Reed, you see, wanted to not merely deliver the social conservatives' "values" votes this year, but to ensure that their pivotal role be made noted and respected -- broadcast and trumpeted, loudly and quite publicly. They didn't want to just win; they want credit and plaudits for scoring the decisive touchdown.
Awesome. The fact that this election - the first post-9/11 election, with a war in Iraq abroad and a changing economic situation at home - will be remembered by the we-need-it-simplified media as the "values" election, is Reed's great gift to us.
Why? Because I suspect that right now that the Wall Street wing, and the small business wing, and the defense industry wing, and the tax reform wings of the party are shuddering at the thought that Americans are being told that Bush got to 51 percent based on "values" voting. Would not the better "take-away" storyline from this election be that Bush won because the nation believes in Republicans' fiscal and defense policies, their steadfastness and leadership abilities? I'm meeting a lot Republicans (both conservatives and moderates) who do not want this election to be framed as the Ralph Reed Rout.
To understand their fears, flip the script for a moment, and imagine we had won and the emergent storyline right now was, say, how pro-choice single white women carried the day - that they were the newly-mobilized "swing voter" that proved decisive. That image would not merely oversimplify such a victory, but frame it in a way that would permit conservatives to demonize us through their usual tactics of villification and exaggeration. Indeed, have not the Hannitys and Coulters done just that to us, for years? (And we're the liars and haters, huh?) They love to claim, falsely but effectively, that our party is comprised solely of Hollywood elites, gays, the unmarried and childless, college professors, and minority welfare cheats.
Frankly, we don't angry enough about this depiction, and if we don't start raising our voices, pretty soon Sean and Bill and Ann will have the rest of America invoking as a referent, whenever they hear the words "Democrat Party," the image of a thirty-something, black, gay UCLA professor of postmodern studies who works a few hours a day indoctrinating his students with Che Guevara mantras, before knocking off early to go home for some hot gay sex with his unionized, Hispanic postal worker husband, as they watch pornography on the widescreen and their three adopted sons sit nearby taking notes. I exaggerate for effect, but you get the point.
And thus, the biggest silver lining of this election is how the GOP's victory is thus far being claimed, framed and explained. To that I say, "Let us join that chorus." And we should do so now, because there is immediacy in the post-election window of opportunity.
Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush's victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.
Criticizing the GOP ain't gonna build us a new national majority. But the process is brick by brick, or perhaps, brickbat by brickbat. We didn't decide the rules of engagement, but that's what they are and so we may as well start firing away. Oh, and Ralph: Thanks for the help.