The Real Moral Majority

by Daniel Belkin | 11/16/04 6:00am

Amid a nation at war, rising healthcare costs and growing child poverty, the American electorate surprisingly cited "moral values" as the most important issue in choosing the president, trumping the economy, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Of those concerned with "moral values," four-fifths voted for President Bush and the remaining fifth chose Democratic challenger John Kerry. Pundits declared that the Democratic Party's liberal values are out of touch with the heartland of America. If the American public wants a debate about moral values, so be it. The Democrats can go toe-to-toe with any opponent.

Democrats value essentially the same principles as Republicans -- hard work, faith, tolerance, equality and justice. Believe it or not, but the Democratic Party does not have a pro-teenage pregnancy platform and will not ban the Bible, as a Republican Arkansas pamphlet suggested recently. The Democrats have family values and value families of all shapes and sizes, from the traditional "Leave It to Beaver" family to the many variations of 21st century America, which should not be feared or discriminated against, but respected.

A fundamental and proud Democratic principle is compassion for thy fellow neighbor, believing that the government should offer a helping-hand to those struggling to make ends meet, whether it is an immigrant family, a single mother or an elderly couple. Social Security, Medicaid and welfare are all Democratic social programs, conceived in compassion, which Republican administrations have accepted and have become fundamental mainstays in American government. The cornerstone of Democratic domestic policy is humility for all human beings, regardless of religion, race, family structure, ideology or sexual orientation. The Republicans know the Democrats are the party of compassion for all Americans and that is why they need to specifically highlight its compassionate side under the message of "compassionate conservatism." If compassion were a self-evident virtue of conservatism, it would not need the alliterative talking point.

Neither side of the aisle has a monopoly over morality. While the GOP underscores Bill Clinton's infidelity to convey the moral decay on the left, the illegitimate daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond reveals herself publicly and commentator Bill O'Reilly pays millions of dollars to ensure that his phone-sex exploits never see the light of day.

President Bush proudly and overtly discusses the role of faith in his life, both as an individual and as president. Democrats, who, contrary to popular belief, do value faith, need to better express this value, as voters in the heartland were better able to identify with President Bush in part due to his public display of his faith. Faith and religion are absolutely acceptable guideposts for individuals to view the world and make decisions. Nonetheless, dictating rationale through faith alone while disregarding other values, such as justice and equality, is objectionable. Some opponents of gay rights readily cite the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality as justification for their stance. Furthermore, in the 19th century, the American slave trade was defended through language and practice in the Bible. Rightly so, the moral values of equality, justice and tolerance triumphed over faith alone, illustrating that just because it's in the Bible does not mean it should be in the Constitution.

Pundits declare that the emergence of moral issues signifies a red state backlash against the atrocious blue state Hollywood culture that is being force-fed to them, in the form of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." At the same time, and paradoxically, watch Fox News commentators lambaste liberals desecrating traditional marriage and values. Then, turn the channel to Rupert Murdoch's other network, Fox, and watch "Trading Spouses."

Some incorrectly claim that there is a cultural divide, along with a moral values divide, in the United States that manifests the blue state red state mentality. However, Democrats can compete in southern states and Republicans can vie for northern states. While President Bush made percentage gains in traditionally blue states, such as Massachusetts and New York, over the past election, Sen. John Kerry won a very strong 46 percent and 45 percent of the vote in Missouri and Arkansas respectively, both southern states. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter probably does drink Starbucks and probably has ridden in a Volvo before, indulging in the so-called and loathed northeast liberal culture. At the same time, there are liberals in the South that are proud members of the National Rifle Association.

In retrospect, in fact, I do vote on the basis of "moral issues." Providing job opportunities for all Americans, ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry and protecting the civil rights for all Americans are moral issues that are important to me and that is why I vote for the compassionate Democratic Party.