Democratic spin, part I

For almost two days, I’ve been hearing Democrats complain that President Bush was re-elected because of moral issues, which, they say, is code for anti-gay sentiment. I don’t doubt that moral issues, including the attempt of courts to impose gay marriage, played a role in the election, as they should have. But I’m not buying the idea that the president owes his re-election to anti-gay marriage sentiment.
Consider first that Republicans have been winning congressional races for a decade now without relying, generally speaking, on gay issues or, for that matter, social issues (it started with the Contract with America, which did not focus on such issues). Second, Republicans have been electing more than their fair share of presidents for a quarter of a century without talking about gay rights. To be sure, we were told that Nixon won because he used crime as a code word for racism, and that the first Bush won because of Willie Horton. But to me this is proof of Democratic cluelessness, not Republican reliance on moral demagoguery.
Now consider Tuesday’s election. President Bush had a job approval rating of essentially 50 percent. He collected 51 percent of the popular vote. Does the gay marriage issue explain why he captured that extra one percent? Perhaps. But isn’t it equally plausible to attribute this increment to the fact that Americans were not comfortable with John Kerry as a war time leader? Does gay marriage explain Bush’s approval rating? I doubt it. Bush has proposed a constitutional amendment on the subject, but it hasn’t been a prominent part of his presidency and it’s not going anywhere. I submit that the approval rating has much more to do with tax cuts, surging employment figures, the response to 9/11, and the absence of subsequent terrorist attacks. Indeed, the 50 percent approval figure is pretty consistent with a blend of the poll data regarding approval of his handling of the economy, the war on terror, and Iraq.
Again, I’m not denying that moral issues played a role on Tuesday. But it strikes as misleading and unfair to elevate it the way Democrats are doing, and to reduce these issues to court-imposed gay marriage, and that issue to gay bashing.