On the radio program "Your Turn Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense," the Centers General Counsel, Renee Giachino, recently interviewed Terry Eastland, Publisher of The Weekly Standard, about the impact of "values voters" on the 2004 election.
What follows are excerpts from the interview.
GIACHINO: Good evening. Well, its been one week since we went to the polls to determine who will hold positions in public offices. Regardless of whether or not your candidate will occupy the White House or some other political office, I think we all can agree on one thing for sure that is, that we should be thankful that we did not have to suffer through the post-election hoopla like we did in 2000.
I would like to dedicate this first hour of "Your Turn" to post-election coverage, beginning with a discussion about "value voters" and then turning to insider information about battleground voting.
On the post-election topic, my first guest this afternoon joins me from Washington, D.C. He is a certified smart person, having graduated from Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is also a man in the media-know, having served as an editor or publisher for many national publications, including Forbes Digital Media, Forbes Media Critic, local newspapers and The American Spectator. He now serves as publisher of The Weekly Standard and is a contributor to numerous publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and Commentary. His books include Ending Affirmative Action, Energy in the Executive, and Ethics, Politics and the Independent Counsel.
Let me welcome to the program Terry Eastland. Thank you for joining us this afternoon.
EASTLAND: Thank you Renee, its good to be here and thank you for the introduction.
GIACHINO: Terry, it is my understanding that just days before the election you gave a speech at the Federalist Society, and in that speech you predicted that "values voters" would make the difference. First, tell us what you mean by "values voter?"
EASTLAND: What I meant by value voters was this - we had published a piece in The Weekly Standard back on October 11th by Jeff Bell, and in that piece he articulated, or at least discerned, that in a number of polls these value voters, as we now call them. He noticed that Time and MSNBC had both included in some its polls taking place over the summer and into the fall a question to the effect of "what is the most important issue that you will be voting on this fall?" And it included, of course, terrorism and Iraq, and the economy and healthcare, but it also included moral values or another formulation that was moral and family values. And, what was striking was that, whenever this question seemed to be asked, there was a bigger number than had ever been previously recorded in these polls in previous years, and so this led Jeff Bell to think that there may be people out there that think quite apart from policy or Iraq or terrorism, or others that there is this issue of moral values that is most important to me. And, overwhelmingly, by the way, in these polls those who cited this as their number one issue would say they were for George Bush. They were for George Bush by margins of 3 and 4 to 1. Huge margins. And, so, lo and behold, thats what we had on election day.
Now, I dont want to overstate this. I predicted in that Federalist Society speech that in an election that would turn on small differences and it did that the values voters could make a difference. Especially because as I looked at the electoral map, I saw that some of these values voters were concentrated in the states that would be most contested, and that included Ohio, which turns out to be the state that decided the election. But they were also present in Michigan, which you know well, and in Minnesota and Wisconsin and in Iowa, and also in Florida, by the way. And, as we know, these were the states that were most contested, especially up there in the upper Midwest, and, in fact, the President ended up taking Iowa from the Democratic column. He also came very close to doing so in Wisconsin. And, of course, he did win in Ohio. And, what strikes me about Ohio is that there is plenty of exit poll evidence indicating that these values concerns, moral values issues, made a difference with not everyone, but certainly with enough voters to have made a difference in that particular state.
I should mention one other thing, and that is this. I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal about this on Friday. In that piece I talked about how I think it was 22 percent of the people in exit polls said that moral values was their number one concern, and that about 80 percent of those people voted for Bush. So, that reflected what those earlier polls over the summer and fall had suggested. Even greater numbers, with the early polls showing between 15 and 20 percent, and they actually came out at 22%.
I think you have to ask yourself what did people mean by moral values, and, of course, we dont know. We dont know at the end of the day finally why it is and what the definitions were. But I do think it is fair to look at the kind of speeches the President was giving, especially over the last two or three weeks, and in them he would define values over and over again. And it would be the culture of life, which of course deals with the abortion issue. He talked about traditional marriage, which of course deals with the whole same-sex marriage issue. And he also talked about what I might call American exceptionalism, about the values that made America great. He would talk about that.
And so I think it is fair to say that this must have resonated to some extent, did it not, with the voters. John Kerry also talked about values, but it never caught on. I think that was the difference.
GIACHINO: Well, what is interesting about that, Terry, is that in your article, "The Moral Majority," you note that the President also cited judicial restraint as a value. Many have countered this value voters theory with the argument that Kerry supporters do care about values, but that we are just talking about different values. In their case it might be the environment and health care for all Americans.
