Revenge of the map: It's hard to avoid the obvious

2000_map_countiesMaybe there was something to that red America and blue America thing after all.

No, the map to the right of this post is not from last night.

This is the infamous 2000 map showing the red George Bush counties vs. the blue Al Gore counties. But does anyone doubt that, in a day or two, we are going to be digitally handed a 2004 map that looks almost exactly like this one?

And perhaps there was something to that “pew gap” research, as well. At least, lots of Democrats in the analysis chairs last night on cable television seemed to think so. And, lo and behold, the Catholic version of that gap even makes an appearance at the very top of the mainbar in the Bible of the blue elites, the New York Times. Take it away, R.W. Apple Jr. and Janet Elder:

For the second time in four years, the American people showed themselves deeply split yesterday about who should lead their country.

Interviews with voters as they left the polls indicated that women, members of minority groups, young people, political independents, moderates and baby boomers voted for Senator John Kerry. As anticipated, Mr. Kerry ran powerfully among blacks, attracting 9 African-American votes in 10; perhaps more surprisingly, the senator also won a solid majority of Hispanics.

President Bush did best among whites, men, voters with high incomes and evangelical Christians. Mr. Bush divided the Roman Catholic vote with Mr. Kerry, who is Catholic but whose positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research are at odds with his church’s positions. The interviews showed that Catholics who attend Mass weekly preferred Mr. Bush, while those who are less observant supported Mr. Kerry.

Four years ago, I spent a very tense night watching the White House returns for a simple journalistic reason — I had committed myself to writing a column, based on a speech by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, that required me to know the outcome of the election. Fat chance. I ended up writing a column, fingers crossed, that assumed the outcome of the election would still be up in the air the coming weekend.

Here is the strange thing: I could have written precisely the same column this morning. Here is a look at how it opened.

One thing is certain amid the chaos and nail biting of the White House race — the religious left now knows that Mount Sinai has not been erased from the political map.

“The tablets that Moses brought down from the top of Mount Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. … (They) were the Ten Commandments. But more and more people feel free to pick and choose from them,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman at Notre Dame University, in a key speech during the home stretch.

“Without the connection to a higher law, we have made it more and more difficult for people to answer the question why it is wrong to lie, cheat or steal; to settle conflicts with violence, to be unfaithful to one’s spouse, or to exploit children; to despoil the environment, to defraud a customer or to demean any employee.”

But wait. This week’s soap opera also demonstrated that America remains divided right down the middle on issues rooted in morality and religion. There is a chasm that separates the heartland and the elite coasts, small towns and big cities, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, those who commune in sanctuary pews and those who flock to cappuccino joints.

Has four years made no difference at all?

Please note the emphasis that I placed in that old lead on the role of the religious left. Some people have assumed that the “pew gap” phenomenon means that there are conservatives who go to church and liberals who do not. That is too simplistic. There are moral and cultural liberals who are devout, as well. But their numbers are much smaller. The “pew gap” division is between traditional pews and a coalition of liberal believers and people who are openly and aggressively secular. This is the coalition that some have called the “anti-evangelical voters.” This coalition is growing and its role in the modern Democratic Party is pivotal.

Many have noted that Republicans face the crucial question of how to please the Religious Right without driving away the mushy middle of the American “values” spectrum. After last night, many more will be asking: How does the Democratic Party retain the lifestyle left, the “anti-evangelical voters” without killing itself in red-county America? Or does everyone just hang on to the cards they have right now and do this whole routine over in 2008? Anyone for Jeb vs. Hillary? Or what does the Religious Right do if its Rudy Guliani vs. John Edwards?

We are going to be writing about these trends for days to come, I am sure. For now, let’s end with this poignant anecdote from reporter John M. Foster, <a href="blogging for The New Republic (tip of the hat to Roberto Rivera y Carlo).

ESPANOLA, NEW MEXICO, 12:34 a.m.: I just came from the Rio Arriba County clerk’s office and saw the vote totals with about a third of the precincts reporting. It was stunning. In a county that’s more than 80 percent Democratic, the count was 5,000 votes for Kerry but 3,000 (or 37.5 percent of the total) for Bush. That margin will probably stay the same or even draw a bit closer for Bush. I asked the clerk why.

His answer was simple: religion. This area is heavily Catholic and also has plenty of evangelical churches. For the past month, people attending those churches have been hearing about stem-cell research, abortion, gay marriage, and a host of other social issues. Those issues have swung many northern New Mexico Democrats away from their usual voting patterns toward retaining Bush.

