David Lebedoff on why Kerry lost

In “Publishers see bounty in voters’ divisions,” today’s New York Times foreshadows the coming spate of books that will try to explain the results of the election. Earlier this year, my friend David Lebedoff published The Uncivil War. The book bears on the themes played out in the election; I asked David to provide a brief comment and pick a few excerpts that suggest the relevance of the book to the result. David writes:

I believe that I predicted in every way not only that Bush would win this election, but why and how. For example, I have a chapter on rule by the courts and say in the book that perhaps the greatest motivation of voters against the New Elite is the habit of courts making rather than interpreting law. Example: Ohio, where the Mass. Supreme Ct. clearly won the state for Bush.
Here are some quotes from the book:

“The real battle that has turned this country into opposing and very hostile camps is not between conservatives and liberals. It is between those who believe in majority rule and those who believe in rule by experts. It is between those who rely primarily on experience and those who rely primarily on theories.”

In essence, it is a battle between values and facts. The key to Bush’s victory could be seen in the debate where a question was asked about stem-cell research. Bush answered in terms of a moral framework–he talked about his ethical values. Kerry unleashed a dazzling display of factual data on stem cell research. Most Americans would probably side with Kerry on the issue, and yet Bush’s answer surely won many more votes than Kerry’s.
This is because he was offering the voters values, not facts, and the voters’ first priority is that the candidate share their values. Or at least HAVE some values. If the candidate seems prepared to ratiocinate every policy question rather than apply values to its solution, that candidate will lose.
In chapter 10 (“The New Way of Picking Presidents”), I write:

“There is no issue save one: the identity of the candidate. Is the candidate party of the New Elite? Does the candidate go along with those who work to avoid or evade the wishes of the majority? Does the candidate think that the majority is irrelevant–that decisions should be made by experts, not voters?
“To answer these questions, the voters need to find out who the candidate really is. It’s not a question of issues, but a quest for identity: who is the candidate? It does little good to know the candidate’s stand on tariffs or taxes. What the voters desperately need instead is to discover the candidate’s values. What people really want to know is whether the candidate has values–left or right, high or low, any values at all other than an unstated assumption that any problem can be solved if only the smartest people tackle it.”

Other chapters:

“Values SHOULD count in the political arena. In fact, that’s why we have elections. The campaign is never fought over who has better data. We all have the same data, but we just give it different weight. Elections are really about whose thumb should be on the scale. The New Elite is into deep denial on this cosre. Its members like to pretend that they check their values and the door and bring only their brains to the table.”
“The whole point of government is choosing which values take precedence over others. To pretend that there’s no need to choose is to deprive the majority of the chance to advance its own values.
“Where there are no values, there is no ideology. The New Elite has no ideology. Its one belief is in itself. If people certified as the brightest are permitted to make all decisions, everyone will be better off. So it’s WRONG to bring values, or anything else other than the highest possible’competence,’ into the act.”

In speaking of Clinton, I write words that apply perfectly to the “flip-flopping” charges against Kerry which proved to be so effective:

“Commentators were amazed at his inconsistency…many saw it as a character flaw. But it simply stemmed from the absence of values. Inconsistency is inevitable when one prefers competence to ideology. Every change in facts produces a change in policy when that policy isn’t rooted in cohesive principle. A balloon will float all over the place if it isn’t tied to something.”

On speaking of Clinton’s surge in popularity in 1995 after he spoke to the country about the Oklahoma City bombing, a moment highly analagous to Bush’s remarks at the World Trade Center rubble:

“It isn’t that war on terrorism trumps all other issues. It’s that community trumps disunity in a country too long fragmented. A common foe provides a common identity, and a leader who speaks to that commonality can attract the respect, if not always the votes, of that newly unified whole.
“Our society has been fragmented for so long that those associated with its renewal are rewared not just with Teflon but with armor.”

Re the Dukakis statement that “this election is about competence, not ideology”:

“Get that? This is why Republicans win. Because the average person, regafdless of test scores, is smart enough to know what Dukakis meant, even if the candidate did not.”

In the final chapter:

“This book has tried to show why the Democrats, if encumbered by new elite myopia and hauteur, will continue to lose


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