Did Gay Marriage Decide the Election?
Alex Knapp calls BS on the post-election meme that the press seems to have settled upon:
Look, gay marriage was mentioned, but it was totally ancillary to the campaign. Both candidates were against gay marriage and said so. Maybe IÃ¢€™ve just been slipped in here from a parallel universe, but in the campaign I watched, the central issues were terrorism and the war in Iraq. I guarantee you that a majority of people who voted for Bush voted on those issues, not gay marriage. And I also guarantee that if BushCo sees Ã¢€œmoral valuesÃ¢€ as opposed to fighting terrorism as their winning issue and governs accordingly, the Democrats are going to make a big comeback in 2006.
A fair point. Certainly, the election was waged primarily on foreign policy issues, especially the Iraq War, with Kerry doing his best to focus attention on domestic issues, especially jobs. There were over 115 million votes cast for president and probably several things that influenced each of those voters.
The media love to play the single factor game, though. Ronald Reagan only won because he was charming. George H.W. Bush wouldn’t have won if Dukakis hadn’t driven that tank. The game is especially easy to play in a close election. Bush beat Kerry by nearly 3%, which is a lot more than most of us expected but still a fairly narrow victory. Given that a significant part of Bush’s base are Christian conservatives, many of whom find the idea of the courts imposing gay marriage positively frightening, it’s not inconceivable that Evangelicals who would otherwise have stayed at home but were motivated by that one issue made the difference.
Of course, the same could be said of any number of things. There may have been enough of a swing among moderate Vietnam veterans who were motivated by the Swift Boat ads to have pushed Bush over the top. Indeed, the phrase, “I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it” probably accounted for 3% of the vote.
The same could be said in the other direction, too. There might have been enough people turned off by Bush’s performance in the first debate–who never watched the subsequent debates–to have turned the tide in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Hawaii and thus forestalling a Bush landslide.