The Party of Abnormality
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 todays 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 didnt 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 wasnt enough.
Writing in the New York Times, Garry Wills, another professed Catholic, notes plaintively that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwins theory of evolution. To him Bushs 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 Bushs 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 Kerrys rings hollow. That is, they trusted him to lead in a way they couldnt 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 couldnt even bring himself to repudiate same-sex marriage except in the most muffled, nuanced way, leaving himself plenty of room for future reversal.
It isnt 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 theyll 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 theyve 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 youre discouraged from putting in your mouth is tobacco.
You dont have to be very conservative to have qualms about suddenly discarding old traditions and institutions in deference to the latest bright idea. But weve succumbed to the shibboleth of change without stopping to ask what is being changed into what.
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