Post-election spin

Leftist blogs say the election turned on “gay marriage,” the prominent rightist blogs say it didn’t (Kos and Little Green Footballs provide an example). The election was close, and turned on any number of things. The reason for the dispute over this particular point, it seems, is that leftists believe the interpretation irrefutably discredits the outcome as an expression of bigotry, and the mainstream right won’t argue the contrary.

The rightwing reluctance to argue the issue shows that there’s a lot of work ahead for opponents of the movement to normalize homosexuality. Experience since the ’60s shows that “the people” can’t act as a sort of deus ex machina that saves the country from the inability or unwillingness of public figures to present persuasive arguments for traditional moral ties and standards. So the struggle to preserve the family as a natural and fundamental social institution (and therefore the state as an add-on rather than the ultimate basis of social order) has a very long way to go. In a country with as many experts, functionaries and judges as America the popular sense of reality can’t stand up to the outlook of the people who run things, referenda to the contrary notwithstanding. Articulate principle is needed as well, and at this point it doesn’t have much of a presence in public life.

3 thoughts on “Post-election spin”

  1. Wrong interpretation
    I have a different take on this spin. Some leftists, at least, are willing to admit that the gay marriage thing was going to far. See , an essay by the editors Cockburn and St. Clair. They see the gay marriage issue as indulgent on the part of the coastal, urban elite and realise that the way ahead for the left is to de-emphasize its cultural ‘progressiveness’ and reemphasize economic issues. I get the same impression from more mainstream commentary of the left. This tone is not triumphal, it is soul searching.

    On the other hand, Little Green Footballs and the likes of David Brooks have an incentive to portray the election as a referendum on the War on Terrorism, Iraqi front , rather than a referendum on gay marriage, gun rights, etc. The ‘conservative’ coastal elites don’t really care all that much about gay marriage or even abortion,but for some reason they really enjoy invading other countries. If the ‘moral’ factor is the key to the last election, they lose their mandate for more invasion, intervention, etc. Hence the tone is triumphal, or at least trying to fake it, and they downplay the morality factor.

    BTW, the David Brooks editorial in the NYT is quite disingenuous. He claims that there is no evidence election the election was won on gay marriage or ‘moral values’ because the proportion of evangelicals in the electorate was the same. But given the mobilisation of voters on the left, creating a much larger pool of voters overall, there must be more evangelicals on the right who went to the polls (otherwise the proportion of evangelical voters would have declined). That is, the evangelical vote must be a larger proportion of the Republican vote and the exit polls tell us these people are worried first and foremost about ‘moral values’, rather than Iraq or the so-called War or Terror.

    • Both interpretations are correct
      I agreee with most of what stari_momak says. The response of the articulate public right to the election is partly a matter of wanting to push the Iraq war and partly a matter of not having anything to say or not caring about cultural issues. A politics buff isn’t likely to be that interested in cultural issues in any event because he views a different side of human life as decisive. So I think my conclusion stands, that traditionalists who think cultural issues are decisive but in an overgoverned world political action is needed to promote cultural goods and stave off cultural threats have a long way to go before they can change the current correlation of forces.

      It seems to me unlikely, by the way, that the left will be able to downplay cultural in favor of economic issues. The former have become their religion, and the latter seem hard to do much about.

      Rem tene, verba sequentur.

      • A little to strong
        I agree, my title was a bit too strong. At the same time, I think there is a real current on the left on moderation of some of the cultural issues. The emergence of a left focussed on economic issues is that last thing either the cultural left or the mainstream ‘conservatives’ want to see.

        Of course, in the present context, moderation on cultural issues means a position that was far to the left only 20 years ago.


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