On the ground, the people were talking about faith, family and morality. The Democrats didn’t notice, or could not afford to notice. Apparently, there is a red America out there and, by the way, journalists will have to cover all those people and even sell them newspapers.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Brad

    Unfair. Liberals have been talking about morality too, but they broaden the term beyond gays and abortion. Abortion is a very legit topic, but why do conservatives get credit for morality when they care so little about the environment, the poor, and the rest of the world? Shame on the American church if they think that a devotion to life doesn’t include concern for those already living? Or who categorize sexual sins above sins of greed and oppression.

  • Kendall Harmon

    Brad, there is a way to talk about important topics like greed and oppression which resonates with the vocabulary of those with a monotheistic worldview, if not a Judeo-Christian one.

    Bill Clinton could do that; John Kerry could not.

  • Molly

    Let’s re-elect Clinton, then! :)

  • Molly

    Seriously, there must be a liberal politician out there who can talk about faith without losing integrity. I pledge to keep my eyes open for that person.

    By the way, what is meant by “moral values”?

  • dw

    I think it’s really simple: The Democrats have lost their moral center. They used to have one, back in the days of MLK and JFK and the Civil Rights movement. Now, it seems like the Dems are a bunch of ragged camps without an underlying unifying code, much less an understanding of the Judeo-Christian Weltanschauung that belies America. (Fr. Jacobs, I actually used Weltanschauung in a sentence!)

    There’s no way for the Dems to claim back any major part of evangelical and fundamentalist America without defining who they are morally — and understanding where Red State America is morally as well. You have a bunch of people who’ve never opened a Bible speaking to a bunch of people who not only have memorized the Bible, they’ve memorized the footnotes in their Ryries. That has to change. However, I’m not sure it will.

    And the sad thing is, the increasing coziness between the evangelical-fundamentalist factions and the GOP may end up hurting our ability to evangelize to that part of America that needs God.

  • ken53

    But by mixing faith with politics we risk ending up with the worst possible outcome: a politics devoid of rationality and a faith devoid of integrity. This is what we see happening today in America.

  • brian lewis

    Sadly, I look at this map of our country and it appears to be covered in blood.

  • Tom Harmon

    ken53: I’m not even sure what you mean. To me, election results say that most Americans just don’t buy the liberal line that faith should have nothing to do with politcs. To counter, i would say that without people’s faith entering into their political decisionmaking, politics becomes schizophrenic, inhumane, and, as a result of the preceeding two, irrational.

    Brad: I think this misses the point. The religious voters who seem to have swung the election regard abortion and same sex marriage as foundational to a just social and political order. Democrats can talk until they’re blue in the face about the environment, but if they don’t change their tunes on abortion and SSM, such religious people will think that they are both immoral and impious.

    By contrast, it seems that if the Republicans continue to talk like they support laws protecting the unborn and keeping marriage between a man and a woman, those voters will regard Republicans as, perhaps not particularly moral or pious, but at least fulfilling the barest minimum requirements for a just social and political order. Which is not to say that many, many of those reliigous voters don’t wish that the republicans, to whom they seem to have given their votes, weren’t an awful lot better on issues like the environment and taking care of the poor.

  • dlw

    The secret to helping the Dems gain more ground in red-states is for them to adopt something akin to my idea for depoliticizing and preventing abortion.


  • Ken53

    Tom Harmon,

    A good example of policies devoid of rationality is Bush’s war on Iraq. His decision was based on a combination of crass political calculation and belief in his ordination from God to his position as President.

    Lack of integrity among the faithful can be seen in the the fact that Bush’s belief in his divine right to rule has never been challenged by Christians. Instead this heresy gets reinforced by their support of him, and they do this in spite of the predomonece of non-christian policies in his administration.

    Also with regards to homosexual marriages: Jesus would be the one serving the wine at homosexual marriages if he were around today. This is purely a cival issue masquarading as a religous issue.

  • RyanH

    “Also with regards to homosexual marriages: Jesus would be the one serving the wine at homosexual marriages if he were around today. This is purely a cival issue masquarading as a religous issue.”

    Ken53, I agree that Jesus might be present, but to the couple, he would say with compassion, “Go and sin no more.” This IS a religious issue.

  • Ted Olsen

    Want the 2004 VERSION of the county map? It’s available at

    By the way, GetRel guys, the time stamps on your posts are all screwy.

  • C. Wingate

    Tom Harmon, there’s a HUGE religious ghost hidden in your statement that “Democrats can talk until they’re blue in the face about the environment, but if they don’t change their tunes on abortion and SSM, such religious people will think that they are both immoral and impious.” And I think you’re correct. But what that shows is that each party has tried to seize a different section of the moral high ground, and each side has an argument for the claim that their high ground is higher.

