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September 30, 2007
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BY JAMES TARANTO
Friday, January 17, 2003 1:47 p.m. EST

Sex and the GOP
Just after the 2000 election, Pete du Pont wrote his debut column for this Web site, "Gore Carries the Porn Belt," in which he noted the striking correlation between adult-movie consumption and Democratic voting. Along with inspiring a great new Best of the Web feature, "Dispatch From the Porn Belt," du Pont made an important point about what divides America at the start of the 21st century: "There are indeed two Americas, one bicoastal, urban, industrial, and politically very liberal; the other rural, with smaller cities and towns, traditional beliefs about family and morality, and a moderate-to-conservative political outlook."

Now Thomas Byrne Edsall, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, has picked up on du Pont's theme. What defines American politics, Edsall argues, is mostly sex:

Early in the 1996 election campaign Dick Morris and Mark Penn, two of Bill Clinton's advisers, discovered a polling technique that proved to be one of the best ways of determining whether a voter was more likely to choose Clinton or Bob Dole for President. Respondents were asked five questions, four of which tested attitudes toward sex: Do you believe homosexuality is morally wrong? Do you ever personally look at pornography? Would you look down on someone who had an affair while married? Do you believe sex before marriage is morally wrong? The fifth question was whether religion was very important in the voter's life.

Respondents who took the "liberal" stand on three of the five questions supported Clinton over Dole by a two-to-one ratio; those who took a liberal stand on four or five questions were, not surprisingly, even more likely to support Clinton. The same was true in reverse for those who took a "conservative" stand on three or more of the questions. . . . According to Morris and Penn, these questions were better vote predictors--and better indicators of partisan inclination--than anything else except party affiliation or the race of the voter (black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic).

Edsall argues that this is good news for the Democrats. American sexual attitudes are becoming more liberal--hardly anyone waits for marriage before having sex, for one thing--and Americans are becoming less religious, too:

From 1972 to 2000 the proportion of voters who said they attended services every week dropped from 38 to 25 percent. . . . The one group that has grown dramatically consists of those who never go to church or synagogue. This group, which has become a mainstay of liberal politics, made up just 11 percent of the population in 1972 but 33 percent in 2000.

Edsall has a plausible explanation for how, despite these trends, the GOP won a big victory in 2002: "The elections were dominated not by sexual or moral values but, rather, by the one thing that trumps sex: war." Once the war is over, or at least less pressing, sex will reassert its importance, and the Democrats will start winning again.

Or will they? There are two problems with Edsall's analysis. First, he elides the question of race. By most accounts, blacks and Hispanics tend to be more conservative about sex than whites, and yet they vote Democratic--overwhelmingly in the case of blacks, by a fairly large majority in the case of Hispanics. Nonetheless, by winning the support of sexually conservative white voters, plus a minority of Hispanics and a tiny minority of blacks, the GOP (based on the 2000 results) is able to win the support of nearly half the country.

If black and Hispanic voting patterns matched those of whites vis-à-vis attitudes toward sex, Republicans would probably get something approaching 60% of the vote. No wonder Republicans are making such an effort at minority outreach. This means the picture Edsall paints is misleading. It isn't that America is liberal, or even evenly divided, on questions of sexual morality. It's actually fairly conservative, and Democrats are able to remain competitive with a liberal message only because there are enough voters for whom race or ethnicity trumps sex. If Republicans can win more black and Hispanic votes--a big if, admittedly--their sexual conservatism could prove a significant long-term advantage.

The second problem is Edsall's failure to acknowledge that changes in attitudes and laws concerning sex have a long-term effect on the electorate. If a pregnant woman chooses tomorrow to have an abortion, the result in 2021 will be one fewer eligible voter--and that's a statement of fact, not a moral judgment. If tens of millions of women have abortions over decades, as they have, it will eventually have a significant effect on the voting-age population.

