Wednesday, November 10

Below is the text of a letter I submitted tonight to the Reveille, LSU's campus newspaper, in response to this column, which ran Wednesday. My letter was probably too late for Thursday's paper, but hopefully they'll choose to print it Friday.

Dear Editor:

Does the Reveille have any requirements for accuracy and basis in fact from its columnists? If it does, I’m surprised that Andrew Midgett’s Wednesday column, “Voting on personal morals bad for America”, was printed.

I object to several of the assumptions Mr. Midgett made in his piece, but in the interest of brevity I’ll focus on two.

First, he asserts that people “voting their personal morality instead of the nation’s domestic and international interests” won the election for President Bush. This is a faulty assumption for several reasons.

The exit polling merely asked voters to name the most important issue in deciding how to vote. If voters backed Bush because of “moral values”, we shouldn’t assume that those voters don’t also seriously consider his stances on “domestic and international interests.”

According to CNN’s Web site (and assuming exit polls are reliable indicators of voters’ motivations), in the 2000 exit polling, “moral values” was not among the top seven reasons voters gave when asked to name their most important issue. But neither was terrorism.

In the only category directly related to foreign policy issues – “world affairs” – George W. Bush beat Al Gore 54 to 40 percent, or by a margin of about 1.7 million votes.

In 2004, “terrorism” and “Iraq” were the third and fourth most important issues to voters (behind “moral values” and “economy/jobs”). Around 19 million voters who said terrorism was their most important issue voted for President Bush. Only about 3 million voted for Senator Kerry. President Bush won by practically identical margins (about 16 million votes each) among voters voting primarily on the issue of terrorism and those voting on moral values.

It can be argued that Bush voters were more likely to consider Iraq part of the war on terror than Kerry voters, thus giving Kerry an overwhelming share of the votes from those who said Iraq was their top issue. Yet even accounting for this dichotomy by combining the total votes received based on these two issues, the President still got about 23.5 million votes to less than 16 million for Sen. Kerry. That’s a difference of nearly 8 million votes.

Many of those who voted for Bush based on the issue of terrorism may have voted for him for a different reason in 2000; the same assumption can be made about “moral values” voters, though we can’t be sure as to how many. It is clear that many more voters considered terrorism a top issue, and perhaps some of these who went for Bush wouldn’t have chosen him had other issues topped their list. It is evident that the results of this election cannot be so clearly attributed to “moral values” alone.

Which brings me to my second objection: why does Mr. Midgett insist on demeaning Bush voters as ignorant bigots?

In the course of his column, Mr. Midgett asserts that the abortion and homosexual marriage issues are used by the Republicans to attain loyalty from their base of largely evangelical voters, whom Mr. Midgett apparently sees as dumb, easily led masses incapable of rational thought.

Since when did voters become morons simply because they embraced moral values? I’ll admit it’s arguable, but at least consider the possibility that a large number of Americans evaluated Sen. Kerry’s positions on “moral issues” and chose to reject them. Perhaps many Americans consider "moral issues" not as wedge issues but as vital domestic interests. Calling these voters stupid does not make them so.

Under the guise of political analysis, Mr. Midgett unleashed a bilious and condescending attack on the millions of American voters who named “moral values” as the key issue driving their vote. This is unfair and unsubstantiated. Sadly, we’ve heard this sort of thing from many Democrats in the days since the election.

Mr. Midgett managed, in the course of his column, to state or strongly imply that “moral values” voters were gullible, homophobic, ignorant, bigoted, hypocritical, misogynistic rubes who are not out to improve our nation, and he called their concerns silly and irrelevant.

The party of inclusion, indeed.

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