Why the Democrats Don't Have to Worry About the Voters Who Are Obsessed with Old-Fashioned Morality

News at Home

Mr. Steinhorn teaches politics and media at American University, and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy, to published by St. Martin's Press in 2005. He is a member of the board of directors of HNN.

In these post-election days my e-mail in-box is full of despair. Friends, former college classmates, and countless Baby Boom peers all seem to be asking the same plaintive question: "Are we out of synch with the country, are we outside the mainstream?"

The e-mails are from a dry cleaner in upstate New York and a suburban mom who works part-time and a high-tech wizard in the Pacific Northwest and from Boomer liberals generally chilled by polls showing that moral values motivated more American voters -- one in five -- than any other issue, and by a media spin suggesting that real Americans can be found only in socially conservative pews. "Ordinary people, the people in the red states," is how the conservative media critic Bernard Goldberg frames it, and a cowed mainstream press seems to be accommodating that view.

But rather than join in the gloom and hand-wringing, my response is to take a deep breath and read the election results more carefully. For what they reveal is a mainstream America far different from what the emerging conventional wisdom about this election is making it out to be. Social conservatives no more represent the mainstream today than Prohibitionists did in the Twenties, and we must be careful not to confuse ballot-box victories with cultural trends.

Perhaps most telling is how the election would look if the thirteen states of the solid red South were separated from the overall vote totals. These states represent only 30 percent of the population and 168 of the 538 electors, but they flexed their Bible Belt muscle and voted as a George Bush bloc, giving him a 5.75 million vote margin over John Kerry, with nine of the states going for Bush by at least 15 percentage points. Yet the president's overall margin in the election was 3.5 million votes, which means the rest of the country -- representing 70 percent of the population -- gave Senator Kerry a 2.25 million vote margin and an electoral vote edge of 252 to 118.

Socially conservative white Southerners may be a knotty problem for the Democrats, but despite their power as a voting bloc and ability to impose their political will on the nation, it is they who stand outside America's emerging mainstream. They may call themselves "ordinary Americans" and go regularly to church, but that doesn't mean they're any more ordinary or moral than my e-mail correspondents and the majority of Americans who live in diverse metropolitan areas and subscribe to the national norms of tolerance, inclusion, social equality, and personal freedom. Indeed when it comes to accepting these cultural norms, the white South has for years been behind the rest of America, stubbornly so.

Of course some pundits may argue that the momentum is on the side of these socially conservative Americans, but again the trends say otherwise. In fact the illusion of a growing social conservatism has much to do with the fact that the pre-Baby Boom generation of more traditional Americans are living much longer lives and voting in very large numbers. Once younger voters begin to replace them, the socially conservative vote will dwindle.

This is borne out by survey research conducted in recent years, much of it done by the University of Chicago's well-respected National Opinion Research Center (NORC). According to my cohort analysis of their on-line data, the generation gap in social attitudes is compelling and wide, with older Americans steadfastly conservative and younger Americans the opposite.

Consider the divide on sex roles and sexuality. When asked during the 1990s whether it was better for men to work and women to tend home, 60 percent of those born before 1943 said yes, while nearly three-fourths of those born afterwards said no. Young and old are united in support of strong families, but from Boomers on down it's equality in a family that makes it strong. When asked about cohabitation and sex before marriage, few in the older group called it acceptable while most in the younger cohorts seemed unfazed. For tomorrow's voters, personal freedom and gender equality are essential values.

You see a similar divide over racial inclusion and diversity. A solid majority of whites born before 1943 oppose a close relative marrying a black, but barely a quarter of whites born afterward feel the same way. Two-thirds of the older group say that blacks shouldn't push themselves where they're not wanted, a view rejected by everyone else.

On today's hot button issue, homosexuality, again the generation gap is decisive. One 2002 poll commissioned by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found all age groups but one, pre-Boomers, saying that society should recognize homosexuality as an acceptable way of life. Keeping gay teachers out of classrooms barely registers as an issue today, quite unlike the 1977 anti-gay fury to "Save Our Children" led by singer Anita Bryant. Even in this supposedly conservative political year, exit polls found three in five voters supporting marriage or civil unions for gays.

Then there are Catholics, considered the most socially traditional of religious groups and in the news this year because the hierarchy disapproved of John Kerry's support for abortion rights. But again the stereotype misleads. Among Boomer and younger Catholics, NORC finds that only 27 percent label themselves traditional, compared to 44 percent among pre-Boomers, and religious liberals now exceed traditionalists in this younger cohort. Most Catholics now reject if not resent church dogma restricting social tolerance and personal freedom. Recent surveys by the New York Times and Newsweek show large majorities favoring married priests, female priests, gay adoptions, and birth control -- and barely a third want abortion outlawed, no different from the rest of America.

Moreover, all the talk about the faith vote may mask the fact that younger Americans are simply less traditionally religious than their elders. According to NORC's 2000 General Social Survey, among Americans born from 1943 onwards, only two in ten attend religious services once a week or more while six in ten attend just a few times a year or less, if at all. That's almost the opposite of older Americans, 55 percent of whom attend once a month or more and 36 percent of whom attend once a week or more.

In fact the fastest growing group of religious Americans are those who claim no religious identity at all, with their number now almost equaling the number who call themselves Baptists, according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey. A generation ago, most Americans believed in moral absolutes, biblical truth, and the authority of their religious leaders, but today, the vast majority say that morality is a personal matter. And nowadays about 20 million Americans attend yoga classes, which approaches the combined number of Boomers and younger adults who go to church at least once a week, a sign that spirituality rather than religiosity may be the key to these younger generations.

So what we have today is an emerging pluralistic majority, a mainstream that may be somewhat religious but not moralistic, a sensibility more cosmopolitan than small-town, a culture whose norms are defined by tolerance, inclusion, social equality, individual choice, and personal freedom. This emerging mainstream certainly has a reason to recoil from these election results and to worry that the courts will encode the moral values of old for years to come. But in time this election may be seen not as the wave of the future but as the last gasp of the cultural past.

For Democrats, patience may well be a virtue, which means they should avoid offering a me-too moralism and instead articulate with passion and vigor the hopes and values of the new America. The very fact that one-fifth of voters cited moral values means that four-fifths didn't, and amid all the talk about faith voters, let us not forget that the primary reason President Bush won is that he quite successfully turned the election into a referendum on leadership qualities for the war on terror, and in the process subsumed all other issues.

For Republicans, they may have won a battle, but by hitching their party's identity to evangelical conservatives, they may be fomenting a culture war the party cannot win particularly when the silent majority of younger Americans sees its personal choices and liberties circumscribed by an overreaching right. With the socially conservative vote the GOP got what it wished for this year, but in the long run that may be its undoing.

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Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

How thick can the Democrats & their fellow travelers remain? After all, the Republicans have won 7 out of the last ten Presidential elections, captured both House and Senate, a majority of the offices of Governor and a majority of the state legislatures. The Democratric Party once dominate in the South & near South has over the past quarter century marginalized itself there and it is doing a nice job of marginalizing itself in the Moutain West & in the Southwest.

Each election sees more & more Republican office holders replacing Democrats in both the South & in the near South.

The counter-cultural creeps out of the sewers of the radical 60s, leading the Democratic Party & its fellow travelers, who keep bleating that alternative lifestyles are O.K., that abortion, marital infidelity & euthanasia are acceptable, that guns are nasty, that America shouldn't defend itself from those who would destroy us, because the enemy are merely misunderstood victims of poverty wrought by America are clearly out of the mainstream of both traditional and current American culture. Thatr's why, decade after decade, the Left keeps losing elections. And because it keeps losing elections is why it keeps attempting to subvert the Constitution. To wit, the Leftist Californian financed, to the tune of $300,000.+, attempt to persuade Colorado voters to pass the propsed Amendment 36, which would have marginalized Colorado's electoral vote. The proposal failed by a 2:1 margin at the polls.