Not all women, after all, are equally likely to have abortions. It's almost a truism that women who have abortions are more pro-choice than those who carry their pregnancies to term, and it stands to reason that they generally have more-liberal attitudes about sex and religion. It also seems reasonable to assume that parents have some influence on their children, so that if liberal women are having abortions, the next generation will be more conservative than it otherwise would be.

The Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide with Roe v. Wade in 1973. The first year in which this affected the national electorate was 1992, when the eldest of the post-Roe babies were 19. But few 19-year-olds vote. The political effect of whatever demographic changes Roe v. Wade wrought will be seen more clearly in the next two decades, as voters born after 1973 approach middle age.

All this is cause for concern for Democrats, but it's no reason for sexual liberals to panic. There's no question that American culture and law both treat sex far more permissively than in the past, and that trend is probably irreversible. The important political question is the relative prevalence of "liberal" vs. "conservative" attitudes. But the actual content of those views is subject to change. Thirty years ago, for instance, both abortion and homosexual sex were illegal in most of America. Today abortion is universally legal, and all but 13 states have repealed their sodomy laws or seen them overturned in court. Many people who have moral qualms about abortion and homosexuality accept or at least tolerate this state of affairs, and it's entirely possible that in the decades ahead Americans will become both more conservative and more tolerant.

The World's Smallest Violin
If you're a brutal murderer, it seems, you just can't win. The New York Times and Washington Post both have weepy accounts of the difficulties facing Illinois's erstwhile death-row inmates as they move to regular prisons after ex-Gov. George Ryan's blanket commutation. Here's the Times:

It is not that Danny Edwards wants to die, per se, it is just that he does not want to leave death row.

The guards here know about his heart condition and make sure Mr. Edwards exercises daily, regardless of weather. His 8-by-13-foot cell with the metal bed frame is not much, but at least it is his alone. The condemned share a bond, "like one big family," Mr. Edwards said--a family about to be broken up. And without a looming execution, he could lose his free appellate lawyer, who he still hopes will win him a new trial.

"I'm not thrilled about spending the rest of my life in prison--who would be?" Mr. Edwards, 46, said this morning in an interview at Pontiac Correctional Center, where officials have begun dismantling death row.

And that's just the beginning of Danny Edwards's problems. As he tells the Times' Jodi Wilgoren: "I'm not looking forward to group showers."

Wow, that's rough. What did poor Danny do to deserve this?

Lest we forget, that's not a rhetorical question. In 1987 he kidnapped Stephen Small, a 40-year-old newspaper publisher. The plan was to demand ransom, but instead Edwards decided to murder Small by burying him alive. Now he tells us he's "not thrilled" about spending the rest of his life in prison. The heart bleeds.

'Discriminatory and Counterproductive'

"A national Islamic advocacy group said today that new Justice Department guidelines requiring Muslim and Middle Eastern visa holders to register with the government and be fingerprinted are discriminatory and counterproductive."--press release, Council on American-Islamic Relations, June 5, 2002

"Two al Qaeda suspects were taken into custody as they tried to enter the United States after their fingerprints were matched with ones lifted by U.S. military officials from documents found in caves in Afghanistan, law-enforcement authorities said yesterday."--Washington Times, Jan. 17, 2003

At Your Service
Are Northern Californians less patriotic than other Americans? You'd certainly think so from reading about various "antiwar" activities in places like San Francisco and Berkeley. Yet a report in today's San Francisco Chronicle flies in the face of this stereotype:

To the surprise of many military experts, long inured to the notion that Northern California is anti-military, recruiters for the Marine Corps, the Army and the Navy all say the numbers of new recruits from the region have exceeded expectations.

In fact, Northern California ranked second to Nashville in the Marine Corps' national recruiting last year, according to Maj. Mark Johnson, commanding officer of Marine Recruiting Station San Francisco.

Some folks do live up to the common preconception, though--including Frisco school officials and copy editors. The Chronicle notes that San Francisco bans military recruiters from high school campuses, and the paper puts a derisive headline on its story: "Sucker for a Uniform."

An Antiwar Sausage
See if you can follow this:

CNN reports the Chicago City Council passed a resolution "against a unilateral military attack on Iraq."

