It's the culture, stupid.
While there were many important issues in Tuesday's historic election, the single most important one for the largest bloc of voters was not the economy, the Iraq War or the Terror War. It was the cultural war.
Democrat John Kerry was defeated by a resolute army of voters who marched out in massive numbers to strike a peaceful blow at the ballot box for a traditionalist vision of American society.
In the national exit poll conducted for the Associated Press and major television networks, as posted at www.MSNBC.com, voters were asked which of the following issues "mattered most in deciding their vote for president": education, taxes, health care, Iraq, terrorism, economy/jobs or moral values. This very poll, mind you, has been widely criticized for showing a bias in favor of Kerry that was not borne out by the actual election results (suggesting it must have surveyed a disproportionately large number of liberals). Even so, "moral values" topped the list of most important issues with 22 percent (followed by economy/jobs, 20 percent; terrorism, 19 percent; Iraq, 15 percent; health care, 8 percent; taxes, 5 percent; education, 4 percent).
Among the 22 percent who said "moral values" was most important in deciding their vote for president, 80 percent voted for George W. Bush.
What the Democrats needed Tuesday was a nation that placed less importance on moral values.
They also could have used an electorate that included fewer churchgoers and married people. According to the poll, Bush beat Kerry, 61 percent to 39 percent, among voters who attend religious services weekly. He won a remarkable 70 percent of Protestants who do so, and 56 percent of Catholics.
Kerry, by contrast, won 62 percent of those who say they "never" attend religious services. But they accounted for only 14 percent of voters.
Although Kerry was only the third Catholic ever nominated for president by a major U.S. party (Al Smith and John F. Kennedy were the first two), Bush beat him nationally among all Catholic voters (churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike), 52 percent to 47 percent. This group made up 27 percent of the national electorate.
Marriage was a double-barreled issue in this election. Bush crushed Kerry among married voters generally, 57 percent to 42 percent, and also among married women, 55 percent to 44 percent. Married voters who have children went for Bush in a landslide, 59 percent to 40 percent.
Kerry, meanwhile, rolled up an impressive 58 percent of the unmarried vote.