Of course, those of our coastal city/states seeking to overturn the Constitution will try again elsewhere in the same or perhaps a different fashion, seeking to impose a dictatorship of those coastal city/states via direct election of the President.

Some New Englanders in reaction to the results of the mosrt recent election reportedly have said they want New England to seceede from the Union. I say, let'em go, if they want. We,the rest of the nation, don't need them.
And as the bumper sticker says, "Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than my gun," which neatly points up the cultural divide.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

One impressive thing about "Saving Pvt. Ryan" is that the German weapons, field gear & uniforms depicted are accurate for the period. For instance, the Tiger tank shown, is an honest-to-goodness Tiger, not an American M-41 or M-48 dressed up in German markings. Ditto the small arms used by both sides were accurate. Fortunately, there are literally millions of German K-98s, the main battle rifle used by the German army during WWII, still floating around. And most of the German troops in "Saving..." carry, as they should, K-98s.

The point is, sometimes Hollywood will attempt to get the weapons, field gear & uniforms correct, as it did in "Saving...," but generally this is an unusual effort for Hollywood to take.

On the other hand, my criticism of Hollywood may be unfair, because I don't go out to movies, nor watch very many of them on DVD. And both "Cross of Iron" & "Platoon" achieved high degrees of accuracy in depicting the weapons & gear used at their times.
Ditto "Full Metal Jacket."

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

It seems to me that Wm Henslee is correct to surmise that the contention over the war in Iraq, an issue made a matter of controversay mostly by Democrats & their secretariat, the old news media, may have obsured the alienation of the average American from the radicallly Leftist dominated Democratic Party. For Pete's sake, bush received more votes, nearly 60 million, than had any candidate for the Presidency in our history. That alone should persuade some Northeastern Liberals that they're out-of-step with most of the rest of the country on matters of morality, a key issue in the vote.

Moreover, the Republicans have won 7 of the last ten Presidential electiuns. Of the tree won by the Democrats one was won by a born-again Southerner, Jimmy Carter. Granted, the other two were won by a hedonist and cad, but we didn't know what a rotten apple he is until after his first election.

In addition, clinton not only inherited a hot economy set in motion by Ronald Reagan and a foreign scene absent the Soviet empire, he had sense enough to not tamper with a good thing. For instance, he reappointed the registered Republican & Republican appointee, Alan Greenspan, as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The point is, a Liberal from the stagnant NE hasn't won the Presidency since J.F.K., & even he wasn't a Liberal in some regards. The only Democrats who've won hail from the dynamic & growing South.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Ms. Krusten,

The anger & frustration you see on "HNN" derives from the sort of person who thinks "The New York Times" is an objective source of news, folks who are stunned at the results of this most recent election. These are many of thesame folks think Arlen Spector is a "moderate" Republican.

Even now, many of them refuse to acknowledge that Kerry, a NE Liberal lawyer was found unacceptable by the American voter. Clearly, the hard Left in America IS out-of-step culturally & socially with the majority of normal Americans. Until if & when the Democrats cease nominating weirdos, hard Leftists, such as Gore, albeit not a Northeastener, & Kerry they aren't going to win the Presidency. Fact.

As others have pointed out, the U.S. is the only advanced nation that never has had a Leftist government. Nor is it liable to elect one any time soon. No wonder the Left is in despair & hates the Constitution, most specifically the Electoral College.

What the Left here lacks too is a Lenin, someone who can lead a successful revolution--the only way for the forseeable future we're going to acquire a Leftist gov't.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

As Zell Miller points out in his "National Party No More" in fact the Democratic Party today is no longer a uly national party that has marginilized itself in the South. Of course, it is doing a great job of marginilizing itself in the Mountain States and lower Mid-West. In essence, it has become a regional party of the Northeast and of the Left Coast.

Because the present party leadership has a set of values that are at odds with traditional Western civilization's & American, it necessarily is incapable of ajusting its standards & platform to mesh with the great majority of Americans.

The Democratic Party proved this by nominating the freak & phony, Kerry, a phony war hero & a phony Catholic. s has been pointed out by pundits, Kerry only the third Cathpolic nominated by a major party for the Presidency,lost 56 % of the Catholic vote nationwide & in crucial Ohio, he lost 65% of the Catholic vote, in addition to 70% of the Evangelical Protestant vote.

The Democrats in thrall to the education mafia, the NEA with its hostility to home schoolers, to militant feminists, the abortion industry & to trial lawyers cannot make headway in taking Christian votes away from the Republicans. It is a non-starter, about as laughable as Kerry in the waning days of the campaign having himself photographed supposedly going hunting, blind to the fact that the Second Amendment hasn't a bloom'n thing to do with hunting.

The dummies leading the Democratic Party should have realized when Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in '00 in large part because he'd ticked off gun owners. It takes a concerted effort on the part of a Presidential candidate to waste his favorite son status & lose his home state, but Gore, who'd rather lie even when the truth would serve him better and who flip-flopped on abortion & on guns managed to lose his home state. Had he won his home state, he'd have won the Presidency, regardless whatever happened in Florida.

Michael Glen Wade - 1/2/2005

Perhaps, maybe even probably, true, but it misses the point, which is about generational cohorts and their attitudes.

clarence willard swinney - 11/29/2004

-----------84 good things done by Democrats-----------------

Can anyone name ten for Republicans

Credit for this information goes my friend, a great mind, and his terrific site

Ray Dubuque—www.liberalslike Christ.org-----------------

1.civilian conservation corps
2.public works adm.--works progress adm
3.unemployment relief act
4.national industrial recovery act
5.national housing act
6.federal communications act
7.national labor relations act
8.fair labor standards act (min wage & max hours laws)
9.GI bill of rights
10.social security act
11.Tennessee valley (power) authority
12.rural electrification act
13.full employment act
14.permanent school lunch program
15.integration of armed forces
16.veterans emergency housing act
17.public health service act
18.national housing act
19.marshall plan
20.peace corps
21.aid to dependent children program
22.small business investment act
23.establishment of arms control and disarmament agency
24.consumer drug protection laws
25.equal pay act
26.manpower development and retraining act
27.clean air act
28.mental health and mental retardation act
29.college and vocational education act
30.civil rights act
31.voting rights act
32.mass transportation act
33.omnibus poverty act (office of economic opportunity, vista, job corps and public assistance programs)
34.war on poverty
35.head start (for pre-school children)
36.land conservation fund
37.permanent food stamp program
38.appalachia regional development act
39.elementary and secondary education act
40.higher education act
41.older Americans act (medicare and medicaid)
42.law enforcement assistance act
43.immigration reform act
44.freedom of information act
45.fair housing act
46.housing and urban development (low income housing )
47.clean water restoration act
48.coal mine health and safety act
49.child protection
50.federal ethics code
51.civil service reform
52.creation of superfund (cleanup of toxic waste)
53.secretary of health joseph califano(fight tobacco health threat)
54.votings rights act extension
55.highway and mass transit funding bill
56.civil rights restoration act
57.head start expansion
58.Americans with disabilities act
59.major tax increase on the wealthy to fight deficits created by Reagan and Bush
60.family medical leave act
61.attempted to extend/or improve health insurance coverage for millions of Americans
62.restoration of democracy to haiti
63.restoration of peace to bosnia
64.promotion of peace in south Africa
65.promotion of peace in northern Ireland
66.promotion of peace in Israel and Palestine
67.increases in minimum wage
68.promotion of spending on inner-city schools
69.opposition to abolition of safety net for the poor
70.protection of social security and medicare
71.promotion of justice for victims of racism
72.protection of children from cancer inducing tobacco industry
73.constantly frustrated efforts to enact thorough campaign finance
74.appointment of many minorities and women to cabinet positions
75.resolution of long-standing black farmers discrimination issues
76.leadership role in nato’s campaign to stop ethnic cleansing in kosovo.
77.major efforts to challenge the dangerous proliferation of guns in America
79. pay their way party—1960 to 1980—National Income grew 418%--Debt grew 210% 1980 to 1992National Income grew 102%--Debt grew 300%.
Democrats pay their way-Republicans party of spend and borrow-our kids pay Tomorrow.
80. party for strong defense—carter increased defense spending by 50%--Clinton spent 273 Billion per year to Reagan’s 249 Billion per year.
Nixon-Ford cut Army troops by 41% and Reagan-Ford cut by 11%

