Following days of spin and commentary, we can confidently declare a new urban legend: George W. Bush was elected by right-wing, science-hating, vengeful Christian zealots - "revved up by rectitude," as one pundit put it - and America is embarked on a hatchet-wielding jihad against heathens, pagans and infidels.
Colorful. But then so is pollution in certain lights. It's also wrong and awfully ignorant coming from the side of the political spectrum that considers itself the more intelligent segment of the American population. Not only did the right wing not elect Bush - only slightly more evangelical Christians (5 percent) voted for Bush this time around than in 2000 - but Bush himself is far to the left of the so-called "moral right."
As former secretary of education William J. Bennett pointed out Monday in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Bush's election was a slightly-right-of-center mandate, rather than a far-right one. Of nearly 60 million votes for Bush, some 20 million came from evangelical Christians. The other 40 million votes came from others, including increased numbers of Jews, Catholics, blacks and Latinos.
Yet all the chatter in recent days is about those weird Christians and their bizarre "agenda." Always preaching about duty to family, making a fuss about pornography and promiscuity, carrying on about homosexual marriage. What's wrong with those people, anyway?
The media seem suddenly, if belatedly, obsessed, approaching the evangelical Christian voting block as anthropologist Margaret Mead did the Samoans. Chris Matthews suggested on "Hardball" that reporters should be sent out to cover the red states as one might a foreign country. You can imagine the scramble. Among least coveted assignments, embedding with Real Americans would be second only to spending August in Crawford, Texas.
Because I live in South Carolina, I've gotten a few calls myself from television and radio producers seeking insight. I feel like Jane Goodall being summoned from the hinterlands to report on the behavioral habits of the indigenous wildlife.
"Fascinating," I picture them saying as they stroke their chins. "They even go to church on Wednesdays, too? Whatever for?!"
Why, for the beheadings, of course. OK, I'm kidding. It's the snakes.
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