FAREWELL to Swift boats and "Shove it!," to Osama's tape and Saddam's missing weapons, to "security moms" and outsourced dads. They've all been sent to history's dustbin faster than Ralph Nader memorabilia was dumped on eBay. In their stead stands a single ambiguous phrase coined by an anonymous exit pollster: "Moral values." By near universal agreement the morning after, these two words tell the entire story of the election: it's the culture, stupid.
"It really is Michael Moore versus Mel Gibson," said Newt Gingrich. To Jon Stewart, Nov. 2 was the red states' revenge on "Will & Grace." William Safire, speaking on "Meet the Press," called the Janet Jackson fracas "the social-political event of the past year." Karl Rove was of the same mind: "I think it's people who are concerned about the coarseness of our culture, about what they see on the television sets, what they see in the movies ..." read on ....
If anyone is laughing all the way to the bank this election year, it must be the undisputed king of the red cultural elite, Rupert Murdoch. Fox News is a rising profit center within his News Corporation, and each red-state dollar that it makes can be plowed back into the rest of Fox's very blue entertainment portfolio. The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books like Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" and the Vivid Girls' "How to Have a XXX Sex Life," which have both been synergistically, even joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Cosby and, needless to say, Mr. O'Reilly. There are "real fun parts and exciting parts," said Ms. Cosby to Ms. Jameson on Fox News's "Big Story Weekend," an encounter broadcast on Saturday at 9 p.m., assuring its maximum exposure to unsupervised kids......
When Robert Novak writes after the election that "the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, socially conservative agenda is ascendant, and the G.O.P. will not abandon it anytime soon," you have to wonder what drug he is on. The abandonment began at the convention. Sam Brownback, the Kansas senator who champions the religious right, was locked away in an off-camera rally across town from Madison Square Garden. Prime time was bestowed upon the three biggest stars in post-Bush Republican politics: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All are supporters of gay rights and opponents of the same-sex marriage constitutional amendment. Only Mr. McCain calls himself pro-life, and he's never made abortion a cause. None of the three support the Bush administration position on stem-cell research. When the No. 1 "moral values" movie star, Mel Gibson, condemned the Schwarzenegger-endorsed California ballot initiative expanding and financing stem-cell research, the governor and voters crushed him like a girlie-man. The measure carried by 59 percent, which is consistent with national polling on the issue.
If the Republican party's next round of leaders are all cool with blue culture, why should Democrats run after the red? Received Washington wisdom has it that the only Democrat who will ever be able to win a national election must be a cross between Gomer Pyle and Billy Sunday - a Scripture-quoting Sun Belt exurbanite whose loyalty to Nascar does not extend to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was fined last month for saying a four-letter word on television.
According to this argument, the values voters the Democrats must pander to are people like Cary and Tara Leslie, archetypal Ohio evangelical "Bush votes come to life" apotheosized by The Washington Post right after Election Day. The Leslies swear by "moral absolutes," support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and mostly watch Fox News. Mr. Leslie has also watched his income drop from $55,000 to $35,000 since 2001, forcing himself, his wife and his three young children into the ranks of what he calls the "working poor." Maybe by 2008 some Democrat will figure out how to persuade him that it might be a higher moral value to worry about the future of his own family than some gay family he hasn't even met.