Well, it wasn’t the Clinton economy we longed for; and it wasn’t just the war on terrorism that occupied us. Ethics and moral values were ascendant last night–on voters minds, in Americans’ hearts. To be sure, every anthropologist loves his own tribe, and I have long advocated a stronger tie between politics and the virtues. Last night it was evident that the American people agree.
Ohio, which may very well have lost more jobs than any other state, delivered President Bush his electoral victory. West Virginia looks much the same. Alaska, a relatively libertarian state, voted against decriminalizing marijuana–despite the proposition to do so vastly out-funding the movement to keep it criminalized. And the eleven state proposals to ban the redefinition of marriage all succeeded overwhelmingly.
On this last point, one veteran political reporter told me, “I heard again and again from people connected to, and members of, black churches who did not look kindly on gay marriage, and were very motivated against it. They, more than anyone else, did not see it as a civil right–and were angered by those who claimed it was.”
The national exit polling conducted by the Los Angeles Times confirms all these findings, showing that “[M]ore than half of Bush’s voters cited moral issues as a principal reason for their support–more than any other issue, including even terrorism.” In fact, morals trumped terrorism by seven percentage points in the Los Angeles Times poll.
Having restored decency to the White House, President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal (“The Great Relearning,” as novelist Tom Wolfe calls it)–no less in legislation than in federal court appointments. It is, after all, the main reason George W. Bush was reelected.
–William J. Bennett is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, and the Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute.