BOB HERBERT
The so-called values issue, at least as it's being popularly tossed
around, is overrated.
Last week's election was extremely close and a modest shift in any
number of factors might have changed the outcome. If the weather had
been better in Ohio. ...If the wait to get into the voting booth
hadn't been so ungodly long in certain Democratic precincts. ... Or
maybe if those younger voters had actually voted. ...
I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a
role in the election's outcome as values. A recent survey by the
Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of
Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters
believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam
Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the
president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were
found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial
majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.
This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people
who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.
The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair
amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report
said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely
to have misperceptions than those who oppose him."
I haven't heard any of the postelection commentators talk about
ignorance and its effect on the outcome. It's all values, all the
time. Traumatized Democrats are wringing their hands and trying to
figure out how to appeal to voters who have arrogantly claimed the
moral high ground and can't stop babbling about their self-
proclaimed superiority. Potential candidates are boning up on new
prayers and purchasing time-shares in front-row-center pews.
A more practical approach might be for Democrats to add teach-ins to
their outreach efforts. Anything that shrinks the ranks of the
clueless would be helpful.
If you don't think this values thing has gotten out of control,
consider the lead paragraph of an op-ed article that ran in The LA.
Times on Friday. It was written by Frank Pastore, a former major
league pitcher who is now a host on the Christian talk-radio station
"Christians, in politics as in evangelism," said Mr. Pastore, "are
not against people or the world. But we are against false ideas that
hold good people captive. On Tuesday, this nation rejected
liberalism, primarily because liberalism has been taken captive by
the left. Since 1968, the left has taken millions captive, and we
must help those Democrats who truly want to be free to actually
break free of this evil ideology."
Mr. Pastore goes on to exhort Christian conservatives to reject any
and all voices that might urge them "to compromise with the
vanquished." How's that for values?
In The New York Times on Thursday, Richard Viguerie, the dean of
conservative direct mail, declared, "Now comes the revolution." He
said, "Liberals, many in the media and inside the Republican Party,
are urging the president to 'unite' the country by discarding the
allies that earned him another four years."
Mr. Viguerie, it is clear, will stand four-square against any such
dangerous moves toward reconciliation.
You have to be careful when you toss the word values around. All
values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous
eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent.
Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to
undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and
justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to
What the Democratic Party needs above all is a clear message and a
bold and compelling candidate. The message has to convince Americans
that they would be better off following a progressive Democratic
vision of the future. The candidate has to be a person of integrity
capable of earning the respect and the affection of the American
This is doable. Al Gore and John Kerry were less than sparkling
candidates, and both came within a hair of defeating Mr. Bush.
What the Democrats don't need is a candidate who is willing to shape
his or her values to fit the pundits' probably incorrect analysis of
the last election. Values that pivot on a dime were not really
values to begin with.