Election 2000: A Partial Postmortem

By Doerr, Edd | The Humanist, January 2001 | Go to article overview

Election 2000: A Partial Postmortem


Doerr, Edd, The Humanist


As we go to press, the final outcome of the 2000 presidential election hinges upon the vote of the electoral college. Meanwhile, other election results give cause for both celebration and concern.

Voters in California and Michigan crushed ballot initiatives designed to divert public funds to sectarian private schools through voucher plans. California voters defeated vouchers 71 percent to 29 percent--a total almost identical to that by which the Golden State slapped down a similar measure in 1993. Michigan's 68 percent to 32 percent rejection of vouchers was similar to its 1978 victory over a similar plan by 74 percent to 26 percent. Even Catholic voters in these two states rejected vouchers two to one in 2000.

Despite losing twenty-three referenda on vouchers or their analogs from coast to coast since 1966, by an average margin of better than two to one, interests hostile to public education and church-state separation have pledged to continue their efforts. Catholic church officials in Michigan reportedly spent nearly $2 million to promote the failed voucher plan, apparently indifferent to the interests of the more than 80 percent of Catholic kids who attend public schools.

Other good news on November 7 included the defeat of Missouri Senator John Ashcroft by Governor Mel Carnahan, who was tragically killed in a plane crash a couple of weeks before the elections. Ashcroft was the main sponsor of so-called charitable-choice legislation in Congress, designed to provide unregulated tax aid to "faith-based" charities. Charitable choice has been vigorously advocated by fundamentalist guru Marvin Olasky, a key domestic policy adviser to George W. Bush.

But the Y2K elections also raised the specter of political polarization along religious lines, as exit polls clearly showed.

Although all the exit polls didn't quite agree, the Catholic vote apparently went to Al Gore by either 53 percent to 46 percent or by 49 percent to 47 percent--down from Clinton's 1996 garnering of the vote by 54 percent to 37 percent. Had Gore chosen a northern Catholic, such as Senator Tom Harkin or former Senator George Mitchell, as his running mate, he probably would have done considerably better. The Jewish vote went to Gore over Bush by 79 percent to 18 percent, compared to 78 percent to 16 percent in 1996, so having Senator Joseph Lieberman on the Democratic ticket didn't seem to help much.

The twelve most heavily Catholic states--except Louisiana and New Hampshire--went for Gore. The vice-president also won the vast majority of the twenty-five most heavily Catholic metro areas.

The white Protestant vote, heavily influenced by the politicized and powerful religious right, tilted sharply to Bush. The whole white Protestant vote went to Bush, 63 percent to 34 percent; while the fundamentalist/evangelical portion of the white Protestant vote went to Bush, 79 percent to 19 percent. Bush carried the old South (with Florida uncertain at this writing), the border states, and the non-Southern but generally conservative states of Kansas and Indiana.

The African American vote, mainly Protestant, went to Gore, 90 percent to 8 percent. The Latino, mostly Catholic, vote went to Gore, 67 percent to 31 percent.

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