81. Party of Integrity---Reagan had more(137) charged with crimes than cumulative total for all presidents of 20th century.
82. vacation with pay
83.trade union schools—forerunner to community colleges
84.worker retirement pensions
clarence swinney-political historian-burlington nc www.cwswinney@netzero.net

clarence willard swinney - 11/29/2004

They allow smear tactics, divisive items and items far from issues important to our welfare as a nation.
Willie Horton-Clinton Affairs-Gore credibility--Swiftboat/flip flop.
-------------------- SHOCK & AWE------------------------
1.From Harding In 1921 to Bush in 2003
2.Democrats held White House for 40 years and Republicans for 42.5 years.
3.Democrats created 75,820,000 net new jobs -- Republicans 36,440,000.
4.Per Year Average—Democrats 1,825,200---Republicans 856,400.
5.Republicans had 9 presidents during the period and 6 had depression or recession.
6.Republicans had a recession/depression in 177 months and Democrats in 32 months.
7.DOW—grew by 52% more under Democrats.
8.GDP—grew by 43% more under Democrats.
Comparing Democrat’s hero-CLINTON—versus Republican’s hero--REAGAN
1.JOBS—grew by 43% more under Clinton.
2.GDP---grew by 57% more under Clinton.
3.DOW—grew by 700% more under Clinton..
4.NASDAQ-grew by 18 times as much under Clinton.
4.SPENDING--grew by 28% under Clinton---80% under Reagan.
5.DEBT—grew by 43% under Clinton—187% under Reagan.
6. DEFICITS—Clinton got a large surplus--grew by 112% under Reagan.
7.NATIONAL INCOME—grew by100% more under Clinton.
8.PERSONAL INCOME—Grew by 110% more under Clinton.
SOURCES—Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.BLS.Gov)--Economic Policy Institute (EPI.org)—Global & World Almanacs from 1980 to 2003 (annual issues)
www.the-hamster.com (chart taken from NY Times)
National Archives History on Presidents. www.nara.gov

Please submit comments to cwswinney@netzero.net or P.O. Box 3411-Burlington NC-27216
Clarence Swinney-Political Historian-Burlington nc

Why not attack with solid results records?

Michael Harrington Weems - 11/18/2004

We have heard much of how Congress doesn't have as many Vets among their number as in past years, this being largely due to the losses to our "Greatest Generation" as they have aged. It will be interesting to see if our modern wars (Desert Storm I and II, Afganistan, the War on Terror, etc) produce a larger number of Vets desiring to serve as members of our Congress, state's Legislatures, et al, and how this will affect our political landscape. Will they be Hawks? Doves? I know my experience with combat and violent death drive me to seek diplomatic answers to such issues. However, I have also seen enough human evil to know that sometimes (as in the case of the Iraq War, IMO) force is the only answer. For better or worse, the survivors of today's policies will be setting tomorrow's, as it has always been.

For Comment.

MHWeems, Major(r), USAF

Michael Harrington Weems - 11/18/2004

To point to the more liberal positions younger poeple take is accurate now, but can we really assume that their views will remain so as they move through life. As most data shows, Americans in general get more conservative as they age. Whether this is a process of getting smarter (as the right would say), or a process of closing their minds to change (as others would say) I do not know. But to extrapolate that future voting will mirror their positions of youth is to ignore historical trends. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Just a thought.


Maarja Krusten - 11/14/2004

I am posting this mostly for anyone who wants to research these issuses further, I'm not optimisgtic about triggering discussion. I don't have the impression that most people posting here on HNN are historical researchers although there are some history buffs. People have various opinions, of course, but mostly what I learn from the postings is what any particular individual believes. I've found the link for the Barna Group which is mentioned in the NY Times article as follows:

"The Barna Group, a California organization that studies evangelical Christian trends, has produced two studies about divorce that found that born-again Christians were just as likely to divorce as those who are not born-again Christians.

One of the reports, a survey of 7,043 people in 2001, said that: "Residents of the Northeast and West are commonly noted for their more liberal leanings in politics and lifestyle. However, the region of the nation in which divorce was least likely was the Northeast."

The other study, published two months ago, said that even though the Northeast probably had a higher rate of couples living together rather than marrying, the divorce rate would be essentially similar even if the cohabiting couples got hitched. And it said that "relatively few divorced Christians experienced their divorce before accepting Christ as their savior."

Check out the Barna Group at http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrow&;BarnaUpdateID=171

Maarja Krusten - 11/14/2004

I referred to "voicing my opinions" above. I've re-read some of my postings. Few voice my own opinions, although some refer to what people in my circle of friends have said. Most of my postings either ask people to clarify their views or provide links to news articles which seem relevant to the matters under discussion. The two isssues on which I most directly expressed myself are the Iraq war--where I said I had doubts about the run up to, timing and planning--and on the need to consider inner city problems (crime, poverty, etc.) Both are reasonable questions, so I'm satisifed that my postings have played out fine.

Maarja Krusten - 11/14/2004

Some of you have seen numbers about divorce rates bandied about in some of the Red and Blue state slams that sprang up after the election. Pam Belluck has an interesting article today, "To avoid divorce, move to Massachusetts." It examines divorce rates and the possible reasons for disparity among the states, including the age at which people marry, values, how they were raised, etc.

"Kentucky, Mississippi and Arkansas, for example, voted overwhelmingly for constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage. But they had three of the highest divorce rates in 2003, based on figures from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.

The lowest divorce rates are largely in the blue states: the Northeast and the upper Midwest. And the state with the lowest divorce rate was Massachusetts, home to John Kerry, the Kennedys and same-sex marriage."

Ms. Belluck notes that there seems to be little difference in divorce rates among born again Christians and those who are not born-again Christians. In most cases, the divorces did not occur before people became born again. "The Barna Group, a California organization that studies evangelical Christian trends, has produced two studies about divorce that found that born-again Christians were just as likely to divorce as those who are not born-again Christians."

Moreover, "Many experts believe the explanation to be more multidimensional, with high divorce rates tied to factors like younger age of marriage, less education and lower socioeconomic status.

"The higher the educational level, higher the occupational level, higher the income, the less likely you are to divorce," said William V. D'Antonio, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America, pointing out that Massachusetts has the highest rate of high school and college completion. "Kids who drop out of high school and get married very quickly suffer from the strains of not being emotionally mature and not having the income to help weather the difficulties of marriage."

Ms. Belluck also notes in her article the role of family, religious and cultural values.

Maarja's comment: The article does not cover the different types of pre-marital counseling offered by various churches and other groups and what effect these programs have. It focuses more on how mature people are and what relationship skills and earning power they bring to a marriage.

For those who want to read more about this, check out the Week in Review section of the Sunday (gasp!) New York Times, 11/14/04.

Maarja Krusten - 11/14/2004

Here are some numbers from the Edison-Mitfosky exit poll, I just picked two of the types of questions covered by Mr. Steinhorn's article, plus Iraq, since some posters mentioned it here:

(1) Which comes closest to your view of gay and lesbian couples?

They should be allowed to marry-------------25%
They should be allowed to legally form
civil unions, but not marry-----------------35%
There should be no legal recognition of
their relationships-------------------------37%

(2) Which comes closest to your position? Abortion should be:

Legal in all cases-------21%
Legal in most cases------34%
Illegal in most cases----26%
Illegal in all cases-----16%

(3) Do you think the war with Iraq has improved the long term security of the United States?
Yes: 46%
No: 52%

Nancy Tann - 11/13/2004

thanks, I did read that!

