Monday, October 17, 2005

Of Statistics, the Radical Right, and Coyotes

Published on – in Kentucky and Other Red States subsections

By Rich Miles

October 17, 2005

(Note: All numbers quoted from the 2004 presidential election are from

Way back in November of 2004 – ancient history for most Americans – after the smoke and noise had cleared from Election Day, an interesting piece of conventional wisdom emerged about the election: the radical religious right had “given” the election to Bush, and they were loudly and stridently expecting payback on a whole host of things they felt they deserved as a result.

Despite a popular-vote victory of just under 1,800,000, or 1.4% of all who voted (don’t forget those third-party candidates!), cries of “Mandate!” and “The People Have Spoken!” rang out – suggesting that those of us who had a problem with a second Bush term should just shut the hell, excuse me, heck up and take whatever the radical religious right dished out.

But the more this “people have spoken” nonsense was bruited about, the less sense it made – the implication was that the people only got to speak once, this was the final decision forever, get over it, etc. etc. However, here is a little closer look at the concept of “people speaking”, to see if things really are as dire as they seem, or if perhaps beneath it all, there is some reason to hope that the country has not gone completely mad after all:

First, we will remember that, right after the election, the figure of 22% emerged as a supposed portion of the total who voted who made their choice based on “values” – family, moral, or religious. It’s also widely put about, though not very likely statistically, that an overwhelming majority of those who voted based on “values” voted for George W. Bush. And finally, the radical religious right claims to have mobilized its voter base to an unprecedented degree, suggesting that the 22% figure represents very nearly as many “values voters” as there are.

So while there are a few fallacies in the above premises, let’s assume for the sake of argument that they’re more or less true, and then examine a few facts that emerge from this belief structure:

22% of everyone who voted is approximately 26,900,000 people. This is approximately 9% of the total population of the country. It is approximately 12% of all the people in the country of voting age, and approximately 16% of all people who were registered to vote as of November 2004.

Anyone with even rudimentary math skills will see that none of the figures above represent a national majority, and damn sure aren’t a group with the leverage to demand payback.

The figures also cloak a somewhat surprising fact: if the religious right had not monolithically voted for Bush (and again, there’s no proof they did), he would have lost the election by a very significant margin: almost 25,000,000 popular votes, which would certainly have meant a significant electoral vote defeat as well.

And connecting a few more dots, two additional facts bubble up from the welter: while it’s apparently true that the values voters “gave” the election to Bush, it also shows pretty conclusively that, once the supposed “values voters” are stripped out of the totals, a large portion of the rest of us didn’t want him for president: doing this leaves approximately 95,400,000 voters, of whom 60,260,000 or 63% voted for someone who was not George Bush.

And that number, 63%, does represent a majority.

To sum up, then: a small percentage of American voters have saddled the rest of us with a president we didn’t want for the next four years, and in the process have the gall to demand that that president give them everything they want, no matter what’s good for the country. These same people wonder why those of us who think Bush is a perfectly rotten president, who laugh sardonically at the thought that he’s a “godly man” who cares about America and Americans, are so damned angry.

What emerges from this closer examination is not that the radical religious right is the mainstream, the majority, the folks who get to call the shots, but that they are America’s coyotes.

As every rancher in the western half of the country (and an increasing number of Eastern farmers) know, coyotes are among the cleverest of predators. Among other talents, they have the ability to “sound bigger” – that is, a small group of perhaps 5 to 10 of them can bark in such a way as to sound like a much larger group, dozens at least. This has the effect of scaring off competing predators, and scaring the prey, which will not know which way to turn to escape the threat. This is presumably an adaptive mechanism that coyotes, small creatures as predators go, have developed to increase their success as a species.

Thus, the radical religious right as America’s coyotes: there aren’t really that many of them, but they talk loud, they’re well-organized by their leaders (who often have other, hidden agendas), they’ll give their hard-earned cash to anyone who will pander to them - and as a result they have had some recent success as a species. But in reality, they only sound bigger. And when the rest of us, including the spineless U.S. Congress and other politicians, finally realize this and abandon them, the coyotes will no longer have the power they think they have now, and America can start to recover from the damage they’ve done to us, both at home and abroad. The wholly un-Christian hubris and arrogance of the radical religious right will finally reap its due.

I look forward to that day – it almost makes me want to howl at the moon in anticipation.