November 04, 2004

BILL BENNETT thinks that Bush's victory was all about traditional values, which to him apparently means opposition to gay marriage. Well, to me, the election was about the war. But if victory has a thousand fathers, it also produces a thousand people with their hands out, wanting to share in the spoils.

What's funny is that there's a weird alliance, here, with many others -- including Andrew Sullivan -- quoting the exit polls to suggest that opposition to gay marriage was the big motivator for Bush voters. And hey, maybe they're right: when Andrew Sullivan and Bill Bennett agree on something gay-related, it's certainly reason to sit up and take notice.

But given that the exit polls weren't especially reliable -- Jeff Jarvis calls them "laughably discredited" -- I'm not sure why we should be accepting this point so uncritically. Nor am I sure that Andrew's invocation of Jim Baker makes quite the point he intends. . . . Meanwhile, Virginia Postrel writes:

Nationally, gay marriage is a loser, but civil unions are a big winner, with 35 percent support (and 32 percent in the South). Assume that the 25 percent who back marriage rights (17 percent in the South), and you've got a clear majority (and a slim lead even in the South, where Bush won 32 percent of gay voters). The public is squeamish about "gay marriage," but not about giving gay couples public recognition and legal rights.

So even if you believe the polls, they don't make quite the case for anti-gay sentiment that Bill Bennett hopes for, or Andrew Sullivan fears. And if Bush is getting 32 percent of gay voters in the South, well, it's hard for me to believe that the election was about gay-bashing -- and I doubt that those, on the left or the right, who stake their political plans on that characterization will flourish.

UPDATE: Zach Barbera emails: "Bush took a majority of the people who support civil unions. Not exactly a group hat would be a part of the toss-the-gays-in-concentration-camps right-wingers, I imagine. And note that a 1/3 of the folks supporting a no legal recognition did vote Kerry."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge has a different take -- I guess I count as one of his "annoying libertarians" who don't get the moral-values argument. I'm afraid he'll continue to find me annoying on this front.

MORE: Andrew Coyne isn't buying the "invasion of the theo-cons" argument, and also notes: "This, after Kerry campaigned from the pulpit in black churches on five straight Sundays."

Everybody knows that's different. Those are black churches.

STILL MORE: Fellow annoying libertarian Eugene Volokh has related thoughts.