Nancy Tann - 11/13/2004

"bleating that alternative lifestyles are O.K., that abortion, marital infidelity & euthanasia are acceptable, that guns are nasty, that America shouldn't defend itself from those who would destroy us, because the enemy are merely misunderstood victims of poverty wrought by America are clearly out of the mainstream of both traditional and current American culture."
Let me address them one by one.
1. Alternative lifestyles are OK. YES. Many kinds are OK, as long as they do not hurt others.
2. Marital infidelity is acceptable. NO. Unfortunately, it seems to be repeatedly human.
3. Abortion is acceptable. NOT CUT AND DRIED. I do not like abortion, and do not believe I would have one myself. But it does not apply much to my life. Ways to make it rarer should be continually tried; but women AND babies will die again in back alleys if it is illegal.
4. Euthanasia is acceptable. HARD TO SWALLOW. I find it hard to contemplated doing this to my 13 year old dog, much less a human. But how can we judge another person's suffering and pain?
5. Guns are nasty. YES. I really wish we didn't have them at all. Hunt with bow and arrow or something.
6. America shouldn't defend itself from those who would destroy us. WRONG. Unfortunately, we have to use guns and the like and destroy others ourselves. Not much way to get around it, but let us exhaust all other avenues first.

7. The enemy are merely misunderstood victims of poverty.
NO. It is a lot more complicated than that. Sadly, human conflict is a reality and always has been.

Maybe my position is not as easy as you described. Are you listening?

Maarja Krusten - 11/13/2004

I have to say I was not stunned by the election results. I was not surprised by the sentiments expressed by voters, but I was surprised by some of the vehemence and lack of connection among geographic areas. I agree with you that the U.S. never has had a leftist government and never will. But let me pick up on one of your other points. I'm most interested by the fact that it is hard to find a news source these days that is not vulnerable to bashing by either the Left or the Right.

You mention the New York Times. In my house, we read the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Washington Times. I used to watch ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews. I dropped FoxNews in 2004 because I tired of the anger. Some of that reflects my reaction to my sister's death, which only reinforced my basic tendency to "live and let live," and a sense that "life is too short." So anger doesn't appeal to me, I mostly am serene in my outlook and temperament. Most of the time for news I watch NBC, I like Tom Brokaw. While I read opinion from various perspectives, and sometimes even change my views of issues, I don't harbor anger and resentment towards any political party or faction, nor do I feel that anyone is putting me down for any of my views.

So, that's a long way of getting around to my question. Do you think there are news sources that are viewed as credible and authoritative by a majority of US citizens? TV (broadcast, cable), print, Internet? Please don't just answer based on people who voted for one party, try to project to the other voters as well. I see an increasing echo chamber effect these days. It's hard for me to picture a news source these days that attracts a broad range of citizens. What some readers or viewers see as realistic and questioning, others see as too inclined to reflect a sense of "hate America first." And what some viewers see as patriotic, other viewers see as overly "triumphalist" and inclined to ignore issues of accountability. Where are the ones that take a middle ground in the views of both Republicans and Democrats? Or is there no more middle ground?

Oscar Chamberlain - 11/13/2004

I'm not sure what the best WWII documentary is now. WORLD AT WAR remains extraordinary; it was the first series that I saw that attempted to give the Russian front the weight it deserved. Again the interviews were extraordinary.

Yet, when I got a chance to see a few episodes a few years back, I felt it had dated in some odd ways. The biggest was subtle: the Soviet Union was a powerful presence in the early 70s, when the series was produced (and remained so when I first saw it). When I saw it again around 1999 or 2000, that unexpected change in history--the collapse of the Soviet Union--made all of that seem so different, even though I could not point to any moment and say that it was now inaccurate.

Whatever I was sensing probably wouldn't bother my students at all.

I've still seen or heard of no series on WWII to match it. VICTORY AT SEA is a bit to celebratory, though some of the footage--in particular the Kami Kaze raids--is extraordinary.

Back to fiction: Right now THE ENEMY BELOW, a mid 1950s movie about a battle between an American destroyer and a German U-Boat is on TV. It was the first movie that I saw in a theater. It's not as gritty as war movies made since, but it does give a good feel for the nature of a sea battle between evenly matched warships.

Although Russians are never mentioned, it has a cold war angle to it. It is one of the first Hollywood WWII movies to suggest a degree of respect, and at the end even comradeship, between Germans and Americans.

Maarja Krusten - 11/12/2004

Nancy see above at http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=46656#46656 as my reply to you somehow got put in the wrong spot, sorry!!

Maarja Krusten - 11/12/2004

Nancy, I don't know how long you've been looking at HNN. I was asked to post an article about the U.S. Archivist nomination on HNN in August, and started following the site closely after that. Since I'm an historian, it seemed like a good place to see if any voters viewed campaign issues in a historical context. Some of the issues during the 2004 campaign went back to the days of the Vietnam War, so it seemed some historical perspective was pertinent. However, some posters, such as Peter K. Clarke, point out that few historians post here. He may be right, I've found that relatively few people actually allude to historical analogies, they mostly provide their opinions.

I've posted numerous articles and story links in the last ocuple of weeks in an effort to trigger debate, but had little success in getting people to explain how they see the long range cycles. (A comparison of the Dems now with the Republicans after their defeat in 1964, for example.) I had a little bit of success earlier in the fall with some of my Vietnam inquiries but don't expect to see that success duplicated. As you can see on this page, which centers on prospects for the Democrats, I (an Independent) and a few Republicans responded. Most of my postings were links to articles rather than an expression of opinion. You are one of the few people who probably voted Democrat to respond here. Since Democrats didn't post much here, I really learned very little about how Dems view their party or where they think it is headed.

I tend to think that many young people view things differently from their elders--whether they are Republican or Democrat, most of the young people I know are much more concerned about the environment than older people, for example. Hard to tell how it all will play out, especially with the lack of reader responses, but thanks much for posting!

Maarja Krusten - 11/12/2004

I'm home on leave today so I caught your message, Mr. Chamberlain. Many thanks for the tip about ALL QUIET being available on DVD. I'll have to add it to my collection. And also for the tip about THE GREAT WAR. Which do you think are the best WWII documentary series? I most vividly remember THE WORLD AT WAR, and from my childhood years, THE VALIANT YEARS and, of coure, VICTORY AT SEA.

Oscar Chamberlain - 11/12/2004

"Tora, Tora, Tora" is pretty good, certainly better than the recent "Pearl Harbor." The criticisms of "The Longest Day" are correct, but I have a soft spot in my heart for it, I think because it captured my imagination when I was young. Probably the only part I might use in a class would be the section about Rupert, the rubber dummy.

I have used the old "All Quiet" in class, in part to help students understand why people in the 1930s would be so hesitant about entering a new World War. It is the only anti-war movie that I have seen that truly quells the romance of war while portraying its characters sympathetically. That's out on DVD, by the way.

I know we have been discussing feature films, but there is a WWI documentary I recommend highly. THE GREAT WAR: 1918, in the American Experience series, does a wonderful job of portraying the American combat experience in WWI. At its heart are some extraordinary interviews.

Maarja Krusten - 11/12/2004

I posted this also on the other thread at which you mentioned the war on terror and am cross posting it here. Did you see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43899-2004Nov11.html
There is no unanimity on the war on terror, even among experts [much less on HNN].

"Michael Scheuer, the author and former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, announced yesterday that he had resigned from the agency so he could speak openly about terrorism and what he sees as the government's failure to understand the threat from al Qaeda.

"I have concluded that there has not been adequate national debate over the nature of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the force he leads and inspires, and the nature of the intelligence reform needed to address that threat," Scheuer, whom the CIA banned from speaking publicly in July, said in a statement issued by his publisher.

