THE MORAL VOTERS
by Michael Hammerschlag
As the returns came in on this incredible election, a pall began to lift off the country- a smoke of lies and corruption and greed- the noxious malignant cloud of the Bush years. Obama is many things- a brilliant tactician, a calm and stable leader, a decent man- but he will of necessity disappoint the stellar hopes he has engendered. But now, we can see clearly, after the joy and wonder, the wreckage of this foul Administration that started a war as a statement; that gave $4 trillion to the rich, that reveled in making Americans afraid; that deregulated Wall St. into an international catastrophe.
McCain ran a campaign utterly devoid of wisdom, or policies, or plans- “Socialist, Ayres, earmarks, lower taxes” all had nothing to do with the problems that afflict America now- a devastated economy, the end of an age of oil, an endless reckless war, the growing monster of global warming.
There was something else- maybe the end of the dominance of the cruel Christian conservatives, these so-called values voters, whose entire values consisted of Jesus and anti-abortion, and who revered ignorance. I expounded for 90 minutes on the extraordinary damage Bush had done to the country + Constitution to a evangelical Jesus preacher in Gibraltar. He was surprised and shook his head, “I thought because he believed in Jesus, he was good.” That was all it took for these brittle people to be slavishly loyal.
But there were other religious voters that haven’t been heard or acknowledged: not rigid, not extreme, not hateful, many not even churchgoing; but with an organic understanding of morality and decency. People who were horrified at the piggish greed of the Bushmen, at the brazen corruption of a Veep handing tens of billions of no-bid dollars to his own company, at the contempt of a President who ignored and degraded the Constitution, who turned our soldiers into torturers and ordered his aids to ignore Congressional subpoenas, at a leader who could let a city drown and start an unnecessary war against an impotent enemy. People who were outraged at the immorality of these actions. The Repubs tried again to trot out the slash and burn, slander and smear Rovian tactics that had painted a war hero as a weakling and waffler in the name of a shirker and deserter… but finally, it didn’t work. The lies too stupid, too crass, too inane, and the great mass of moral voters said, “NO!, Not fair. Not this time.” The press too, bridled at the silly slanders that were so constantly disproved by Obama’s calm steady smart demeanor.
Obama captured the essence of these moral voters when he said, “We are our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keeper”, that there is a shared humanity, an obligation of social support to each other and by our government. This morality of the vast decent center overwhelmed the harsh callousness of the evangelical Republicans, and the ‘each man for himself ethos’ of the Bush years. This morality was on display to the world, as we chose for President a brown man from the most remote state whose father was African and mother a teenage bride, as we showed that, “only in America is my story possible”, the iconic phrase of Obama’s that made us burn with an inner radiance, and a patriotism born of love rather than arrogance.
Obama also won the Catholic vote that Catholic John Kerry couldn't (7% more), won 11% more of occasional worshipers, 5% more of the Jewish vote, 5% more of the evangelicals, and 13% more of the (highly religious) Latinos than Kerry in an appeal that spread across all demoninations.
This election unfolded as I endlessly toured through 20 countries in the last year- I told Moroccans as I voted for Obama in Fes last February, “We are going to have an African President”… but I was wrong.
We didn’t pick a black President, but in John McCain’s cynical code phrase, an American President… for America. A cool resolute leader to lead us back into the world, and into this new century.
And for a while, we really are one nation again.
Michael Hammerschlag (Hammernews.com) has covered 2 Presidential campaigns, spent 3 years in Russia, and is now based in Kiev. His articles have appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Honolulu Advertiser, Capital Times, Media Channel, Scoop; and Moscow News, Tribune, Guardian, and Times.