    It seems obvious to me that this is a cause both of the rancor and of the evenness of the split. The two sides cannot but demonize the other, but at the same time both sides are highly vulnerable to moral condemnation. In a word, stark hypocrisy is almost impossible to avoid without stepping outside the platforms to which the parties are now tied (and which I would note were not nearly so important 25 years ago).

    It makes voting difficult for someone like me who has no impulse to commit to such a package deal.

  • Dwight

    Of course the question is: how does one reach out to protestant voters in a way which doesn’t tear up the dem’s base? I’m a mainline protestant who supported Kerry but had he decided to trash separation of church and state or trash gay and lesbians, there’s no way I would have ever supported the man. I think the problem is not Kerry, it’s the political landscape.

    We liberals are a minority in this country. So if the dems wants to win they need to change that landscape…one is an expansion of the idea of what is moral…including economic and foreign affairs. That can’t happen in an election cycle, it’s got to happen over a generation or so, we have to begin to think long term. I do think there is a possible moderate and liberal religious folks and secular voters coalition which can win in the future.

  • Tom Harmon

    C. Wingate:

    I think you strike it right on its head. What’s absent in public debates, because the state of political rhetoric in this country is so abysmal, are arguments about which side’s right about the importance of their bundle of moral issues. The Catholic bishops tried to inject a bit of that into the campaigns, but there was no corresponding interlocutor on the other side. The bishops said, “these issues are primary,” and those who disagreed with them, as far as I can tell, said, “no, they’re not. And, by the way, keep out of politics.” Not a constructtive dialogue. I have to say, the MSM didn’t help to further this discussion, for whatever reason (most likely because, as our esteemed hosts might say, the MSM doesn’t get religion or the natural law moral reasoning many religious people do).


    I’m not so sure you’re right. The liberal/secularist coalition is bound to dwindle, I should think. As reported on this blog and elsewhere, the red states are the ones who have replacement level birth rates. Unless liberal/secularists are willing to jettison what seems to be key elements of the liberal/secularist position with regard to abortion, contraception, and stay at home motherhood, it seems very likely that the red states will outpopulate the blue states and dilute the blueness in the blue states.

  • Ken53

    “Also with regards to homosexual marriages: Jesus would be the one serving the wine at homosexual marriages if he were around today. This is purely a cival issue masquarading as a religous issue.”

    Ken53, I agree that Jesus might be present, but to the couple, he would say with compassion, “Go and sin no more.” This IS a religious issue.

    Ryan, Since Jesus would recognize his fathers handiwork in the love between two of his creations I doubt if Jesus would challenge his father on this.

  • cpeppler

    It seems that if God created the earth (read, environment) in order to have a relationship with human beings (us, both born and unborn), it seems that the latter should take priority, in his eyes. Realizing that it’s impossible to get a complete “package” in either political party, that it’s necessary to do a triage, and make decisions in ways that would reflect the priorities that God setup when he put this whole thing together. To make it simple, if you have to choose between people and trees, I think it’s important to choose the people.

    Given that broader framework, it seems that the basic function of any government should be to protect life, and the more vulnerable that life, the more vigorously the government should protect that life. Once you get that right (like overturning Roe v. Wade, which the originator of the suit now wants to do), it seems the government has a moral foundation from which to work it’s way down the list, like creating incentives to protect the environment, mutual accountability in international relationships, fixing busted business models in health care, etc.

    As for those who claim that belief in God is not rational, I would consider belief in the lack of God irrational. This place (earth, universe, life) is just too well put together to be the product of a bunch of completely random coin flips. There is just too much of a system, to not have a system designer.

  • william james


    You’re almost too easy to take down. So with your logic God created serial killers and Jesus would be wrong to condemn their work, huh. Stop before you dig your self in any deeper. Please. If your fine with gay marriage so be it but don’t preach here to the choir about what Jesus would do, otherwise show me a biblical passage that supports gay marriage.

  • C. Wingate


    Really the only things I can say about the Catholic bishops’ statements are that (a) they came across as being monomaniacal about abortion, and that (b) after the abuse scandals the currency of their moral authority is rather devalued.

    Also, your comment to Dwight about stay-at-home motherhood in particular shows one of the places where the moral comparisons break down. The reality is that neither party’s position has been friendly to single-income-dual-parent households. It has to be supported by social approval, and it has to be supported by economic feasibility. The Dems have tended to fail on the first (or at least harbored too many woemn who condescend loudly), but the Republican failure on the second is far more important. (The Dems haven’t perfect on that score either.)

    There was an interesting piece in the Wash. Post Magazine on Sunday– a sort of “profile” of a non-voter:

    (requires registering)

    Religion per se doesn’t really come up but it gives a good sense of the complications of the views of individuals.