The agency allowed Scheuer to publish his book, "Imperial Hubris," anonymously, and to conduct media interviews to promote it under the name "Mike." The book became a bestseller.

But he became a critic of the war in Iraq, saying it inflamed anti-American sentiment among Muslims, and eventually his name was published. After some White House officials and pundits asserted that the CIA had allowed Scheuer to act as its surrogate critic on the war, CIA officials forbade him from speaking publicly.

…The statement, issued in the name of Scheuer's publicist, Christina Davidson, said Scheuer criticized the CIA leadership for allowing "the clandestine service to be scapegoated for pre-9-11 failures -- failure more properly placed at the door of senior members of the U.S. intelligence community and senior policymakers, for whom, in Scheuer's view, saving lives has seldom appeared to be the top priority."

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

Oh yes, DAS BOOT, of course. Glad you mentioned it, it is a very good movie. I speak some German and have the version in German with subtitles in VHS, should look to see if it is out on DVD. I agree about LONGEST DAY, seemed to have too much of the all-star flavor, RYAN is far superior, natch. As for the ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, is that the one from 1930? Where did you see that?

Charles V. Mutschler - 11/11/2004

I agree, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is probably one of the best World War II movies I've seen. A classmate of mine was a submariner, albeit in the modern nuclear navy. He has always sworn by DAS BOOT as one of the all-time best portrayals of submarine warfare on film. The fim version of THE LONGEST DAY just wasn't as satisfying for me as reading the book. TORA! TORA! TORA! was adequate, but I'm not a naval or aviation expert, so I'm open to correction from those who are.

I think one of the best World War I films I've seen was the early version of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. I never felt as moved by WHAT PRICE GLORY? or THE FIGHTING SIXTY-NINTH, though it has been a long time since I've seen all three.

I can't think of anything on the Spanish-American War or the US Civil War that worked really well at really giving the feel for the war. The Revolution and War of 1812 are really before my time of study, so I won't try and venture there.

Vote of thanks to all our veterans. We owe you gentlemen and ladies a great deal.


Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

Sorry, like many of you, I don't proofread carefully. The first sentence should have read "and, of course, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

I'm home now and can add a few notes about the movies Ben recommended and about Charles' comments. I've seen CROSS OF IRON, WE WERE SOLDIERS, BLACKHAWK DOWN, FULL METAL JACKET, BAND OF BROTHERS and, of course, BAND OF BROTHERS. I can see why you recommend them. All of these movies remind me of my late, twin sister, as we both had watched them and talked about them. WE WERE SOLDIERS and BLACKHAWK DOWN were among the last movies my late sister and I went out to see together before she died of cancer in 2002. As for BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, I am glad you did not turn it off and went ahead and watched it.

My sister and I both were employed at the National Archives during the late 1980s (she stayed on until her death in 2002, I left for another job in 1990). I remember going into the stacks with her to look at a Record Group which had early scripts of BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and some correspondence exchanged between the film production people and the Department of War (predecessor to DOD). The Department of War had some concerns about the way the script depicted the returning veterans.

For a movie released in 1946, BEST YEARS really is remarkable. I first saw it about 20 or 25 years ago and have watched it many times since. It was one of the first films I bought when I got my first VCR. I watch it at least once a year. In a quiet, understated way, the film beautifully captures the struggles of three men home from serving in the war as they try to readjust to civilian life. The most touching scene for me is the one when Fred Derry's quiet, stoic father sits in his ramshackle hut "on the wrong side of the tracks" and reads the citation for his son's medal. Lovely scene, better than anything you find in most of our hyped up movies these days. (BTW, speaking of quiet, stoic men, did everyone catch Derek Catsam's lovely column about his friend Ethan Brooks of the Baltimore Ravens, "On Football, Friendship and Loss" over at Rebunk yesterday.)

Dana Andrews gives a great performance as the U.S. Army Air Force officer, Fred Derry. And Harold Russell's performance as Homer Parrish is really something, especially when you consider that he was totally inexperienced as an actor. He really had lost both hands during the just completed war. Russell won an Oscar for her performance, BTW. The movie is beautifully evocative of its time period and of the town in middle America to which the veterans, changed by their war experiences, return.

The only movie on your list I haven't seen is THE VICTORS, although I actually remember reading coverage of it in LIFE magazine as a kid. 1964 sounds right for its release, I haven't had time to look it up on the net at the IMDB. I was 13 then and my parents wouldn't let me go see THE VICTORS, although I already was interested in WWII, reading books about it and watching COMBAT on TV. COMBAT presented a pretty sanitized view of World War II, of course, being on network TV from about 1962 to 1966 and airing at an early hour (7:30 as I recall) but it had some good episodes. My favorite was a two-part episode, "Hills Are for Heroes," which star Vic Morrow directed (he also helped script some of the dialogue). The script for that episode was by Gene L. Coon, who soon thereafter would gain fame with Star Trek.

Thanks Ben and Charles for the nice notes, very appropriate for Veterans' Day, a day on which we should indeed remember and honor our vets.

Ben H. Severance - 11/11/2004

I completely forgot to mention "Blackhawk Down," which is just as gritty and realistic as "Saving Private Ryan." Anyway, regarding the Best Years of Our Lives, well I actually saw it for the first time just a couple of months ago. It came on at midnight while I was channel-surfing and I almost turned the set off, but instead I found myself more and more engrossed and moved by the whole story. A great movie.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

Still in transit so this is by Smartphone. BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES is my all time fav film, I've watched it countless times. Thanks Ben more anon.

Ben H. Severance - 11/11/2004


A favorite of mine is Sam Peckinpaugh's "Cross of Iron" starring James Coburn. It depicts combat on the Eastern Front during WWII and questions the rationale behind fighting when victory has clearly become elusive, if not impossible. Very graphic, very good.

I also like the "Victors," an obscure anti-war movie (1964?) starring Eli Wallach, George Peppard, and Anthony Perkins. It traces the experience of a rear echelon unit during the Allied advance through France in 1944. It's hard to find and rather controversial given its unheroic portrayal of the American GI in WWII (it is similar to Catch-22 but without the cynical humor).

Given that U.S. troops are currently engaged in suppressing an insurgency, I think such movies as Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" and the recent "We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson are appropriate for viewing. Most people say they like the first half of FMJ with its vivid depiction of boot camp, but I found the urban fighting in the second half interesting, particularly the manner in which the patrol squad handled a sniper attack. As for the Gibson movie, the opening sequence where Viet Minh ambush a French convoy is something I fear a great many of this country's service men and women are experiencing all too frequently in Iraq.

Finally, there is alway the excellent HBO "Band of Brothers" series.

I'd also recommend "The Best Years of Our Lives," a 1946 Oscar winning movie about how WWII veterans adjust to life after the war. It dispells the myth that only Vietnam veterans had it rough when they came home. A simply beautiful film.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

Thanks much for the very reflective reply. I am riding the subway at the moment so this is a brief Smartphone post but do check out the column w/ now dead Iraq war soldiers' letters in today's New York Times.

Charles V. Mutschler - 11/11/2004

My own experience with veterans is that most of those with combat experience do not talk about it much with those of us who have never served (I don't consider my year of ARMY ROTC as anything except another sequence of college courses) or those who haven't been in combat. A gentleman who was part of a local history 'lunch bunch' that assembles on Saturdays never talked much about the war, but mentioned that he had been stationed in Alaska, a response to my inquiry about the 770th Railway Operating Battalion. He commented that Nome was enough to drive him stir-crazy, so he had volunteered for a transfer to the Army Air Force, and didn't say any more. Several years later, another one of our group, who was a Korean War vet, asked the other gentleman if he was going back to France for the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings. it dawned on me that there was a lot I really didn't know about this quiet gentle fellow who I had lunch with most Saturdays - obviously his transfer out of Nome wasn't into the USAAF, but another infantry unit. The first vet looked round the table, most of us being 'Baby Boomers" young enough to be his kids, and remarked, "I got shot at on that ___ beach once, that's enough." And the subject promptly moved on to more pleasant topics.

