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Godless liberals and fatso Republicans
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
In the aftermath of George W. Bush's close victory over John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, exit polling and subsequent interviews determined that the deciding factor in the election might have been the nebulously worded "family values" issue, the catch-all phrase for divisive social topics like abortion or gay marriage. Bush, the conservative, benefited from the Republican Party's ability to mobilize its bedrock of pro-life, pro-Christian voters, and their robust turnout swung many of the battleground states towards the incumbent's way. Republicans maintained that it was the decency of small-town folks who gave them the victory, while insinuating that the big, bad city dwellers and Godless liberals out there were somehow morally inferior to the winners. It was at this point that the great "red state/blue state" divide became wholly visible to the nation, with all of its simplistic regimentation intact.
In Fort Wayne, after the election, I couldn't believe how readily conservatives took to the notion that the election's results validated what good people we are in Indiana. In newspaper letters, in call-in radio programs, in local TV news features, conservative Hoosiers eagerly testified how proud they were to have helped shape the future moral landscape of America. (As if a few hot-button issues could accurately gauge a nation's morality.) After a couple of days of this nonsense, I decided that it was high time that I learned for myself where the needle of our city's moral compass truly rested, so I developed a method to answer this question and I did my own exit polling.
I determined that it would be much more interesting and edifying to attack this question from the opposite end, so instead of asking the good, honest people of our city who they voted for, I decided to poll all the morally corrupt people I know and ask them who they had chosen. I recognize that it is a rather dubious achievement to report that I was able to attain a pretty large sample for this experiment just from my friends and acquaintances. My lone criteria in choosing them was pretty straight-forward — they had to be readily identifiable as vice-loving, night crawling, incorrigible Sinners, the absolute anti-thesis of the targeted "family values" voters. After accumulating my data I discovered that most of my respondents fell into one of four distinct groups: drunks, perverts, potheads, or gamblers. I know I could have used a bigger net, but frankly I was a little leery of including killers, loan sharks, pimps, and mobsters in my research. Anyway, if my conservative friends were right about voting patterns in Indiana, then it would be apparent that what I had gathered up was nothing less than a big, stinking mass of drunk, perverted, pot-smoking, gambling Democrats.
But that's not what I found. Only one group — the potheads — had voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the 2004 election, and potheads constituted the smallest portion of my sample. The drunks — who made up about a third of total respondents — went Republican by a significant 60%-40% rate. And the perverts and the gamblers voted even more conservatively — approximately 70% of each group had chosen George Bush over John Kerry in the national election. I admit that I was unable to draw any conclusions from this data as to why the groups broke down along these lines. Also confusing the issue was that some of my respondents crossed categories — I had drunk perverts, perverted gamblers, and pothead drunks (though, curiously, no pothead gamblers.) What is irrefutable, though, is that people are usually too diverse and surprising to be shoehorned into handy "either/or" categories with any degree of accuracy.
Armed with this information, I was able to dry up my conservative friends a little when they started those tedious "God-fearing Hoosiers" sermons. Of course they distrusted my data, but after a while they conceded that it was possible that a few miscreants had indeed voted for their candidate.
And ultimately, that's all I wanted to achieve from my experiment. I wanted them to forget the story they were inventing, and instead try to see the world in all of its perverse dimensions. Election years become so exhausting for me because for months candidates are screaming that I should see things as black or white, and I simply refuse. I get so tired of the broad caricatures the rival parties use on each other — i.e., Republicans are fat and greedy and hate the common man, while Democrats are Godless potheads who want to give welfare mothers fur coats. This talk is simplistic and anti-intellectual and only appeals to the lowest common denominators in people. It may get votes, all right, but eventually the electorate will get fed up with this insult and say "enough." That's my hope anyway.
As I write this, the election is still too close to call, though Obama has been surging of late. I'm curious to see if my 2004 data still holds true. So if you see me this weekend at Shangri-La or the Brass Rail, remember, I'm only doing research.