November 4, 2004 

by Joe Sobran

     One of my oldest, dearest friends is a liberal -- 
the real thing. He makes no bones about it, calling 
himself a "secular humanist" with an aversion to revealed 
religion. Utterly honest and principled, he was 
enthusiastic about John Kerry and is distressed by 
President Bush's reelection. 

     The analysts are already reaching a consensus on the 
decisive factor in this election: not so much a 
particular issue as the general climate of "moral values" 
and their traduction in today's America. This concern was 
a great asset to the Republicans, who played it for all 
it was worth and then some. 

     Bush not only affirmed moral absolutes, but 
suggested that opponents of the Iraq war are moral 
relativists and, yes, secular humanists. Not very 
logical, but it seems to have worked, thanks to Kerry and 
the Democrats. 

     As my friend bears witness, Kerry had a strong 
appeal to the unchurched and the unbeliever. His 
professions of Catholicism didn't bother such people at 
all, because his "faith" has no particular content. He 
has the demeanor, and the voting record, of a New England 
Unitarian. More Catholics voted for Bush than for Kerry. 
Kerry won heavily among voters who saw the Iraq war as 
the most important issue at stake, but this wasn't 

     Writing in the NEW YORK TIMES, Garry Wills, another 
professed Catholic, notes plaintively that "many more 
Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin's 
theory of evolution." To him Bush's victory signifies the 
baneful results of religion undomesticated by 
"Enlightenment values." If you believe in the Virgin 
Birth, it seems, you are probably the sort of person who 
supports Bush's "jihad" against the Muslim world. 

     I suspect that if the election were about "moral 
values" alone, Bush would have won by a much wider 
margin. His war is troubling to many people otherwise 
inclined to support him, but some of them voted for him 
anyway because they perceived that his faith is real and 
Kerry's rings hollow. That is, they trusted him to lead 
in a way they couldn't trust Kerry. 

     Put otherwise, if religious voters had felt that 
Kerry was "one of us" at heart, the bad news from and 
about Iraq this year might have been enough to topple 
Bush. But we never felt that Kerry was criticizing Bush 
from any matrix of conviction. 

     Kerry exemplifies the moral faddism of modern 
liberalism, which infallibly gravitates to the abnormal 
against the normal: abortion, "gay rights," and sexual 
license in general, with government throwing its weight 
on the side of each new fad that comes along. He couldn't 
even bring himself to repudiate same-sex "marriage" 
except in the most muffled, "nuanced" way, leaving 
himself plenty of room for future reversal. 

     It isn't just Kerry; this is now the style of the 
Democrats in general. Their moral faddism, with all its 
morbid energy, is a given; it has no limits except those 
imposed by political prudence. They disagree among 
themselves only about how far to go at a given moment, 
but the open-ended logic of their positions is clear 
enough. Today they take positions nobody imagined 20 
years ago; who knows what they'll be calling for 20 years 
from now? 

     If every election becomes a referendum on normality, 
the Democrats will keep losing. The Republicans have 
already figured this out; the Democrats may be beginning 
to catch on, but unfortunately they've already married 
themselves (so to speak) to abnormal causes, which they, 
like Wills, equate with enlightenment. 

     The hive-like moral conformity of the intellectuals 
is among the wonders of the modern world. They are 
positively attracted to perverse ideas like same-sex 
"marriage." Never mind that this never even occurred to 
the sodomites of antiquity, who understood perfectly well 
that the point of marriage was to care for children: As 
soon as the notion was proposed amongst us, the 
putatively enlightened rallied unanimously to it. Nobody 
laughed, let alone dissented. 

     The Democrats immediately adopted the idea, thereby 
conceding the Republicans a monopoly on common sense. 
This is a steep price to pay for victory in San 
Francisco, Provincetown, and other precincts where the 
only thing you're discouraged from putting in your mouth 
is tobacco. 

     You don't have to be very conservative to have 
qualms about suddenly discarding old traditions and 
institutions in deference to the latest bright idea. But 
we've succumbed to the shibboleth of "change" without 
stopping to ask what is being changed into what. 


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