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What This Election Means on a Cultural Level

I am going to make some sweeping generalizations with this post, but bear with me. I think the election will be decided by two major cultural groups, and the result will show which group is stronger and more on the rise. It also could mean that one of the two parties has a more successful GOTV effort, but I think that people's willingness to vote still is based upon which of these two categories they fit into. I think these two categories of voters represent the middle 50 percent of the electorate, and not the party activists or conservate/liberal ideologues. Because they are the "swing voters," they say a lot about the broader culture and where it is headed.

The first category of people votes in the here and now. This is their frame of reference. They vote for what is good for their pocketbook (short and long term), their immediate security, and which candidate will least interfere with their chosen way of life or that of their immediate family and friends. This group will vote overwhelmingly for Kerry. George Bush's agenda for reform and moral clairity is perceived as a real threat to the short-term good of these groups. The bloc comprises seniors worried about the vitality of their health care and social security benefits, college students worried about rising tuition, folks that have lost their jobs recently, minorities and women who are beholden to a system that institutionalizes a theory of racial and gender oppression, people that live non-traditional lifestyles and believe that truth comes from within and is theirs to make and validate, government bureaucrats who are threatened by ANY sort of spending cuts. What is good for them is good for America. They love Kerry's moral agnosticism. His foreign policy resonates because while it appears to focus on immediate threats, it avoids any sort of moral confrontation and eschews costly endeavors that are not guaranteed to have some large-scale effect on the global terror phenomenon. Kerry's many spending plans appeal to the entitlement culture that these folks represent and are designed to ease their fears of doing without for any sort of time. On a cultural level, that includes the validation of their personal lifestyle choices and autonomy. I am not trying to totally write off this bloc of Kerry voters as moral degenerates, and I am sure these folks are capable of sacrifice and virtue, my point is that when it comes to politics and voting, these median voters vote "me first." This is not a totally unfathomable result, but just a fact. One could argue it is a natural and good impulse. I am skeptical. While the Bush camp has done its part to appeal to naked self-interest, it is clear that two visions are at stake here. The MSM has said that there are stark differences in this election. I agree, and now seek to describe the other class of median voters.

The second category of median voters bases its selection on the long-term. They operate under a moral code that exists outside of their own personal points of reference and believe that upholding this code and creating a society that conforms to it is the long-term goal that should be pursued. Furthermore, they understand that the War on Terror is a long-term struggle that will have its costs and that everyone will have to sacrifice. Bush's economic policies resonate with these "Long-Term" voters because (with the exception of tax cuts) they present a coherent vision of what is deemed "The Ownership Society," a more participatory economy. Without reform, entitlements will be exhausted. Admittedly, there may be short-term costs to reform along with the transformation of the economy and globalization which causes jobs to leave our shores. But the vision the president is offering allows for transformation and the creation of a culture of economic opportunity in a dynamic economic system. The incumbent president, ironically, is the candidate of reform and vision, while his challenger is the reactionary ("let's return to the Clinton days") and status quo candidate. This is only possible when a candidate has staked his candidacy on the idea that Americans are still a visionary people. President Bush still has faith in America. John Kerry does not. That is the difference. I would love someone like David Brooks to come in and nuance these points, but in my little bit of time here this morning, this will have to do.

One final caveat, while I have noted that each of these categories swings largely to one candidate, it by no means implies that one candidate will not have any of the other type of voter. Bush will certainly pick-up some of the "Here and Now" voter, especially with his tax cutting record, and Kerry will certainly pick up those voters whose values are at the top of their concerns. These value voters, however, will be of the cultural Left.

To back up my analysis, I have provided a link to what I think is the most authoritative of the polls: the Mason-Dixon. The poll asks voters a number of questions on why voters vote for and prefer the candidates do on a whole range of questions from the economy and values to health care and terrorism. Compare what I have said with these results.

The winner of this election will have the opportunity to lead our country in a profoundly important direction with a clear governing vision and mandate. It will be because one vision of who we are and where we are going triumphed over another. If it is the group that will support Kerry, it will be a strong indicator that America represents little more than a nation of bio-tech consumerism and naked self-interest clothed in multilateralism and dialogue. It will confirm our enemies worst impressions, provide an administration that will further those impressions, and lead this nation deeper into nihilism and decline, the sort decried by Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae. I am not saying that President Bush is any sort of savior, but his administration gives a platform and a space through which those people of faith and long-term vision can work to restore the moral and cultural order of this nation. Despite his talk of being an altar boy, John Kerry is hostile to this vision and will grease the wheels of a moral agnosticism that is strongest threat to the long-term of health of Western civilization.

The Culture War is very real and there are still minds and hearts to wind. Neither group of median voters is static, which makes the battle more important. This election says a lot about where we are headed culturally. Let's watch the exit polls and post-election statistics to see if I am right.


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