The Moose avers that this election could very well turn on the lady in Dayton.
Since 1968, perhaps the most salient group of issues in American politics are not economic ones but rather the so-called value or social issues. Republicans have usually dominated this realm while exploiting "wedge issues" against vulnerable Democrats.
In the sixties, the value issues were law and order, welfare, drugs and patriotism (national security is part of this mix). Today, these issues include religion, abortion, gay marriage, guns and national security (a substitute for law and order and also including patriotism).
Back in 1970, Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg authored the Moose's Bible on this phenomena, "The Real Majority." Scammon and Wattenberg wrote, "The substantive idea is that many Americans have begun casting their ballots along the lines of issues relatively new to the American scene. For several decades Americans have voted basically along the lines of bread-and butter economic issues. Now, in addition to the older, still potent economic concerns, Americans are apparently beginning to array themselves politically along the axes of certain social situations as well."
Those words continue to ring true today as we witness candidates professing their faith, taking gun photo-ops and wearing flag lapel pins. Yesterday, Ron Brownstein wrote in the LA Times, "President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry, in a race dividing Americans far more along lines of cultural values than economic interests, remain locked in a dead heat one week before election day, a Times poll has found."
Yes, it's the economy stupid, but only if you are able to inoculate yourself on the value/social issues. For instance, Clinton successfully accomplished this task by "running as a different kind of Democrat" and supporting the death penalty and welfare reform. It also explains why southern Democrats have done well at the national level - they must operate in a cultural milieu in which traditional value issues reign. But, these value issues are not just salient in the South, they also have strength in the midwest and rural areas as well where Democrats must be competitive.
Democrats need Field and Stream readers as well as bean-sprout eaters.
Interestingly, back in 1970, the Scammon-Wattenberg book identified the key "Middle Voter" as "a forty seven year-old housewife from the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio." The Moose notes that Kerry needs for the lady in Dayton and her daughter to vote Democratic this year. And their vote may be determined by how successfully Kerry has captured the vital center in the ongoing culture battle in our political life.
The good news for Kerry is that there seems to be some erosion among religious conservatives for Bush. A story in today's LA Times reports, "A poll published last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 70% of self-described evangelicals or born-again Christians planned to vote for the president, down from 74% in the same survey three weeks earlier. That was not only a slight decline, but lower than the 80% to 90% support that Bush campaign officials had been forecasting." And, the Moose notes that Bush's embrace of civil unions may hurt him among his most fervent religious conservative supporters.
Karl Rove call your office.