  • Tom Harmon

    C. Wingate:

    Oh, you’re certainly right about moral comparisons b/t the two parties breaking down on policies toward single income dual parent households. Probably the same can be said for contraception (although not for abortion). My point was not to highlight key policy disagreements between political parties, but to point out that the big reason that the liberal/secularist coalition in America will get smaller and weaker is that, in general, its members have fewer children that red state conservative/orthodox religious Americans. One reason the liberals/secularists have fewer children is because they contracept and abort more and the women are comparatively more career-oriented than child-oriented (which necessitates smaller families).

  • C.Wingate

    Surely, Tom, you do not seriously believe that anyone’s beliefs are so closely determined by those of their parents! As sure as college starts up again every fall, there is a fresh supply of recruits for secularist viewpoints. Reproduction may well be important where subcultures work at keeping apart, but that is not how it is in the USA.

  • Molly

    Tom, the more the red staters reproduce, the more likely the blue staters will be available to “re-instruct” their kids. Your agrument fails. Unless, of course, red staters completely isolate themselves and their kids from the world. Which is what home schooling is doing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, you can’t keep them forever. Sooner or later, they go out into the world and find out that Mom and Dad don’t have all the answers.

    On another topic, what happens once Roe v. Wade is overturned? Will there be a concerted effort to prevent pregnancy in the first place? If no one wants abortion, and I would argue that is true regardless of one’s position, how do we care for any child that comes to term that is unwanted? I would like to see a comprehensive, compassionate plan from the red staters. Anyone?

  • Molly

    “One reason the liberals/secularists have fewer children is because they contracept and abort more and the women are comparatively more career-oriented than child-oriented (which necessitates smaller families).”

    Tom you also need to be very careful about over generalizing people. We have two children, I don’t work because I choose to be home with them, I have never had an abortion, and we cannot support more than two children so we are careful not to conceive any more than what God has been so gracious to give us.

    Would you rather that I be forced to stay home and resent it, be forced to live beyond our means to support more than two children, be forced to harm my relationship with my husband by infusing a real element of fear into our intimacy? Is this the agenda of the red states? No thanks.

    By the way, we are a Christian family that is in church every week. I suppose it helps that my husband is a pastor. :)

  • Brad

    cpeppler said: “To make it simple, if you have to choose between people and trees, I think it’s important to choose the people.”

    This is part and parcel of the problem with the discussion surrounding the environment. As Rachel Carson demonstrated, it isn’t just trees (or birds), but people. If we destroy the air we breathe, who will be hurt? If our water is poison, what impact will that have? How can you say that choosing people but destroying their habitat is a good choice? Much as I would turn to my Republican friends on the abortion issue and ask how they can fight for the lives of fetuses, but have no concern for them after their birth?

    Conservatives have dumbed down the moral debate, and I am frustrated with how we can reinvigorate it. I am split on abortion, but absolutely respect those who oppose it and think that is conservatives one claim to social justice. But if you care about people, you cannot support a self-centered wealth-oriented policy and still claim the high moral ground.

  • Molly

    Actually, we are not a blue/red country. It’s more of a purple.

    Here’s your mandate! And your political capital!

  • Jonathan

    Brad: First, the argument that every child should be a “wanted child” and so on is bunk. Should we simply liquidate the poor and disabled because they have a nasty lot in life? Is it moral to “terminate” the unborn because they might be born into potential poverty?

    It is largely the abortion issue that causes me to have such a hard time considering real discourse with Democrats. I simply cannot take someone seriously who talks about “social justice” yet advocates abortion, something that is a direct violation of the most basic of human rights. I am not saying that liberals are not really concerned for the poor, but it does make it far more difficult to hold discourse with them. Talk about self-centered wealth policy all you want, and the evils of capitalism. Abortion is still worse- it does not simply deprive someone of wealth, it destroys a life. Social justice must begin with respect for all human life, unequivocally.

    Also, I have found that most conservatives, particularly religious ones, are deeply concerned with the poor, both before birth and after. Most of the real action I have seen in my life for the poor and hurting has come from Christians.

  • Tom Harmon

    C Wingate and Molly:

    I don’t think it does fail. Certainly it is not true that everone’s beliefs and attitudes are determined by their parents. I’m speaking in general terms befcause general terms most accurately describe general realities, that is, the especially the general reality of demographics. However, I do think that it is most generally the case that people’s attitudes closely reflect the views of their parents, above and beyond any other factors.

