Sometimes we need reminding of recent facts that have been buried in the common “wisdom” as promoted by the popular media – for reasons of deliberate duplicity (Fox, Limbaugh, etc.) or because of much of journalism’s low levels of competence and responsibility (a.k.a. parroting each other, as much of the media have fallen into the habit of doing).
One of those unknown facts pertains to the question of who the real “values voters” are. Jim Wallis has a good simple summary in his book God’s Politics: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America (p xv, xvi). He talks about an early “flawed national exit poll question” that mislead the media and many Americans.
When asked to choose the most imporant issue that influenced their vote, 22 percent (a slight majority) chose “moral values” from a list that also included the war in Iraq, terrorism, health care, education, taxes, and the economy/jobs.
Of course, I am irritated already. ALL of those issues are moral issues, especially do you realize that if you spend much time personally considering the moral emphases in the Christian Scripture. Duh!
And 80 percent of those who chose moral values voted for George W. Bush.
Duh, again. “Moral values” is a code-phrase of the religious right. It means something like “We support church people and Republicans, not usually in that order (and allegedly because they allegedly want to decrease abortion and homosexuals).” Religious right voters would tend to pick “moral values” as what they voted for and not even think much about the fact that all the items on the list are “moral values.” In fact those other items are the kinds of things that get much more emphasis in the Bible than what the phrase “moral values” usually stands for in this country.
A week after the election another poll, conducted by Zogby International, confirmed that when a broader and more specific list of moral issues was presented, the results were quite different. When asked “Which moral issue most influenced your vote?” 42 percent chose the war in Iraq while 13 percent said abortion and 9 percent said same-sex marriage.
Wow. Not only do a lot of people see the war as a major moral issue – they also rank it far above the two pet sins used by the religious right to turn out the vote.
When asked to choose the most urgent moral problem in American culture,
- 33 percent selected greed and materialism;
- 31 percent, poverty and economic justice;
- 16 percent, abortion; and
- 12 percent, same-sex marriage.
My conclusion? – a lot of the American people actually share a value system that corresponds impressively with the priorities of Scripture! You would never guess that by listening to the bull-horn media voices of the radical right.
The “greatest threat to marriage” was identified as
- infidelity by 31 percent,
- rising financial burdens by 25 percent, and
- same-sex marriage by 22 percent.
There is in fact quite a bit of realism out there. It’s just not showing up in the media, in many church (and TV) pulpits, or even in elections. But maybe that will change.