Impossibly misaligned?

I realised yesterday that there is a great swath of America that I just do not understand. 51% of Americans voted for President Bush. They are not all the bigoted rednecks that the European media make them out to be. Many ordinary, decent, intelligent Americans considered a Bush vote a no-brainer. Unfortunately, I just can’t imagine why.

My antipathy for Bush is not because I buy into the ape-cowboy image of popular myth. I just find nothing in his Presidency that commends itself to me. This is worrying, as the dominant issue for voters was “moral values” and I consider myself a “moral” person. Clearly I am out of step with Middle America. For me, “moral values” are:

– Only going to war as an absolute last resort and based only on a clear and unambiguous threat

– Doing something about the wretched poverty in this country

– Providing healthcare as a right not a privilege

– Ensuring that the quality of public schools does not depend on the zipcode

– Acting like a neighbour in the world, not a bully

– Increasing Third World Aid

– Looking after the environment

– Taking combat weapons off the street

I could go on. These are my “morals” and on balance I found Kerry much more compelling in this regard. What of abortion? Well, improve the quality of life of the poor and you will see less unwanted pregnancies in the first place. And gay marriage? Who has the right to legislate the private relationships of human beings?

It seems that much of America finds Bush’s rhetoric of morality more attractive, and this is the crux of my problem: I just don’t get that. Perhaps it is because of my European liberalism. Perhaps it is because my American experience thus far has been largely confined to the blue northeast. But I have decent Republican friends, and I belong to a religion whose American membership is overwhelmingly Republican. So I am not without the opportunity for empathy. But it alludes me. Can someone help?



  1. Thanks Harles. I read the site, but it seems to advocate a hands-off stance as regards “moral issues”:

    “People should have the freedom to act according to their desires, but only to the extent that they do not trample on the rights of others.”

    So why ban gay marriage?


  2. Marriage, as an institution, is to protect children. As it comes to homosexuals, well, bearing children is a biological impossibillity. Personally, though, I don’t entirely understand why everone is so anxious to get upset by it.


  3. A defining characteristic of self-determination and sovereignty is that it allows people to govern their affairs according to the values that animate them as a community, irrespective of the values that drive other similarly-situated communities. In other words, the simple answer to your question might indeed be your upbringing in a country that is partially socialized (though much less than its neighbors on the continent). American exceptionalism–like the independence of a child who has chosen a different path–has always irritated its European Parents and Aunts and Uncles.


  4. I’m not irritated by it, and I should have made that clear. What I realised is that my worldview is impossibly different to many Americans. So be it. Viva la difference!


  5. I agree with all ‘moral’ points you make, and have been thinking the same thing. The answers I came up with from watching and reading various news reports throughtout the campaign is that most Amercians seem to be single-issue voters – whether that be abortion, the economy, the war, or whatever. The other is that people seem to align themselves with one party for life. I know of people in England like this too, and no matter what the party line is they follow it – they’re Republicans or Democrats and will always vote that way.


  6. Rebecca,
    Party loyalty used to be a major factor in England, but now that New Labour is actually Old Tory, people are inclined to float just as politicians do. I had thought of joining a party, but have no idea which one.


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