As the country recovers from its election
hangover or euphoria — depending on individuals’
political beliefs — two words are dominating the
post-election analysis: moral values. Exit polls have shown that
more voters made their decisions based on moral issues then
terrorism, the war in Iraq or the economy. The Bush campaign was
clearly more effective in connecting with traditionalist voters on
issues like gay marriage, stem-cell research and abortion. Eighty
percent of voters who considered moral values the most important
issue cast their ballots for President Bush. The Democrats’
failure to connect with middle Americans in the heartland indicates
that they may be out of touch with so-called mainstream values.
However, while Republicans successfully converted gay marriage into
the chief moral issue of the last election, other issues of moral
import hold sway for the future of the nation.
A third of voters reported the loss of a job by a family member
under the Bush administration and 43 percent viewed the job
situation in their area as worse than four years ago. Bush’s
second term will include important decisions about the economy,
such as whether to make his tax cuts permanent. Even if the economy
awakens and wipes out the huge expected deficits, America will be
saddled with debt for generations. There are pressing moral
concerns here: Should all Americans be given the opportunity to
work if they wish? Should families be able to support themselves?
Should current leaders bear the costs of their spending, or should
the next generation be expected to shoulder the costs?
Fewer voters looked at terrorism or the war in Iraq as their
most important issue, as many experts had believed. Needless to
say, foreign policy is still at the forefront of Americans’
minds, and Bush’s victory will be viewed by many Republicans
as approval of his foreign policy. Again, it is worth examining the
morality of Bush’s policy. The moral righteousness of
pre-emptive war, especially in light of revelations indicating
Saddam Hussein posed no credible threat, is questionable. With
almost 150,000 American troops bogged down in Iraq, the
president’s options for further action are limited. Is it
morally just to cut and run from Iraq? Is a draft justified?
Health care is an issue that didn’t garner much attention
this election, but according to recent Census Bureau statistics, 45
million Americans lack health insurance coverage. The candidates
set forth starkly different plans to address health care concerns,
with John Kerry proposing an unprecedented commitment of taxpayer
dollars while the Bush proposal centered around tax credits to
encourage private ownership of health insurance. There is,
arguably, a moral imperative to ensure that in the world’s
richest nation all residents have access to health care.
Republican “moral values,” such as abortion and
stem-cell research, may have dominated this election, but what
voters may have overlooked last on Nov. 2 is that American deaths
abroad, access to medical care and employment prospects are
undoubtedly important moral issues to the families of our soldiers,
the uninsured and the unemployed. Liberals must respond to
conservative moralizing by addressing these issues not as dry
policy considerations, but as questions of moral justice.