A year or so later, however, this gentleman called our regional newspaper and asked them to come out and interview him about his experience. His unit had been one of the ones that entered one of the Nazi concentration camps late in the European campaign. He was getting tired of the budding neo-Nazi movement which was getting a lot of attention in the northwest. He decided that he wanted to go on record explaining that the Nazis were responsible for real atrocities, and that Hitler was not a nice, mis-understood failed artist. He did the interview, was in the paper, and subsequently spoke to a high school history class. He was still very reluctant to talk about it with the lunch bunch.

He passed on a year back. Thanks, Mr. Slocum, for serving in the US Army, and for telling high school children and the newspaper readers the truth. I'm sure it wasn't easy. I appreciate your courage for doing so.

I'm not sure there is anything that would pass the family friendly rating for prime time television which could show combat realistically and accurately. Imperfect as it may be, and recognizing my lack of first-hand experience, I suspect that "Saving Private Ryan" may be as close as we can come to experiencing combat in a theatre.

I am grateful to our veterans, and understand my thanks are pretty pale appreciation for what many of them have done. "War," as General Sherman aptly remarked, "is Hell." There is no way to make it attractive in polite company. Maybe that is the point - the brutality of the opening of Saving Private Ryan is precisely what combat is about.


Nancy Tann - 11/11/2004

I think the Democrats wrote off the southern voters like myself who are more progressive and LIBERAL. Kerry and Edwards came to NC, where I live; but there was no "crisscrossing the state" as we heard about in the Battleground States. I agree with the article that younger people, even boomers, are not as narrow-minded as my parents' generation can often be.
I sure hope the Democrats don't try to be conservative Republicans. The rest of us need a voice, too. It may be true, as many have noted, that the electoral college is becoming an enemy to democracy rather than a help.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004


"ABC affiliates in at least eight states will not televise the network's broadcast of the World War II film "Saving Private Ryan" because they fear repercussions from U.S. regulators.

Affiliates in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia said they were worried about running afoul of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington.

WOI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, for example, said it decided to pre-empt the Academy Award winning film, which depicts several violent battle scenes and contains foul language, over concerns about possible fines by the FCC.

"Would the FCC conclude that the movie has sufficient social, artistic, literary, historical or other kinds of value that would protect us from breaking the law?" WOI-TV President Raymond Cole said in a statement appearing on its Web site. "With the current FCC, we just don't know."

My own view is that many Americans have a hazy view of what warfare really is like and that for some, this affects their views (pro and con) of what it means when a President sends young men to fight. Do the veterans among you agree with the decision not to air Private Ryan? Which movies do you think best capture the experience of combat, if any? Can they be shown on tv in the current climate?

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

You didn't answer my earlier inquiry about where you live, I find such things useful in assessing some of the community issues David Brooks writes about. Not all of President Bush's supporters here in the DC area got their marching orders, it seems. One "Christian right" friend of mine who did vote for Bush nevertheless screams repeatedly at his TV, "why aren't your daughters over there?" whenever the President talks about Iraq. He really is angry about the Iraq war, and I for one do not dismiss his heartfelt views as being due to confusion.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

You write, "without the public confusion over the necessity of the war in Iraq." I'm curious as to why you say confusion rather than debate. Am I misunderstanding this to mean that there in your view there is only one answer on the Iraq issue, but that in your view some voters were just too dumb or misguided to see the light? Or does it mean that there are disparate views? How do comments by Sens. McCain, Lugar, and Hagel fit in on all that? Although you believe the situations were not analogous, do you view the national split on Vietnam as due to "confusion" or to the existence of differing but well thought out views? Do you view the existence of difering views on Iraq as springing from well thought out views or something else? If something else, please do clarify. Thanks!

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004


I'm like that joke Bush made about Kerry being able to have a debate one on one by himself, but for reasons other than what Bush cited. As a moderate, a centrist, I don't hold black and white views, so I just am trying to process info from a lot of different stories. I think the existence of the Internet, and especially blogs and message boards, heightens the sense of polarization. How bad the divide actually is in the rest of the country, I just don't know. What I'm reading in the press gives mixed signals, what I read on HNN points to a lot of anger, even hatred.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

PS, it is a federal holiday so I am home today, not at work. I am sure that most of you are baffled by why I add all the tag lines about posting by Smartphone, or being on lunch break, or whatever (although I sometimes forget). I'm just being careful, it's not that I don't trust you, but I never know who among you might get angry at me for daring to voice my opinions, and complain about me. (I'll let you know if I suddenly get a notice of tax audit, LOL, or become the subject of other "abuses of power." Just kidding, but remember, I spent years listeing to the Nixon tapes while an employee of NARA.) So, when I can remember, which isn't always I try to work in a line about the fact that yes, I am posting on personal time.

Maarja Krusten - 11/11/2004

How many of you have registered to read the Washington Post’s on line editions? It’s my local paper so of course I have. Many newspapers require registration and I can’t tell if I am reaching any HNN readers when I post URLs to the WP’s stories. Is it worth my posting any URLs? Are some of you avoiding the WP stories because you view the paper as “liberal?” I’ve been reading it for decades and in my eyes, it is much more moderate than it used to be. But then, I’m a moderate, who sometimes feels like an army of one here on HNN, LOL. At any rate, there’s an article in today’s paper I found worth reading as it touches on several themes we (we – um --, I) have been discussing here on HNN (comfortable middle class people patting themselves on the back for their exemplary moral values, how to reach people whose lives are filled with darkness and poverty). The article is called, “Brothers Make a Crew into a Church.”

The article is about a youth minister and a young adult minister of a church in the Washington area. They focus on teaching life skills to troubled young people. "It's so easy for churches to get caught up going to the light," Tony says. "There are young people crying out for alternatives." "The church is not the four walls," says Bill. "In order to get young people to church, you've gotta go grab them."

I know some of you would dismiss these Washington area young people or stereotype them--because of their race and geographic location--simply as Democratic voters, if they grow up to vote. But the way the ministers are reaching out to them is effective. “Hip-hop dancers kicked, spun and pop-locked for Jesus in front of the sanctuary. Several boys led the congregation in Scripture, rendered in "young men" translation:

I was crunk when they told me we goin' to chill at God's crib, standing at the gate with our Tims on, O Jeru.

Blessed are those who chill at Big G's crib, I'm feelin' this spot.

Let ev'rything I say, and ev'rything I feel, be cool with you, Big G, my man for life.

Then there was the kid who bodysurfed a mosh pit of amped-up boys wearing denim and jazzy black "Genesis" T-shirts. "They don't knooooow," the boys sang, paraphrasing the raspy rapper DMX, "who God iiiiiiiis!"

At any rate, I came away from reading the article with a lot of admiration for the two ministers, more so than the ones such as Pastore, with his rants against liberalism as an “evil ideology” in a recent Los Angeles Times piece. I just can’t imagine Pastore being nearly as effective in reaching troubled youth as the Lee brothers described in today’s article. I’m sure there are people like me who read HNN but don’t hate any of their fellow citizens and ministers such as the Lee brothers who effectively are reaching out to the downtrodden rather than railing against fellow Americans. I just wish the media would be publishing more articles about them..

John H. Lederer - 11/10/2004

The percentages of voters in 200 and 2004 that attend church regularly, seldom, or not at all stayed about the same.

Bush's gains were in the "seldom" and "not at all" ctaegories. In crude exaggeration, the atheists elected Bush.

Of the voters who said moral values were the most important issue to them, voters for Nader overwhlemingly picked "moral values" as the most important issue (57%)-- far more than any other candidate. Were they choosing religious values?

So this whole article leaps too far on too little.

