Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2004 /26 Mar-Cheshvan 5765
Bush's values got more black voters in his camp than in 2000, but all is not lost for Dems
When the final votes came in, President Bush's black vote looked like a drop in the bucket amid his national flood, but it looked like a big hole in the bucket for his Democratic opponent.
In a black turnout that surged about 25 percent from 2000 to 13.2 million voters, 11 percent of it went to Bush, compared to a paltry 8 percent in 2000.
But the real cost to Sen. John Kerry appeared in key battleground states like Ohio, where Bush received an impressive 16 percent of the black vote, 7 percentage points more than he received in 2000, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
In Florida, 13 percent of the black vote went to Bush, almost twice the 7 percent he received there four years ago.
In Pennsylvania, which Kerry won, Bush nevertheless took 16 percent of the black vote, up from 7 percent in 2000.
In Georgia (12 percent from 7 percent in 2000), North Carolina (14 percent from 9 percent) and his home state of Texas (16 percent from 5 percent), Bush also made gains.
Since African-Americans are the Democratic party's most loyal major ethnic or racial group, that's a lot of Kerry's political base that jumped the fence.
Many of those fence jumpers appear to be new voters, part of Bush political adviser Karl Rove's success in mobilizing the 4 million evangelical Christians who reportedly stayed home in 2000. The "moral values" issue, however you define it, that emerged surprisingly in exit polls as a bigger concern for voters than any other issue apparently proved to be a big draw for black Bush voters too.
A recent poll by the Joint Center, a Washington-based think tank specializing in black issues, forecast a surprisingly large black turnout for Bush. It also found pro-Bush blacks were more likely than Kerry supporters to be regular churchgoers, over age 50, opposed to gay marriage and not as worried about where their next dollar would come from.
"If the Supreme Court put Bush in the White House in 2000," David Bositis, the Joint Center's senior political analyst, observed, "the Massachusetts Supreme Court (which upheld gay marriage in that state) probably put him back in the White House in 2004."
Yet, it also is instructive to note how quickly same-sex civil unions, a radical idea just a few short years ago, have become the new politically safe alternative position for candidates of both parties. Even President Bush endorsed civil unions, "if that's what the states want to do," in an October interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," disagreeing with his own party's platform.
Despondent Democrats should take heart from that shift as they wonder how they lost their mojo: Most Americans eventually grow more comfortable with new frontiers of freedom and equality, but you can't push them too fast.
So, take heart, dear Democrats: Come in, come in off that ledge. Please step away from that circular firing squad. All is not lost.
Yours is a party that once indisputably held the moral high ground in the minds of most American voters and you can seize it again.
First, you've got to stop letting the other party do a better job of defining your "moral values" than you do of defining theirs.
You're not likely to win over many hard-core liberal haters, but you can win back many of the persuadable, middle-of-the-road independents who see themselves as the people who President Clinton said, "work hard and play by the rules."
Their moral values question, for example, the withholding of full funding for educational reforms (like "No Child Left Behind") to help fund tax breaks for wealthy corporations.
Their moral values agree that, when a senior citizen has to choose between paying for her prescription medicine and paying her rent, it makes all of our lives poorer, as Senator-elect Barack Obama from Illinois told the Democratic National Convention.
"No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems," Obama said. "But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice."
Yes, not every American voter shares those moral values. But, as conservative author Phyllis Schlafly wrote in the year of Barry Goldwater's disastrous loss 40 years ago, all of us deserve to have the choice, not just an echo.
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