Did Gay Marriage Bans Help Bush Win in 2004?

Dan Balz writes in the Washington Post, as many reporters have this week, 

In 2004, Republicans used ballot initiatives barring same-sex marriage to spur turnout among their conservative voters. That strategy helped then-President George W. Bush win reelection.

But did it? I argued in 2006 that it didn’t:

It’s true that states with such initiatives voted for Bush at higher rates than other states, but that’s mostly because the bans were proposed in conservative states. In fact, Bush’s share of the vote rose just slightly less in the marriage-ban states than in the other states: up 2.6 percent in the states with marriage bans on the ballot, up 2.9 percent in the other states.

Political scientist Simon Jackman of Stanford has more here (pdf). He concludes that the marriage referenda tended to increase turnout but not to increase Bush’s share of the vote. And in a county-by-county analysis of Ohio, he found no clear relationship between increased turnout, support for the marriage ban, and increased support for Bush.

Matthew Dowd made the same point yesterday:

Speaking from experience as the chief strategist in 2004 for President Bush, I saw in close detail how little gay marriage could influence turnout of conservatives or evangelicals.   In 2003 and 2004, we did a series of public opinion tests on different messages related to the micro targeting project that would cause voter groups to turn out more in President Bush’s favor.  We tested social issues as well as messages related to the economy, national security, taxes and the size of the federal government.  Not a single social issue (which included gay marriage) fell on the effectiveness scale in the top eight messages.

Further, in analyzing the election returns in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential race an interesting set of data was revealed.   In states that had gay marriage amendments on the ballot including key target states, there was no statistical difference in turnout of conservatives from states that did not have these amendments on the ballot.  Gay marriage had no effect on turnout even among the most conservative potential voters in both the data before Election Day and the returns on Election Day.

Other senior officials from the 2004 Bush campaign confirm: It wasn’t gay marriage that brought social conservatives to the polls, it was national security and the war on terror.

At any rate, as Balz noted, the politics of gay marriage have changed for sure, in Ohio and elsewhere.

Posted on March 27, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Jim DeMint’s Misfire on Marriage

Jim DeMint, former senator and future president of the Heritage Foundation, writes a column for USA Today opposing gay marriage. But like so many social conservatives, he supports his position with a sleight of hand. DeMint writes:

Without strong families grounded in marriage, we cannot hold back the ever-expanding power of government. As the marriage culture weakens, Big Government grows. Just look how the welfare state has expanded as the unwed childbearing rate has grown from single digits in the 1960s to more than 40% today.

Marriage policy exists to encourage a man and a woman to commit to each other permanently and exclusively as husband and wife and to be father and mother to any children. Sound marriage policy strengthens civil society and reduces the role of government.

The erosion of marriage costs taxpayers. And it’s not just conservatives who say this. Even the left-leaning think tank, Brookings Institution, attributed $229 billion in welfare expenditures between 1970 and 1996 to the breakdown of marriage.

Yes indeed. Stable families are less likely to be on welfare. As Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of Brookings write,

Our research shows that if you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, you need to complete high school (at a minimum), work full time and marry before you have children. If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12 percent to 2 percent, and your chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent. 

But DeMint and other social conservatives make a logical leap when they connect that point to gay marriage. Gay people making the emotional and financial commitments of marriage is not the cause of family breakdown or welfare spending.

When DeMint says that “family breakdown” is causing poverty – and thus a demand for higher government spending – he knows that he’s really talking about unwed motherhood, divorce, children growing up without fathers, and the resulting high rates of welfare usage and crime. 

So why raise the problems of broken families and then propose to prevent gay people from getting married? Why all the focus on issues that would do nothing to solve the problems of “family breakdown” and what DeMint has elsewhere called “the high cost of a dysfunctional society”? Well, solving the problems of divorce and unwed motherhood is hard. And lots of Republican and conservative voters have been divorced. A constitutional amendment to ban divorce wouldn’t go over very well with even the social-conservative constituency. A legal ban on premarital sex would address the problem, but even social conservatives realize that it would be an imprudent exercise of state power. Far better to pick on a small group, a group not perceived to be part of the Republican constituency, and blame them for social breakdown and its associated costs.

But you won’t find your keys on Main Street if you dropped them on Green Street, and you won’t reduce the costs of social breakdown by keeping gays unmarried and not letting them adopt orphans.

Posted on March 27, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Honoring Harriet Tubman

President Obama is expected to issue an executive order today creating five new national monuments, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Leaving aside the questions about whether such decisions should be made unilaterally by the president, without input from Congress, Harriet Tubman is certainly deserving of national recognition. Cato senior fellow Jim Powell, author of The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History Told Through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Championswrote about Tubman two weeks ago on the 100th anniversary of her death:

Few freedom fighters were more tenacious than petite Harriet Tubman, the African-American slave-turned-abolitionist who died March 10, 1913 when she was about 92. She escaped to freedom, then was reported to have gone back into the Confederacy 19 times, risking capture as she “conducted” some 300 slaves to freedom….