Maarja Krusten - 11/10/2004

Sorry, my link above may not work, try

Maarja Krusten - 11/10/2004

Wonkette (http://www.wonkette.com) links to the anti-Southern rant that is the counterpoint to the anti-East and West coast rant in Human Events which I linked to above. She quotes from it too, unlike Dr. Luker. Wonkette is a bit pottymouthed, more so than me, that's for sure, but that doesn't stop me browsing her site. It's a good counterpoint to Drudge, which I also browse.

Wonkette also links to a site called http://www.sorryeverybody.com in which some members of the 49% who did not vote for Bush express their views to the wired world. I only looked at a few, such as
in which the "liberal living in Texas" was pretty clever.
Say what you will about the people who were willing to post their pix and words to the site, they do tell the world that in the good old US of A, a party can lose and its members not fear retribution. There they are, hundreds of people unfraid to show their faces and post their signs, some silly, some thoughtful.

Maarja Krusten - 11/10/2004

Two items that point to more moderation, although the advocates among you probably won't like 'em:

"Liberal Christians Challenge Values Vote," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38001-2004Nov9.html , notes that

"Liberal Christian leaders argued yesterday that the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage." Well, now that a different face on things, more in line with what Gary Hart talked about in his op ed.

And one cleric noted, ""The values that were promoted most within the conservative religious community were almost always tied to a fear factor, and that was not necessarily the case in the Democratic strategy, and I would say should not be the case," said the Rev. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance." So obviously, there is not just a single voice for Christianity and, of course, for the pluralistic society that America encompasses.

Elsewhere, Robert J. Samuelson noted in "The Politics of Self Esteem" at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A38244-2004Nov9.htm that

"America is not (as I've written before) a polarized society, though its politics are polarized. "The great mass of American people . . . are for the most part moderate in their views and tolerant in their manner," writes political scientist Morris Fiorina of Stanford University in his new book, "Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America." General attitudes on race and sexual preference have softened in recent decades. Divisions on many political issues exist, but they always have. Great passions are confined mainly to "activists in the political parties and various cause groups [many of whom] do in fact hate each other.""

Samuelson believes that at least for now "the center still holds, but assaulted from all sides, it may not forever." Who knows what the future will bring. "Polarization is increasingly the business of politicians, advocacy groups and opinion leaders across the political spectrum. The people who are most polarized like being polarized. They feel good because the other people are bad. Political elites could turn more toward the center, but that would mean appealing to less committed people who draw less of their identities from politics. This seems uninviting. "

Samuelson believes that some of it comes down to self esteem: "What I mean is that, under the cover of these familiar conflicts, politicians and opinion leaders are really engaged in a contest to raise the spirits and affirm the beliefs of their supporters. This is what many Americans now want. They desire elevated self-esteem."

As a result, "Politics increasingly strives to feed these self-images [of intellectual or moral superiority]. The easiest way to make your people feel better is to cast their people as immoral, stupid, evil, corrupt or greedy. Politics, news and entertainment merge, because all seek to satisfy psychological needs. Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly are more important political figures than most senators. The starkest contrast between Bush and Kerry was in the sensibilities they projected: Bush as decisive, steadfast and religious; Kerry as thoughtful, informed and worldly. "

I see what Samuelson is saying, although it is hard for me to imagine that anyone on the Left or the Right who really hates "the other" could accept any of this. Perhap these types of stories will appeal only to the moderates. Even if I'm only preaching to part of the choir, I thought these two items worth posting.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/10/2004

I have to agree with Henslee on this one--without the public confusion over the necessity of the war in Iraq, this election could very well have been a landslide.
Chances are that by 2006 this matter will have been resolved and it is off to the mid-term races for the voters.
I suspect it is the Democrats, not Bush, that are going to have to moderate their positions. This March to the right is long and it is sustained and, I believe, comforting to the majority of Americans.
The Democrats seem not have realized this with the pronouncements of future battles on legislative matters and judicial nominations. This will not fly with the public.
We had the extraordinary example of all that is wrong with the Democrats yesterday with Bill Clinton, of all people, lecturing Democrats on the need for Democrats
to get in touch with and enunciate their "core religious values"! If Clinton has now become the spokesman for Democratic family values, the Party is in serious, serious trouble. Is there any Democrat out there that believes that Clinton's behavior while in the White House was not responsible for much of the expressed "values" vote this November???

William A. Henslee - 11/10/2004

Rather than a last gasp of the conservatives, perhaps the country simply took a deep breath before continuing the conservative march.

Isn't it possible that another argument needs to be made here? Did other factors (like Iraq)tend to turn voters away from Bush and obscure an even greater sense of alienation from the Democratic party by the average American nationwide?

I argue that there were a great many people who otherwise would have voted for Bush but for the problems with the Iraq war and the perceived lag in the economic recovery.

While there are always issues that can be raised against an incumbent, have any incumbents ever withstood the pressures of a divisive war and economic softness? Bush did.

The United States is seldom confronted with those two problems at once--and yet Bush won convincingly. Just how many of the blue state voters would have voted for him absent these two issues?

Take out the Iraq war and this could have been a major sweep of the nation. The nation took a deep breath and still decided to continue in the direction that has been evident since the last gasp of classic liberalism under Johnson in 1964.

William A. Henslee - 11/10/2004

Isn't it possible that another argument needs to be made here? Did other factors (like Iraq)tend to turn voters away from Bush and obscure an even greater sense of alienation from the Democratic party by the average American nationwide?

I argue that there were a great many people who otherwise would have voted for Bush but for the problems with the Iraq war and the perceived lag in the economic recovery.

While there are always issues that can be raised against an incumbent, have any incumbents ever withstood the pressures of a divisive war and economic softness?

While you can't wish them away, the United States is seldom confronted with those two problems at once--and yet Bush won convincingly. Just how many of the blue state voters would have voted for him absent these two issues?

This could have been a major sweep of the nation absent these issues.

Maarja Krusten - 11/10/2004

In the forum quote above, I have no idea what the person means by "peace negotiations." He or she seems to have some really muddled views, there was no mention of "peace negotiations" with Iraq during the campaign (the problems lie with insurgents, not a natioanl government, and no one has talked about peace talks, whatever those would be, anyway.) Don't get hung up on that part of the posting. The point is, that poster now seems to view the troops fighting in Iraq merely as "Bush supporters." Not fair to them, whether the soldiers voted for Bush or for Kerry.

Maarja Krusten - 11/10/2004

Perhaps because it is an election year, some of the people who post here on HNN write as if they in their own personages represent "America." Recently, there has been a disturbing trend of people trying to tell each other who is a "real American" and who is "not a real American." Or who represents American values and who does not. To see an extreme version of this, check out http://www.humaneventsonline.com/article.php?id=5652 Equally extreme, from the other side, is an article lambasting the South, which Ralph Luker links to at
Cliopatria in his entry, "From my mailbag." Look for the link for "this" in the short paragraph where Dr. Luker mentions Grant Jones, then says "He could learn from this" and then warns about offensive language. Check out both the articles.

To me, this chest beating about who is better seems just silly. Moreover, it comes across as arrogant, whether it comes from the Left or the Right.

And some of what I hear on HNN comes across as just plain hypocritical. We're mostly just a bunch of well educated, white, middle or upper middle class people who know a bit about some stuff, yakking here. That's all! None of us has come down off of any mountains recently, LOL.

I attribute some of the polarization to the way the politicans chose to run their campaigns. Unfortunately, it has had an extreme effect on some people. Consider a posting I recently saw on another forum. I NEVER saw this type of stuff earlier in the year before the politicians stirred up everyone. Our troops don't deserve the sentiments expressed below, and emotions may cool over time, but hey, even on HNN, we seem to accept that we now are the Disunited States. Ponder this posting, below:

"From: Brennan2b440 Nov-8 4:21 pm
To: Jonzii (177 of 457)

2508.177 in reply to 2508.108

You must have missed the town hall meeting debate, or were taking a break when Bush said this will be a "long, long, long" war. Kerry would have strengthened the forces and started peace negotiations. These soldiers and their families voted for Bush and his long war. Now you want me to worry about them. Tough love. They made their bed."

