Ghosts at the ballot box

The contretemps between the Bush and Kerry camps over Ohio dominated the television results last night and this morning. But while the networks focused obsessively on the presidential race and a handful of Republican scalps in the House and Senate, some underlying voting patterns did not get the coverage they deserved. Though the exit surveys were lousy at picking the president, they did manage to find that a lot of voters were motivated by "values" issues this time out. Anti-gay marriage initiatives passed easily in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot. Numbers are still rolling in, but vote totals ranged from 57 percent in Oregon to 86 percent in Mississippi.

All of this happened with very little support from the Republican Party. President Bush shocked a few people late last week when he came out against initiatives that would limit civil unions.

Gay marriage was far from the only expression of traditional mores by the American people. Pro-marijuana initiatives fared badly and, in my own state of Washington, an attempt to expand legal gambling (which, full disclosure, I voted for) went down in flames. The only counter-example that I can find is California's vote to make the state's budget woes even worse by pumping billions into embryonic stem-cell research.

So, yes, the Republicans won big last night, but they did so by riding a wave that was not of their own making and beyond their control.

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