The doorbell rang Sunday afternoon and it turned out to be a bleached-blond Gen X man from the MoveOn.org organization. He said he was there to get out the vote for the Democratic Party. He asked me if I had voted or decided for whom I would vote. Was I registered? Yes, I said, I'm a lifelong Democrat.
I have decided that I will not be voting for John Kerry, I said.
He turned to leave without saying a word.
I asked if he wanted to know why.
Apparently not, because he kept walking. Then I turned around and realized that he might have assumed he knew why I was not going to vote for his candidate. Directly behind me was a bronze cross, some Orthodox icons and some prayer candles in a small niche in the wall. The MoveOn.org man would have been looking right at them.
Truth is, a lot of pro-life Democrats and other cultural and religious conservatives have struggled this year, knowing their party's candidate has a perfect pro-abortion-rights record on all recent proposals to limit abortion in any way. Meanwhile, the GOP has courted the anti-abortion vote in some ways, while offending many people who prefer to refer to themselves as "consistently pro-life." A vote for President Bush is, in some way, a vote for the party that embraces the lifestyle Libertarians symbolized by the Terminator.
At the same time, there has been an interesting debate about the validity of the whole red state-blue state phenomenon or even, as this blog prefers to say, the red county-blue county reality. Jeff Sharlet of TheRevealer.org keeps saying that talk of a "pew gap" is too simplistic and he has some battlefield anecdotes to make his case. Here is a recent sample from the Dallas Morning News.
Take the "blue," Democratic state of New York, believed by many self-declared culture warriors to be a bulwark on the godless side of the gap. Venture upstate to Schenectady, a small industrial city with a liberal arts college at its core.
Schenectady is an immigrant town. One Catholic church has been, successively, German, Polish, and Italian. Now the building houses a Guyanese Hindu congregation ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â and it's Republican. The city's former mayor, a Republican, lobbied hard for Guyanese immigrants to move to Schenectady, since he guessed, correctly, that their Hindu values would mesh well with his Republican vision of how his down-on-its-luck factory town can revive its fortunes.
How about red-as-a-rose Kansas, in the heart of Bush country? In rural Kansas, I watched as 1,000 nearly naked Pagans -ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â Isis worshippers and Wiccans and devotees of Thor -ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â danced around a bonfire. Don't misunderstand: this was a strictly family-values affair. Many participants were proud soldiers, sailors and Marines.
One senior witch, retired from active duty in the Air Force, recently announced a series of Pagan days of prayer running from Halloween to the election. While the Kansas pagans endorsed neither candidate, it's not difficult to guess that, military or no, most won't be voting for the current commander-in-chief.
Interesting anecdotes. I'm sure Dallas is a wild religion town, too. But I imagine more Baptists will cast ballots there (and buy newspapers) than druids.
As the politicos keep noting, "data" is not the plural form of of the word "anecdote." Meanwhile, the veteran Los Angeles Times writer Ronald Brownstein wrote this rather down-to-earth summary of the state of the nation heading into today's election. The headline: "Why 'This is About Bush.' His narrowly focused 'hedgehog presidency' cements the allegiance of conservatives and galvanizes his foes. The result is bitter division. " Whew.
... (The) basic boundaries that divided red (Republican) from blue (Democratic) America in 2000 remain largely in place.
The latest polls still show Kerry and Bush commanding mirror-image demographic and ideological coalitions defined more by cultural values than economic interests, just as in 2000. Bush dominates among rural voters and middle-income whites, especially those who are married and attend church regularly or own guns.
Kerry holds strong leads among urban voters, minorities, singles and those who don't attend church regularly or own guns. He also runs competitively among lower-income whites open to his economic message and affluent white voters responsive to his views on social and foreign policy issues.
And, as Walter Cronkite used to say, "That's the way it is."
So each of us will have our anecdotes to share from the drama of this week (or even the month ahead) and, if the statistics are correct, many of these stories will be rooted in conflicts rooted in fundamentally different ways of viewing faith, morality and, to paraphrase the U.S. Supreme Court, how we view the mystery of the universe. We will try to bring you the best and the worst of some of this "pew gap" or even "no pew gap" coverage in the days ahead.
Hang in there. And, because I know that blogs are a blend of personal and public information, here is a link to a piece that I wrote in 2000 about my own political pilgrimage. It was written as a right-of-center piece for Slate.com, but they rejected it. Thus, it ended up running as a left-of-center piece in, of all places, World magazine. Here is a sample:
So why did I break down and vote for George W. Bush?
Here's why: I am convinced that the biggest issue of the next generation of American life will be free speech, free speech for people who even want to have the right to stand up in public and take conservative stands on issues linked to culture, education, morality, and faith. Free speech for people who want to protest what they cannot embrace. ...
Free speech is painful, but it beats all the alternatives. Let open debates and free speech continue. Perhaps even in the Democratic Party.
That was 2000. I will not vote for the candidate of my party again today. But I have not decided whether to vote for President Bush. Let's face it, some of us old-coalition Democrats really miss the late, great Gov. Robert Casey (photo). Is there anyone in either party with his blend of moral conservatism and progressive politics?