Last election I went to bed at 2 A.M. convinced that there would be a winner by morning. Wrong. This time I went to bed at 2 A.M. knowing there was a winner and convinced that the election would be over by morning. Wrong again.
Frankly, letting things drag on for almost twelve hours before officially conceding seems the final sulky maneuver of the two Johns’ snarky campaign. Hey, guys, we teach our kids not to be sore losers, why couldn’t you have exhibited some prompt, gentleman-like behavior? Still, I should be magnanimous. Their team had a dizzying swing, from high to low.
I’ll admit it: Tuesday wasn’t fun. Those early exit poll numbers went bouncing around Blackberry to Blackberry. My son who was working in Pennsylvania called with the first gloomy reports, and a pal in Washington at one point left a voicemail message: “I’m out on the ledge. Help!” Though she, an expert in polling, did say those first exit polls were definitely weird.
Still, all the TV commentators, even those on Fox, kept acting as if they knew something the viewers didn’t, and it wasn’t good for the president. And at an election-night party, a media diva was theorizing, “Wouldn’t it be great if Powell stays on as secretary of state for Kerry?”
But by the time they called Florida, I began to believe the sun was coming out, and that the president had not only won, but won a very respectable victory.
How did he do it? Part of the explanation, I think can be found in an interesting survey I read while waiting for the polls to close. The survey was conducted by DYG Inc., a polling company, headed by Daniel Yankelovich, the longtime guru of attitudinal research.
Each year DYG surveys Americans’ attitudes throughout the year, and they have just presented their most recent findings. And, yes, they did find that we are a deeply divided country on many issues. But they also found–and this is the key–that some shared values are far more extensive than our polarized opinions.
First of all, DYG reports that Americans overwhelmingly describe themselves as patriotic (65 percent) and willing to make sacrifices for their country (68 percent). We also are self-confident (65 percent) and respect individualism. Sixty-five percent strongly agreed with the statement: “When making choices I like to go my own way and not necessarily do what others are doing, ” and 64 percent agreed with: “I like to think of myself as off the beaten path.” I guess many among us see Bush’s go-it-alone-when-necessary attitude as not only acceptable but admirable.
We also say we are hardworking (81 percent) and respect those who lead productive lives. We are also very religious (64 percent), which may be the hardest thing for those in the media to understand. Sixty percent agreed, “A person cannot be truly fulfilled without a spiritual aspect to their lives.” Many feel quite strongly about the importance of religion, with 48 percent saying a “return to more traditional principles” would improve things “a lot” in America, and 45 percent wanting a “greater role for religion in American society.” I think the Bush’s campaign’s astute understanding of the importance of religion in many Americans lives cannot be underestimated.
We are very family-centered, too, with 72 percent agreeing that “once you have a child your own needs come second.” In the last days of the election, commentators began discounting the Security Moms. But they are there, especially when 86 percent of women describe themselves as family focused and concerned about their children’s welfare.
I know we will be hearing analysis of why and how the president pulled it off for months to come. I think the DYG Scan shows he did so well because he connected with voters on a very basic level, especially those voters in the red states. They felt he both understood and shared their values.
A couple other interesting DYG findings: Americans accept diversity of lifestyles (59 percent) and believe America is better off when cooperating with other countries (74 percent). During the last campaign, George Bush told us that he was a “compassionate conservative.” I think he truly is and so are most Americans. Now he has the mandate during the next four years to express that attitude through his policies and actions, and by doing so, he will be truly reflecting most Americans.
One final election note: An e-mail I received from a friend in Arizona early Wednesday morning: “Thank you, God. Thank you. Now all we have to worry about is Hillary in four years!”
Maybe not with that electoral-college map–and our shared values.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.