TCS Daily


Court Gives Election to Bush

By Arnold Kling - November 3, 2004 12:00 AM

Editor's note: The following article applies to the national popular vote totals, regardless of how the electoral vote turns out.

"The example of such a small system as a butterfly being responsible for creating such a large and distant system as a tornado in Texas illustrates the impossibility of making predictions for complex systems; despite the fact that these are determined by underlying conditions, precisely what those conditions are can never be sufficiently articulated to allow long-range predictions."
-- The Butterfly Effect

Once again, it appears that a Supreme Court ruling gave the election to George Bush. In this case, it was the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which issued a ruling that Massachusetts' failure to recognize gay marriage was unconstitutional.

People who want to sound smugly knowledgable about chaos theory will tell the story of a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a storm. In the 2004 election, that butterfly was the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Their ruling on gay marriage stoked fears among religious conservatives. This inflated the religious conservative vote, helping President Bush and hurting the candidate from Massachusetts. I interpret the election returns not as a mandate for America's tough stand on terror or for privatizing Social Security. This election was a rebuke to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. If they had not out-ed the gay marriage issue, then the result of the election, for better or worse, would have been different.

The exit polls, which if anything may have undersampled Bush voters, showed that one of the top issues among voters was "moral values," with Bush gaining an overwhelming majority of the "moral values" voters. In my pre-election essay, I despaired of what I called President Bush's decision to run as a Bible-thumping moral legislator. It's a good thing for Republicans that I wasn't their chief electoral strategist.

Although I take a liberal attitude toward gay marriage, I do believe that the Massachusetts Supreme Court need not have found a right to gay marriage in that state's Constitution. The Democratic Party reaped the whirlwind from that exercise in judicial activism.

As I indicated in my pre-election essay, my hope has been that younger voters would influence the two major parties in a libertarian direction. To me, this means pulling the Democrats away from statist economic policies and pulling Republicans away from trying to legislate morality (like most libertarians, I have nothing against morality per se.)

Even though I voted for the winner in the Presidential race, I am not smug that my views prevailed in the election. On the contrary, I share with my Democratic friends the sense of being humbled by an expression of public opinion that is much at variance with my own.


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