It's beginning to look a lot like "Groundhog Day." Ever since 22 percent of the country's voters said on Nov. 2 that they cared most about "moral values," opportunistic ayatollahs on the right have been working overtime to inflate this nonmandate into a landslide by ginning up cultural controversies that might induce censorship by a compliant F.C.C. and, failing that, self-censorship by TV networks. Seizing on a single overhyped poll result, they exaggerate their clout, hoping to grab power over the culture.
It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).
So let me take a beat to get this entirely straight: in 1996, when 40% of Americans had morals on the brain, they chose to re-elect lyin', cheatin', Big-Mac-eatin', b.j.-in-the-Oval-Office-gettin' President Bill Clinton. Eight years later, Bush gets re-elected with just over half of that "morality vote," just over half of the popular vote, and suddenly he has a mandate. Not to mention the fact that every Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson is now demanding that Bush kowtow to the supposedly ubermoral conservative majority by appointing conservative Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and pushing for a federal gay marriage amendment.
Now, I actually have conservative friends (as a matter of fact, two out of three conservatives declare me "too cool to be a liberal," which may or may not be a good thing), and none of them are the hyperreligious wingnut types that are currently pushing for the Jesusland concept of America. And they - even the religious ones - all view morals completely differently from the extremist Evangelical Jesus-pimps who are currently taking credit for Bush's slim victory and who won't rest until every school teaches creationist science, every sex education program is abstinence-only, and every single American citizen is as judgmental as they are.
I want to make something clear: I have nothing against Christians. I am one. I like it a lot; it's a good train. I have Evangelical friends and family members who are lovely and loving and generally peachy. But I, as well as the aforementioned religious friends/family, have nothing in common with the Religious Right nutcases who give Christianity a bad name. We're reading the same book and getting two completely different stories. And if that's what it takes to be "moral" in America today, I guess I don't want to be right. But it's sure looking like the numbers are in my favor.
Slightly off-topic: New Practically Harmless hanger-on and conservative bass fisherman Ryan points out that the blog seems to view all Bush voters as naive little toddler types who have been tragically misled by the President of the United States. As a person who watches the news and researches issues thoroughly before taking a political position, he objects to this. Reasonable and open-minded as I am, I agree to make the following concession: While many Bush voters are, in fact, tragically misinformed and led astray by the administration, a good many take a great interest in the issues and voted for Bush with all of the facts firmly in place, which makes them merely stupid.*
Note: This statement was made completely tongue-in-cheek, in a sense of fun and joking. Recent family conflicts and a particular post on GWBWYPGN?! have called attention to the fact that since the election, Democrats have consistently stereotyped Bush voters as stupid for voting as they did. While in some ways, this is only fair, as Republicans consistently stereotype Kerry voters as immoral, it's also a huge and inaccurate generalization. The management of Practically Harmless recognizes that both parties are resplendent with brilliant minds, and that in light of that, those brilliant minds need to get a sense of humor. I kid because I love. So choke on it.