    I certainly would not want you to be resentful, Molly. That’s no good! And I don’t think i said anywhere that either the red states or i plan to make you have more children. I did say, though, that the red states are having more children. For a variety of reasons. In my above comment I intended no moral judgment on the use of contraceptives, etc., (although I do have firm ideas about their morality). I admire you very much for staying home with your kids, and also think that you show wisdom by recognizing your means and living within them. I am engaged myself, and my fiancee and i plan to use Natural Family Planning.

  • Brad

    Jonathan, you misstate my argument and then disparage it. Where did you learn your argument style? Talk radio?

    I didn’t advocate abortion and I am not suggesting that because a child might be born into poverty they should be “liquidated.” I am suggesting that if you believe in life (and I do) then you should be concerned about quality of life as well. If you oppose abortion but do nothing to stop toxic chemicals in poorer neighborhoods, how serious are you about life?

    If you want to dismiss me, that is fine. I am respectful of conservatives on the issue of abortion. I am not, however, when they ignore the dead in Iraq, gloat over executed criminals, and say that the poor are poor by choice (I know you didn’t say that, but many conservatives do).

    In fact, my major point was and is that morality is more than abortion. It can certainly include abortion, but it is more than that and sexuality. It is about wealth and poverty, global justice, racial and gender equality. All of those are moral issues.

  • Molly

    Be careful Tom. I have a cousin who says that his parents used the Rhythm Method for contraception and it worked. All five kids have musical talent!

  • Molly

    “In fact, my major point was and is that morality is more than abortion. It can certainly include abortion, but it is more than that and sexuality. It is about wealth and poverty, global justice, racial and gender equality. All of those are moral issues.”

    Brad, you are right on the money.

    What I find frustrating about conservatives in general is how derivative their understanding of moral values is. It seems to all boil down to sexuality and abortion.

    Please show us “libruls” on this post where the Bush administration has a proven, documented track record on wealth and poverty, global justice, racial and gender equality.

    While we’re at it, how about fleshing out for us the No Child Left Behind policy that is decimating public schools (coincidence?) and leaving generations of poor inner city kids with substandard educations. Where is your moral outrage over this?

  • Molly

    FYI, this link “blogging for The New Republic” is dead.

    I guess I’ll have to actually move my lazy fingers to search this out for myself. Oh, the humanity!

  • Tom Harmon


    You’d be right if natural family planning were the same as the rhythm method. As a matter of fact, NFP has the lowest “fail” rate of any pregnancy avoiding method.

    And, eventually, once we’re out of graduate school, we’d love to have 5 kids!

  • Tom Harmon


    I’m afraid the GOP has a very uneven record on poverty and a downright embarassing one on the environment. I would be absolutely delighted if there were a candidate out there who combines the Dems policies on the environment, living wage, and health care with the GOP’s policies on abortion, gay marriage, and religion in the public square. There isn’t, though, because the GOP seems to be headed in the direction of Ahnuld and Giuliani and the Dems have purged their pro-life faction almost as effectively as any mid-twentieth century fascist state purged their political enemies.

    In the meantime, I regard laws protecting the lives of the most vulnerable members of society (read: the unborn) as the absolute baseline for a justly ordered political and social order. My attitude is, stop the slaughter of children, then move on to the very important, but not quite as fundamentally important, issues you mention.

  • Shelley

    Having wandered in halfway through, what I have to say may not gel with the rest of the arguments, but here goes…

    “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…” and I think that also applies to facial expressions as well. Have you ever seen a smirkier bunch of people outside of those highly visible in the news/entertainment field? What’s my collective response to all of Bush’s high profile enemies?

    “Gee, you’re not very nice. I don’t think I want to get to know you. I don’t feel very interested in what you have to say, and that goes for gossip tidbits about your girlfriends, incomes, wardrobes, and snafus.”

    Perhaps someday I’ll meet a gracious atheist who will impress me with unsung deeds of generosity, steely repect for an adversary, and tolerance (not condescension) toward those who not only believe in, but also deeply love God.

    40 years of living in MA, 17 of them in Boston, and the only kind of atheists I meet are those who can’t get through a paragraph without a compound blasphemy-profanity, so once again I say, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

  • Molly

    “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…” and I think that also applies to facial expressions as well. Have you ever seen a smirkier bunch of people outside of those highly visible in the news/entertainment field? What’s my collective response to all of Bush’s high profile enemies?”

    I had to read this a couple time to figure out who you meant the smirkers were. I initially thought you meant Bush and Co. I guess the smirking is abundant on both sides of this battle. The close results of the election shows that plenty of people do not want to cross the aisle to get to know the other or to become interested in what is said. President Bush said in his acceptance speech that he would work to earn our respect. I am honestly hoping he will.