I ask those on HNN who still are flinging around rhetoric about who represents America, are you part of the problem, or are you part of the solution? And no, I do not accept as a solution the muzzling, bullying, intimidation or demonization of fellow citizens who happen to look at things from a different viewpoint, whether they live in Red States or Blue States. If we do that, it ain't America, and there's no point advocating "freedom on the march" abroad if we don't accept its underlying premise here at home.

OK, off of my soapbox for now.

Posted on personal time during lunch

Ben H. Severance - 11/10/2004


Two weeks ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly with your Point No. 2. I certainly went into the polling booth with Iraq as the central issue on my mind. But evidently 59,000,000 Americans think the Bush Doctrine is just fine. And I don't think a more concerted effort by Kerry to pursuade them otherwise would have succeeded. There was already plenty of media and print press coverage of the manifest failure of Bush's policy in Iraq. Everyone was fully aware of the WMD hoax, the non-connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, the violations of the Geneva Convention at Abu Ghraib, and the ineffective efforts to subue the Iraqi insurgency and pacify the country. A majority of Americans, however, chose to ignore or downplay or rationalize these unmistakable examples of Bush's incompetence. Why? Because most Americans like the idea of their nation unilaterally kicking ass in the world as long as there are no major defeats. And the low U.S. casuality figures in Iraq militate against any serious anti-war sentiment.

Nearly a quarter of the voters ranked character and moral issues above the war on terror. Hence my culture war comments elsewhere. But I agree with you that if the Republicans use this election as a mandate for social regression, then they will lose. Personally, I think the secular-minded business Republicans will attempt to wrest control from the Neo-Cons. The moment of truth will probably come with Bush's first Supreme Court nominee. If he/she is ultra-Conservative then the president as ideologue will be confirmed and the Republicans will likely fracture. If he/she is a moderate, then the Religious Right will discover once again how the GOP egregiously exploits it fundamentalist wing. I think Bush at heart is a fundamentalist, but my hope is that he is pragmatic enough to know that the Religious Right is a minority in the party and not the faction around which to pursue his non-religious agendas. Oddly enough, on social issues, it is encouraging that unchurched politicos such as Cheney and McCain and even Schwarzenegger wield influence and power in the party.

Vernon Clayson - 11/10/2004

Mr. Steinhart dissected the past election in great detail, imagining, like so many pundits, that there were deep and serious motivations for turning out the Democratic candidate. It's much simpler than that and I explain it by borrowing from an old book title about JFK (John Kennedy). It was entitled, "Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye", actually, one should be written for this JFK, (John Kerry) entitled,
"Johnny, We Just Didn't Like Ye."

Oscar Chamberlain - 11/10/2004

1. It was a very close election.

2. Kerry made one massive mistake that was tactical, more than substantive, he made his own character the centerpiece of his appeal. I happen to respect him more than many people do, but that choice made it easy for Republicans to deflect attention from Bush's failures in Iraq.

If Kerry's focus had been on acknowledging Bush's apparent competence in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and then repeating, day after day, how he had blown it, I think Kerry would be president, albeit by at least as narrow a margin.

3. Despite 1 and 2, the Republicans have considerable power now to shape policy. That's a major defeat for Democrats. If the Repbulicans show some intelligence in appealing to some of those people who voted against Bush, they can shape a long-tem majority.

4. Democratic hopes in this area are based on the assumption that the highly ideological Republican leadership will not be able to do that. There is some reason to think that will be true.

5. Steinhorn's comments are pertinent to this. Those people who simply want an evangelical president who is pro-life and strongly anti-gay are not going to vote Democrat. Nor should they.

But there are plenty of people who voted for Bush this time despite wanting a more moderate aproach to domestic and environmental concerns.

6. If the Republican leadership sees this is as their ideological hour, they will lose some of the latter group, perhaps many of them.

Ellen Randolph - 11/10/2004

The chattering class having wasted a weeks worth of op/ed newsprint and of TV hours nattering about "moral values" and what Democrats should do about it, it's time to stick a fork in it.

Democrats don't have to pander to religious conservatives. What they have to do is cut their ties with big business. Ross Perot knew it; Ralph Nader knew it.

The next two years and the two years after should be spent accusing the Republicans daily of selling out to the drug companies, to the HMOs, to the oil & gas industry, to the coal industry, to the media empires, to the electric power industry, to the banks, to the insurance companies, to the investment bankers and stock brokers.

Democrats should be telling the country that the Republicans have handed the FDA to the drug companies, the FCC to the media companies, the SEC to the brokers and the banks, and telling the country what the Republicans have gotten in return.

They should be telling the country that the Republicans are responsible for America having the worst health care outcomes of any developed country in the world, that careless doctors and nurses kill 90,000 patients a year misprescribing drugs and an additional 90,000 because they're too lazy to wash their hands, and the Republicans want to relieve these incompetents from any responsibility.

Every time a trench falls in and kills a worker, Democrats should be charging Republicans with killing him -- where's the funding for OSHA? or a railroad grade crossing death -- what's the Republican head of the Federal Railroad Administration been doing?

If Democrats return to representing the common people instead of worrying about CEO stock options as Lieberman does or the media giants' bottom line as Gore did, the Democratic party will be back.

Thomas W Hagedorn - 11/9/2004

I hope and pray that the Democrats follow Steinhorn's anlaysis and recommendations. If they are nearing victory, I would hate to see what an approaching defeat looks like. "De-nial" is not just a river in Egypt. 3 Presidential victories out of the last 10, the lowest Dem. numbers in the House and Senate in 60 years, minority party in most state houses and governorships. Wow, what success!

Thomas W Hagedorn - 11/9/2004

I hope and pray that the Democrats follow Steinhorn's anlaysis and recommendations. If they are nearing victory, I would hate to see what an approaching defeat looks like. "De-nial" is not just a river in Egypt. 3 Presidential victories out of the last 10, the lowest Dem. numbers in the House and Senate in 60 years, minority party in most state houses and governorships. Wow, what success!

Lynn Bryan Schwartz - 11/9/2004

This article is a bit disingenuous because it argues that the voters that continually come out in force and win elections for Republicans are marginal because, at some indeterminate time, they will not count. The argument that if one discounts 13 states then Kerry would win seems to me to be the problem with the present Democratic party. Dr. Steinhorn writes that since these states represent only one third of the population they should be largely ignored. The Democrats frequently portray themselves THE party of inclusiveness. Obviously, this inclusiveness, Steinhorn feels, should not extend to 13 of the 50 states because the party has no room for people who are religious or beleive in traditional moral orsocial values.If the Democrats are to win again, they need to live up to their ideal of inclusiveness and reach out to these kinds of voters.

Ben H. Severance - 11/9/2004

I once thought that the Contract with America was the last gasp reaction against the Democrats' pursuit of a state-managed economy and cultural pluralism, but the recent election proved otherwise. I agree that a growing number of younger Americans are coming to accept alternative lifestyles; and I suspect that within a generation or two American society will have normalized homosexuality. Until then, however, a fierce battle over this issue is inevitable. 2004 is not a last gasp, but the aggressive continuation of a domestic culture war where something akin to Massive Resistance looms on the horizon. Throw in the liklihood of three new ultra-Conservative Justices and liberal-minded Americans face an uphill fight. But progress is borne of conflict, so no one should be surprised by current events. Sooner or later, the Beatitudes of Christ and his command to love (your neighbors, your enemies, yourself, each other, and God) will prevail over narrow-minded literalism, persecutory judgments, and self-righteous thinking.

By the way, a solid forty percent of southerners, myself included, oppose the Bush social agenda. And most of them, myself included, boast in the Lord.