Somebody’s got to say it: Gay Marriage cost the Democrats the election.
In these PC times, I’m sure not many on the Left will take a clear-headed, even-handed look at the impact of the Gay Marriage issue on the 2004 election, much less call into question the strategy that drove it one that somehow couldn’t “wait ’til next year.”
First off, let me say that I am a staunch defender of Gay Rights. In fact, the sole yard sign I had this election season was one urging a No vote on Oregon’s Constitutional Amendment against Gay Marriage. (The Amendment passed with 57% in favor. My sign was stolen.) My Unitarian Universalist congregation proudly voted unanimously to oppose the measure. And even though it has proven disastrous politically, those scenes of Gavin Newsome and newly married couples in San Francisco had a sweetness and sense of justice about them.
The Anti-Gay Marriage Clean Sweep
Throughout election night, I checked in on the Ohio vote numerous times and jumping off the screen was the vote there on Gay Marriage. This amendment was far more restrictive than the Oregon one banning Civil Unions and even Domestic Partnerships for heteros; Oregon’s just declared marriage to be between One Man and One Woman. (As one wag noted: when it gets to One Man/One Woman/One Time, then we’ll really be getting serious.)
In the end, the Ohio measure passed overwhelmingly 62% to 38% with, most importantly, a 1,411,284 margin of victory.
Exit polling showed that, of people who said that Moral Issues were the main motivation for their vote, over 80% picked Bush. In a country that’s 80% Christian, that translates into a lot of votes.
“I’m not surprised it emerged as an important issue, but I am surprised it emerged as the most important issue,” said Luis E. Lugo director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
“America spoke, and they said they care about family values,” said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition.
Nationally, voters reported that “moral values” was the issue that mattered most. For twenty-two percent it was the top issue, beating out “economy” at 20% and “terrorism” at 19%. In Ohio “moral Values” came in at 23%.
There’s even evidence that Kerry’s percentage of the African-American and Hispanic vote was less than Gore’s due to the issue.
A pre-election survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an African-American think tank found that 18% of African-Americans planned to vote for Bush – 10% higher than voted for Bush in 2000. (Though in the vote that really counted, Bush got 20% of the Black vote – Clarence Thomas.)
Eddie N. Williams, the center’s president, said African-Americans “are holding conservative positions on some wedge issues like same-sex marriage and civil unions.” About half the survey’s black respondents opposed marriage and civil unions for gays.
Bush won Ohio by 136,000. How many of the 3.2 million who voted for the antigay measure might not have even voted or voted differently had this issue not been thrust to the forefront this year?
Anti-Gay Marriage amendments were on eleven state ballots. It was a clean sweep for the anti-Gay Marriage forces. Of the eleven states, nine (Mississippi, Montana, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, and Oklahoma) with a total of 73 Electoral votes went for Bush.
Not only did the Democrats get out-flanked by the Gay Marriage juggernaut, Kerry’s own position on Gay Marriage was one more piece of incoherent flip-flopping. At least Cheney was cogent, if not courageous. Cheney said he “disagreed with the president” on the issue of a Constitutional Amendment ban and that “freedom means freedom for everyone.” Kerry and Edwards even descended into a weird form of gay-baiting — inappropriately bringing Cheney’s daughter into the equation.
“We Won! We Beat Nader”
For a year, the ABBies have focused all their ire on Ralph Nader. We heard from so many how “Nader’s an egomaniac” blah, blah, blahWe heard how “non-strategic” his run wasHow he “tainted his legacy”
We were even treated to insufferable nonsense about Nader on Election Day itself, when Chris Suellentrop, Slate’s deputy Washington bureau chief, actually posted an intelligent missive pronouncing that since Nader voters were circumspect and took the time to decide late in the game, it was STILL Nader’s fault! Jimmy Breslin, timing his retirement (not a moment too soon) last column with Election Day, actually predicted a Kerry landslide and gratuitously smeared Nader as the “village idiot.” (“The Cell Phones, the Cell Phones…”)
(Note to Suellentrop and Breslin: Nader got one percent!)
Come on. How strategic was it to push Gay Marriage this year of all years? Did someone forget that the last president was Impeached over consensual, extramarital sex? Will the gay community now endure four years of attacks from “progressives” due to their poor strategic choices? Not that they should. But, it should be looked at seriously.
Once more, Nader’s proven correct. Identity and “Gonadal” politics only wake them up and bring them out to vote.
Why couldn’t Rosie et al. wait?
MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR is a longtime forest activist. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s new book on the 2004 elections, A Dime’s Worth of Difference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org