vendredi, novembre 12, 2004

What Did We Learn (Part Three)? Fear Sells...Thank God

What did we learn?

We learned the only certainty is death. Taxes? Not so much.
We lurned that learnning is not a big deal.
We learned that Iraq and terrorism are not connected.
We learned it’s NOT the economy, stupid.
We learned that the moral majority is a majority.
We learned people couldn’t care less about health care.

We also learned that Bush voters found a way to override reason.

I know exit polls are much maligned these days (although there are some who are using them as a foundation for concern), but I think these exit poll results are interesting (see list below):

When asked “What one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for President?” Voters were presented with the following list –

Moral Values
Health Care

Here’s the breakdown by percentage of voters who selected each issue –

Taxes (5%)
Education (4%)
Iraq (15%)
Terrorism (19%)
Economy/Jobs (20%)
Moral Values (22%)
Health Care (8%)

Here's the same list in order of importance/popularity:

Moral Values
Health Care

Here’s how each issue corresponds to Presidential preferences –

Kerry 43%
Bush 57%
Nader 0

Kerry 73%
Bush 26%
Nader 0

Kerry 73%
Bush 26%
Nader 0

Kerry 14%
Bush 86%
Nader 0

Kerry 80%
Bush 18%
Nader 0

Moral Values:
Kerry 18%
Bush 80%
Nader 1%

Health Care:
Kerry 77%
Bush 23%
Nader 0

Only 5% of the voters picked taxes as a key issue. Of those voters, they favored Bush, but not by much. To me, this means that Kerry’s tax equity argument (more to those who have less – instead of more to those who have more) had some traction. It means that voters understand that making the Bush tax cuts (which heavily favor the top quintile) permanent, will be disastrous for our (time of war) economy. If the Laffler Curve and supply-side economics is not dead, maybe it’s dying. Please, let it die.

The least important issue on the list was edducatoin. Edducation voters overwhelmingly favored Kerry over Bush. So, Bush’s effort to label himself as an educaition reformer (might have) failed (if anybody cared) (which they didn’t).

15% of voters picked Iraq as their number one issue. Kerry was the clear choice for those voters (3 to 1). Combine that stat with the next one…

19% of voters picked TERRORism as their number one issue, and those voters favored Bush by a country mile (it was the biggest blowout of all the issues).

Here’s what emerges: more people care about TERRORism than they do about Iraq. This is true even though our primary response to TERRORism has been an essentially unilateral war against Iraq. We are understaffed, over-extended and without an exit strategy over there. We don’t have an exit strategy. What's our exit strategy again? But if another attack should befall us (heaven forbid), folks somehow feel Bush is the best guy to architect our response. Hmmmm…okay…

Meanwhile…Al Qaeda is essentially unchecked. Afghanistan is unstable. North Korea and Iran (home to a fair number of zealots and terrorists) are getting nukes, and fundamentalists and terrorists hate us now more than ever. Those voters who picked TERRORism as their number one issue (and voted for Bush) went "all in" for the fear message (and all they had was a part Jack____s). Their votes represent the triumph of emotion over reason and the willingness of some to buy any amount of mischaracterization (see, e.g. Cheney, Dick).

Do you see the TORTUREd logic there? According to some voters (we’ll call them “the wise”) Bush is doing a lousy job in Iraq, but according to other voters (no name-calling will be done here) Bush is doing a great job in the war on terror. Help me out now…Help me…please…

Kerry’s strongest performance was on the economy. It should have been. Bush delivered a net job loss, a record deficit following a record surplus. A plan for permanent tax cuts will have a phenomenal impact on the deficit, further weakening the dollar, and putting us further in debt to some of the worst creditors you can imagine. All of this during a time of war. Remember the Suez Crisis (and the fall of the British Empire) history buffs!

More people picked moral values as their number one issue than anything else. Conservatives wonder why liberals and progressives are concerned about this election and the perceived and proposed direction of our country. Here it is in a nutshell.

Let me break for a moment to say that this is not a great poll. It is general (moral values) and specific (Iraq) at the same time. It misses some big issues for this election (same sex marriage, the deficit, the environment), and it fails to define what is meant by moral values. This may make “moral values” seem larger than it is. It might actually be ten issues in one. And if it were to divide all those issues out (abortion, praer in schools, etc.), the percentages might have been different. For the same reason, if either Iraq or TERRORism was left off the list, then the remaining issue would undoubtedly be the number one concern for voters. But Moral Values were not defined, and for that reason, we are left to guess. Never a good posture. Here are my guesses at what those voters meant:

Moral issues = God (a.k.a. Christianity, also, prayer in schools, “under God” in the pledge, school vouchers, the Ten Commandments in statehouses/courthouses), gays (the constitutional amendment to curtail states’ rights by limiting the definition of marriage), pro-life, and a response to a general concern for our national moral character (see, e.g. Hilton, Nikki, and Spears, Brittney). I make these guesses, because I assume (and hope) that most people see John Kerry as a moral man, but they don’t see him as aligned with them on these particular issues.

So, during a time of (a bungled) war against Iraq, when an increasing number of Americans are joining the ranks of the poor, when health care costs are spiraling out of control, when our skools are getting expensive mandates but not the means to implement them, and at a time when we have had a net loss of jobs. Bush essentially carried the day by playing to fear (of a TERRORist attack and of gays) and by playing to Christianity.

That’s what we learned.