But the resolution also calls Saddam Hussein "a tyrant who should be removed from power."

But it also says: "It not at all clear that a unilateral U.S. military action would result in the installation of a free and democratic Iraqi government."

But it also gives, in CNN's words, "unconditional support to U.S. military personnel."

No wonder the council passed the resolution 46-1. Everybody can agree with some part of it.

Earth to Saddam
An Associated Press dispatch on a Saddam Hussein speech notes this lovely bit of bluster: "He said America failed to conquer Iraq in the Gulf conflict and 'proved itself to be incapable' of learning from its past mistakes."

You Don't Say--I
"U.N.'s Blix Not Certain All Iraq Weapons Gone"--headline, Reuters, Jan. 17

You Don't Say--II
"Mohammed . . . served as a tank driver for the Iraqi army in Kuwait during the Gulf War. He said he does not want to relive the experience."--Gulf News (Dubai), reporting from Damascus, Syria, Jan. 16

Patty's Peril
The national media may have soft-pedaled Sen. Patty Murray's recent comments about Osama bin Laden, but they do seem to be having political consequences. WorldNetDaily reports a Phoenix fund-raiser for the Washington state Democrat "was canceled at the last minute amid protests from local Republicans, veterans and college students angered by the senator's recent praise of Osama bin Laden's nation-building tactics."

The anti-Murray campaign got ugly. Frances Barwood, a former Phoenix vice mayor, sent out an e-mailing asking if the would-be host of the fund-raiser, Mayor Skip Rimsza, might be hosting the event because he is of "Lebanese descent and believes the way she does."

With Credentials Like These, Who Can Argue?
"As a former schoolteacher and a mother, I know that Iraqi children are going to die. . . .They are going to be crushed by American bombs."--"antiwar" protester Patrice Cuddy-Lamoree, quoted in yesterday's Kansas City Star

Mencken He Ain't
Here are the opening paragraphs of an op-ed piece by one Robert Atkinson, "a professor and diversity scholar," that appeared in yesterday's Portland (Maine) Press Herald:

Racism is a disease that affects everyone. Diversity is a statement of fact; multiculturalism is a representation of the value of inclusiveness. The whole Earth is my home. I am part of, and have a loyalty to, all of humanity.

These are just a few of the realizations that have become most important to me. Personal experiences--childhood friends of many ethnicities, and young adult travels to Africa, the Azores and Norway, where I was welcomed by strangers and invited into their homes--have allowed me to know what it feels like to be a world citizen, and still serve as a firm foundation for a growing commitment to diversity and multicultural efforts.

Zzzzzzzzzz . . .

Oh sorry, we nodded off there. Anyway, Atkinson goes on in this vein for more than 700 words. "We, as Mainers, as Americans, owe our ultimate allegiance to humanity," he informs us. And: "Even though I was born with certain unearned 'white privileges,' anything I have access to that [nonwhites] don't, I feel uncomfortable with."

It makes us think the most difficult achievement in journalism must be to have an op-ed rejected by the Portland Press Herald.

There Oughta Be a Law
"The mother-in-law of an airport baggage handler has confessed to trying to help frame him by arranging for weapons and explosives to be placed in the trunk of his car," the New York Times reports (second item). "Fatia Bechiri blamed her son-in-law, Abderazak Besseghir, for her daughter's death in a household fire and intended to seek vengeance by having him jailed as an Islamic terrorist."

Should legislators pass new laws to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future? Probably not. After all, if in-laws were outlawed, only outlaws would have in-laws.

You Don't Say--III
"Airliners Are Vulnerable, Report Finds"--headline, New York Times, Jan. 16

Next: Sept. 11 Victims Sue Airplane, Box Cutter Makers
"Relatives of two Washington area sniper victims plan to file suit . . . against the gun manufacturer and the gun shop linked to the Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle used in the shootings that terrorized the region last fall," the Washington Post reports.

And He Prides Himself on His Humility
"No one has inspired more blacks for hope in America than I have."--Jesse Jackson on "Donahue," MSNBC, Jan. 15

Can You Put Stock in Slate?