EASTLAND: Well, that is true in the sense that it is not as though one side had a corner on values and the other side did not. They meant different things by it. What John Kerry tried to do, and this goes back even into the Spring, was he realized that the Democratic Party faces what has been called a religion gap actually, its a church attendance gap. We know from lots of polling data, and again confirmed by the exit polls this time out, that this goes back for a number of years. If you go to church once a week or more, you tend to wind up voting Republican by, its something like 2 to 1. Its the kind of margin we are talking about. And, if you go less frequently than that, and especially if you tend to go not at all, you tend to vote Democratic.
And so I think he saw that and he knew that and the Democrats had a big conversation in their Party starting a year ago about how to close this gap. And so one way he decided to try to close the gap was to try to talk about his own faith. He thought that that might be a way for him to tell people what his real values were. And by means of doing that, he wound up talking about his faith, and how his faith commended to us all the notion of trying to improve a lot of the poor, trying to give us healthier air and environment, and so on and so forth.
So he did talk about values in those terms. My point is simply that that never simply seemed to resonate with enough voters to matter.
GIACHINO: Well, certainly the numbers after and simply looking at the map itself the redness of the map, even in the states that Kerry won we see, for example, in the article put out recently by Newsweek, that shows the national map on a county-by-county basis, and even in the states that Kerry won, there is still an awful lot of red in the county-by-county map. In light of the impact of the value voters, what do you think that says about the notion that America is bitterly divided?
EASTLAND: Well, I think there is a division. It is both true and not true. There is a lot of commonality and a lot of unity on a lot of different issues. But, I do think there is a difference that has opened up in this country, and it dates back even to the 60s.
I just came this afternoon from a press conference at the National Press Club held by the Democratic Leadership Council, and they had a number of Democrats reflecting on last weeks outcome and asking the question about "How do we come back?" and "Where do we go from here?" and "How do we climb back?" and "How do we start competing?" And almost to a person on this panel, they all talked about the kind of cultural issues the Democrats need to address. I was humored by one speaker who said "we need to realize that basically our party has become an Inside the Beltway, blue state thing we dont even know how to reach the voters out in the red states." And this speaker said, "We need to talk and live the way they do."
Now, I dont know how you do that unless you have a complete make-over or unless you raise up a complete new generation of other people, because it is very difficult to become something that you are not. And so that seemed to me to be a very tall order the way he put it.
GIACHINO: Do you think the Democrats sitting in that meeting today do you get the sense that they can ever field a credible candidate, particularly if they continue, as they have, unfortunately, to have a candidate who basically writes off large parts of the country (the South and parts of the Midwest) as unwinnable before even starting?
EASTLAND: Well, I always think that there are surprises that can come and circumstances that we have not foreseen. I mean 9-11 changed the whole dynamic of this effort by the President to retain office. I mean imagine a world in which 9-11 had not occurred, what kind of campaign would he have run? I do think that there are long-term trends that date back to the 60s, again.
I always thought that this election was going to be a culture vote that took us back to the 60s. Vietnam was part of the 60s story, and in 1975, when we finally pulled out of Vietnam, I thought that that was going to be an issue, certainly, because John Kerry, while he had served in the war and had won a number of medals, he nonetheless turned against the war and threw those medals away, accused some of his brethren in that war of committing atrocities, and many objected to that. I thought that that was going to be a very important issue, and it turned out to be one, as we know. We know what the reaction was by a number of veterans the Swift Boat Veterans and so forth.
But I also thought the 60s was going to be important because the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, political scientists tell us, basically shared the same values up through 1968, in terms of what they regarded as traditional values, such as family. There was not the kind of difference that has opened up since then.
And yet it has opened up. The party became more secular in terms of the kinds of delegates that went to its conventions. That started with the McGovern nomination and has continued to this day. If you look at the people who went to Boston it was a heavily secular crowd. It was not the kind of crowd that frequently would go to church.
So, I think you see these differences opened up. And it is not as though the Republicans in 1972 and following suddenly became a party of church-goers; it is just that they stayed more traditional all the way through.
GIACHINO: What happens to the Democratic Party if Howard Dean becomes Chairman of the DNC?
EASTLAND: Well, I think that the party winds up tilting again to the cultural left. Now, Dean did, as governor, actually have more sensible at least toward the middle proposals that might make it interesting to see him in that capacity. I think there was some discussion today among the Democrats on this panel. They talked about the need to find some red state Democratic governors and there are some right now who might be willing to run for national office. One thinks of even Mark Warner of Virginia. So, I see the Democrats looking in places like that and maybe to North Carolina where there is a Democratic governor or Bill Richardson of New Mexico (which became a red state on election day).
GIACHINO: At a time of war and global crises, are you surprised that moral values became the central issue delivering this re-election?
