Blue State Blues
By Peter Hannaford
Published 11/12/2004 12:05:38 a.m.
Like ancient priests
who stirred chicken entrails to divine the course of
events, news media analysts and Democrat operatives
stirred the entrails of the presidential election and
divined the reason George Bush was reelected. It was
the triumph of "morality/values" as a voting
They asked themselves, What caused this? Their answer:
hordes of evangelical Christians who had sat out the
2000 election came out of the woodwork to register
their votes against gay marriage and abortion and were
joined by large numbers of rubes in fly-over country.
Having satisfied themselves, the news media analysts
have spent the days since then stroking their chins,
wondering what the Democrats must do to revive themselves.
Democrat operatives, not content with chin-stroking,
have actively discussed tactical mistakes, opportunities
missed, and so forth. Some have even come up with remedies.
One was quoted the other day as saying, "We need
to learn the language of faith."
While Bible study might have a salutary effect on
their outlook, these folks need to include close examination
of the electoral map in their regimen. No, not the
red state-blue state, discouraging as that must be
to Democrats. Far more telling is the county-by-county
breakdown. It finds the Democrats clinging to coastal
margins and some urban clusters in between.
For example, California, which shows up large and
blue on the state map, on the county-breakdown map
shows a thin line of blue on the coast north and south
from San Francisco, plus Los Angeles. The rest of the
state is red. Also blue are some urban pockets in the
interior west, the upper Midwest, the Lake Erie coast
of Ohio, the urban strip from Delaware and Philadelphia
north through New York City, most of New England, and
southeast Florida around Miami. These slivers and pockets
swim in an ocean of red.
This can't be explained only by the presence on 11
state ballots of measures defining marriage as being
between a man and a woman. Something much larger was
at work here. More likely, it was an unspoken protest
-- a revolt even -- against several things: the relentless
nihilism of Hollywood's products; the dreck churned
out by television; the campaign of atheists and their
friends at the ACLU against public display of the Ten
Commandments (a metaphor for their determination to
drive religion out of sight) and, perhaps most of all,
the disdain of media and academic elitists for ordinary
Candidates for office, especially for president, become
vessels for the hopes and grievances of voters. Voters
listen to incumbents pointing with pride and challengers
viewing with alarm, and make up their minds based on
who they think will best realize their own desires.
Votes are cast, not on the merits of this or that nine-point
plan, but upon attitudes, perceptions, impressions.
Candidates are thus emblematic. John Kerry was seen
as brainy (though he got mostly C's at Yale), lawyer-like
in his carefully constructed statements, patrician
and aristocrat, rich, aloof, and elitist. George Bush,
with his sometimes clumsy locutions, was Everyman called
to make tough decisions. His earnestness and passion
were seen as genuine. He seemed like the kind of neighbor
you'd be comfortable inviting over for coffee.
Since there are many more ordinary Americans than
there are elitists, the Republicans went after them
with single-minded intensity -- and they got the votes
of enough of them to strengthen their control on both
houses of Congress as well as to convincingly win the
Meanwhile, the Democrats are stuck with the support
of the media and academic elitists, some Wall Street
types, the trial lawyers and those blacks who cling
to the hope that the off-key siren songs of Jesse Jackson,
Al Sharpton, and Julian Bond will yet bring results.
Add up the numbers and you have a long-term minority
If those Democrat operatives take a close look at
the red-blue county-by-county map, they will begin
to understand that they have much more to do than "learn
the language of faith."
Peter Hannaford is the author of Recollections
of Reagan (www.imagesfromthepast.com).