"Why cash-rich companies like Dell and Microsoft don't (and won't) pay dividends."--subheadline, Slate.com (owned by Microsoft), Jan. 14

"Microsoft to Pay a Dividend"--headline, CBS MarketWatch, Jan. 16

"Stock dividends play a much smaller role in the economy than they used to."--Slate founder Michael Kinsley, Washington Post, Jan. 17

The Boxer Rebellion
A press release from California's Sen. Barbara Boxer attacks President Bush's plan to stop taxing dividends with an unusual formulation. She accuses Bush of being "anti-state." She promises: "I will work towards a pro-state, pro-growth alternative." There's a great rallying cry. Vote for Boxer: She's Pro-State! And how long will it be before someone thinks of spelling it without the hyphen and calls Boxer "prostate"?

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge reports Boxer's Massachusetts colleague John Kerry actually is antistate, or to be more precise anti-Hawkeye State:

On the eve of a fundraising trip to Dubuque, Iowa--quotes surface which detail Kerry's feelings about trips to Dubuque.

"I hate it. I detest it," Kerry told a Boston reporter in 1996.

But a Kerry "insider" tells Drudge the senator is "actually very excited" to be visiting Iowa's eighth-largest city.

You Don't Say--IV
"Drinking Plus Pot Smoking May Equal More Injuries"--headline, Reuters, Jan. 16

You Don't Say--V
"Prosecutors Say Classmates Intended to Hurt Girl in Attempted Poisoning Case"--headline, KUSA-TV Web site (Denver), Jan. 17

You Don't Say--VI
"Time, Money Wasted on False Alarms"--headline, Morning News (Springdale, Ark.), Jan. 17

You Don't Say--VII
"Mixed Messages Leave Women Confused"--headline, Toronto Star, Jan. 16

CNN Catches Reuteritis
"A 'deadly' weapons cache was uncovered in an Arizona storage facility Thursday by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms," CNN.com reports from Queen Creek, a Phoenix exurb:

"There is a large cache of military firearms, including explosives, machine guns, a bazooka, a flame thrower," said a spokesman for the ATF in Phoenix. A Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher also was seized.

Is there really any dispute whether explosives, machine guns, a bazooka, a flame thrower and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher are deadly?

Not Too Brite--XLVI
"A 36-year-old-man has killed himself with a home-made guillotine," Reuters reports. An unnamed source tells the wire service that "Boyd Taylor had built a timer to activate the device in the early hours of Monday morning." Oddly Enough!

Where's Ron Unz When You Need Him?
The Union of Arab Student Associations is holding its convention at George Washington University in the nation's capital. We quote verbatim the description of the first item on the itinerary, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today:

Meeting with Department of State to discuss new immigratin laws and how that effect immigrate students and other issues of such Meeting with White House to follow up from last years meeting
and to see if they obtained thier goals.

Reception to Follow at Ken Lay Hall
Sherron Watkins, the Enron "whistleblower" who was part of Time magazine's trio of the year, is to deliver "the fifth annual Peterson Business Ethics Lecture, sponsored by the Socially Responsible Business Leadership Initiative," at UC Berkeley's business school. The venue? Arthur Andersen Auditorium.

(Elizabeth Crowley helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Larry Weinstein, Patrick Swan, Ned Schoenfeld, S.E. Brenner, Barak Moore, Brandt Zembsch, Daniel Goldstein, Evan Graham, Mark Schulze, Michael Segal, Ed Graff, Gary Fedinets, Dave Bell, C.E. Dobkin, Robert Lewis, Richard Morrison, Marie Bourgeois, Adam White, Jarrod Musser, Brian O'Rourke, Yaron Koren, Rick Black, Brian Otey, Manuel Delgado, Gregory Herbert, Matt Jordan, Tyler Messa, Dan Owens, Aviva Ross, Andrei Muresianu, T. Norton, Edward Morrissey, Emily Cochran and Steve Sexton. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

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