EASTLAND: Well, again I dont know that I would say it was the central issue, I think it, again, was the issue that made the difference when you are talking about small differences as there were in an election like this. War and terrorism, I still think if you look at those exit polls, at least in terms of the people claiming that was the number one issue, you add the two numbers together and I think it was 34 percent or something like that. So I still think that was the principle issue overall for more people in this election. And I think that that is going to continue to be, obviously, a concern that we all have hoping for the best in Iraq.
GIACHINO: Terry, how can the listeners get a copy of the article that you wrote, "The Moral Majority?"
EASTLAND: Go to weeklystandard.com and we have something called "The Daily Standard," and if you scroll down you will see my article there. And, by the way, anyone wishing to subscribe may do so right there online. We are published every week. It is a magazine that gets out quickly, and we are on the news and we have incisive commentary. Theres my sales pitch.
GIACHINO: How should the administration integrate the overwhelming support of these values voters into their second term agenda?
EASTLAND: I think the administration, and I think correctly, is looking at a coalition that is a pretty broad one. I think we have to keep in mind that the values voters made a difference at the margin. It was a very important difference, especially in a state like Ohio. But when you look across the country you see, for example, Hispanics voted 44 percent for Bush up from, I think, 35 percent for Bush the last time out. The Democrats are very worried about this, by the way, having gone to that panel today. This is a large jump of a growing group of Americans. So there is that. Married women you know there is a married women category well they went for George W. Bush. And single women much less so for the President.
I think they look out there and they see a very large coalition. There is only so much you can do. For example, lets just stipulate that everyone who is pro-life supported the President which, in fact, is not the case, but more pro-life people certainly supported him than they did Kerry. What does that mean in practical ways? Well, I dont know that it means any difference from what the President has already done on that issue. From where he signed the partial birth abortion legislation, he defended it against challenge in the courts. He does not pick, he does not go out choosing people to be judges based on their commitment to pro-life as a matter of policy. But rather he looks at the approach that they take in interpreting the Constitution and our statutes, but he does not ask a litmus test questions such as "what do you think about Roe?" And I dont think any of that is going to change.
GIACHINO: Well, what about this? Just 8 days before the election it was announced that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist had entered the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy and had begun chemotherapy to combat thyroid cancer. Do you think this unfortunate event had any impact on voters?
EASTLAND: Well, it might have. I think its complicated. My view about this is that very rarely are presidents able to make judges an issue in a campaign. And that is almost too much of a complicated sort of narrative to lay out there. The fact that a Chief Justice has thyroid cancer and might be very sick and might step down but we dont know when but we will appoint good judges. Maybe it did, Renee, but I am not persuaded.
I do know this that in 2002 the President defied what I said and was able to make judges an issue. But he did so in an off-year election. He did so in red states mainly, although Minnesota was an exception, and he did so in states where there was a Republican challenger going against a Democrat. And he was able to use the Democratic obstructionism in the Judiciary Committee against the Democratic nominee and that worked. And that is one of the few times that I have seen judges work. But that was not a bank shot. This was a much more direct sort of thing.
GIACHINO: I have maintained for many months before this election that people who went to vote at the polls, that when they voted for who was going to sit in the White House, that they did need to think about the long-term impact that that could have on our Supreme Court with the likelihood that we were going to have at least one and maybe as many as four justices retiring in some way, shape or form. And I think that the news that came out eight days before the election of Chief Justice Rehnquists cancer, that it did elevate in some minds the impact of judicial activism on the social issues.
EASTLAND: Well, you may be right. Im happy for you to be right. I just dont know. I do think we will have a vacancy by the end of the year.
GIACHINO: I think that will be unfortunate. In fact, I think it is one of the first times in recent history that it has happened in the Courts mid-term.
We only have a short time left, and I want to ask you to what extent do you think that voter anger at a biased media, at the excessive rhetoric of Michael Moore and celebrities, increased the voter turnout for the President?
EASTLAND: I think it probably did. What you have here, I think, is a relentless effort by the mainstream press. But if we define media more generally to include entertainment media, the President was quite striking to me when he was on the campaign trail. He would say, "My opponent, John Kerry, he thinks that the values of America are found in Hollywood." Now, there he was referencing this Radio City fundraiser back in the summer where you had these comments made by Whoopi Goldberg and others regarding George W. Bush.
GIACHINO: Terry, I am sorry to cut you off, but I am up against a hard break. Can you give us your website address again?
EASTLAND: Sure, weeklystandard.com.
GIACHINO: Thank you again, Terry Eastland from The Weekly Standard.November 11, 2004