It's the Wealth, Stupid

Right-wing class warfare swung the 2004 election

All that the message about "moral values" dominating the proceedings last Tuesday means is that the Republicans have succeeded in their decades-long campaign to get what should plainly be called "conservative ideology" replaced, in our political language, by this word "morality." They have reworked the political calculus so thoroughly that liberal definitions of what is or isn't a moral value don't count. It's as if liberals didn't have any morality at all.

It's amazing how many people Republicans have been able to punk with this. Even Senator Charles Schumer, appearing Wednesday night on The Daily Show, said that Republicans won on "these values issues."

Hey, Chuck: Don't fall for their crap, it only encourages them. You have values too.

Around the time of the Democratic convention, John Kerry began making that very point. Using the word "values" more and more often, he argued (if obliquely) that morality did not come down merely to who you slept with, how often you mention God, or whether you oppose abortion and support any war the president decides to prosecute; that values also reside in being straight with the American people, in fighting for economic justice ("Faith without works is dead," he said in the third debate, quoting James 2:20), in tolerance, in running the government transparently.

He must have been making headway, because that language became the occasion for a new presidential lie. "He calls himself the candidate of conservative values," Bush would mock incredulously on the stump in one of his biggest applause lines. That Kerry had never said anything of the kind hardly mattered: All he had said was that he was a candidate with values. But the media bought George Bush's version, which is that any values worthy of the name are conservative.

The die was cast. The Election Day reality was ready to get buried: that indeed many people would be voting for George Bush because they believed he shared their values, but that many people, too, would be voting for John Kerry because they believed he shared their values.

And that many people, too, would be voting for George Bush because they liked the fact that he lined their pockets, and that they were the ones who made up the crucial margin on Election Day.

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