She heard that her sister — a slave with children — was going to be sold away from her husband, who was a free black. Tubman decided she would return to Maryland and guide them to freedom. That was her start as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.

Then in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act empowered Southern slave hunters to capture alleged runaways without a jury trial, and Tubman began conducting slaves hundreds of miles farther north — across the Canadian border. She knew the abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass, whose three-story house in Rochester, N.Y., was the last stop for many slaves on the Underground Railroad before they boarded a steamer across Lake Ontario.

Harriet Tubman risked her life time after time to lead people out of slavery to freedom. She’s a libertarian heroine.

Posted on March 25, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses state’s rights on Nashville Public Radio

Posted on March 11, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Crimes Against the State

William Wan writes in the Washington Post that in China

Citizens have been punished for crimes as trivial as writing an unflattering blog post about a local official.
Trivial indeed. Worse than trivial. Not crimes at all. Just normal speech in a free society.  But of course China isn’t a free society. Despite its moves toward markets and profits, China remains a one-party state still characterized by state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. And that party is the Communist party, a party born to eradicate capitalism, a party that as it came to power in 1949 spoke of “the extinction of classes, state power and parties,” of “a socialist and communist society,” of the nationalization of private enterprise and the socialization of agriculture, of a “great and splendid socialist state” in Russia, and especially of “a powerful state apparatus” in the hands of a “people’s democratic dictatorship.” That’s a vision that doesn’t fit very well with “unflattering blog post[s] about a local official.” The problem is endemic to socialism. Robert Heilbroner, a distinguished American intellectual who called himself a socialist (though the New York Times declined to be so rude in its obituary), was admirably candid in explaining the place of dissent in a socialist society in a 1978 article in, well, Dissent:
Socialism … must depend for its economic direction on some form of planning, and for its culture on some form of commitment to the idea of a morally conscious collectivity… If tradition cannot, and the market system should not, underpin the socialist order, we are left with some form of command as the necessary means for securing its continuance and adaptation. Indeed, that is what planning means… The factories and stores and farms and shops of a socialist socioeconomic formation must be coordinated … and this coordination must entail obedience to a central plan… The rights of individuals to their Millian liberties [are] directly opposed to the basic social commitment to a deliberately embraced collective moral goal… Under socialism, every dissenting voice raises a threat similar to that raised under a democracy by those who preach antidemocracy.
That is, even an unflattering blog post about a local official threatens “the basic social commitment to a deliberately embraced collective moral goal” under the direction of “a powerful state apparatus” in the hands of a “people’s democratic dictatorship.” So we deplore China’s use of labor camps “as an expedient way to silence critics,” in the words of the Post, but we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Indeed, a front-page article in today’s Post on Hugo Chavez’s legacy refers to
the tenets of what Chavez called 21st-century socialism—intervening in the economy, putting state institutions under the executive’s control and corralling opponents and the press.
Sounds a lot like 20th-century socialism.

Posted on March 8, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

I Was a Rand Paul Fan Before It Was Cool

Sure, everybody’s a Rand Paul fan this morning, from the Heritage Foundation to the Huffington Post. Well, maybe not President Obama, John Brennan, and Harry Reid. And alas my good friends at the Wall Street Journal editorial board. But still, a wide array across the political spectrum. Me, I was a Rand Paul fan back in 2010. Indeed, I blogged this picture from Kentucky’s legendary Fancy Farm picnic:

And a couple of weeks later on “The McLaughlin Group” I noted:

In Kentucky, the Democrats are calling Rand Paul an extremist. Rand Paul is responding by calling his opponent a Democrat. In the end, the voters will be more scared of a Democrat. 

But even before that, I’d written up Paul’s Republican primary victory with this graphic illustration:


And I’d pointed out that Washington’s neoconservative establishment – from Dick Cheney to David Frum, Mitch McConnell, and Rick Santorum – had campaigned hard against Paul in the primary, and been soundly repudiated. They ran some nasty ads against Paul, and his Democratic opponent kept up the attack in the fall. And again the voters saw the attacks on “radical” Rand Paul and voted for him.

So anyway, I’m happy today to welcome all the new fans who made #StandWithRand a number one topic on Twitter last night. And let’s hope they all stick around, and keep trying to rein in the president’s authority to incarcerate and even assassinate American citizens on American soil.

Posted on March 7, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Freedom Banned in Washington

It’s hardly big news, right? Another of our freedoms gets banned in Washington every day. But this time it’s not just particular constitutional rights. They don’t like the whole idea. Or at least the word, on a license plate. 

The District of Columbia allows residents to purchase vanity license plates. And as Chris Moody and Chris Wilson of Yahoo! News describe, there are strict rules about what you can say on your vanity plate:

According to the official list of banned D.C. plate combinations, it may take some extra creativity to get your idea accepted by the city’s meticulous censors. The capital city’s DMV has a 53-page list of 26,993 license plate no-no’s that prohibit everything from praising the local baseball team to expressing disgust with the Internal Revenue Service. The list was made available through a Freedom of Information Request filed by the transparency website GovernmentAttic.org.

You can check out your own ideas at the interactive tester below. Moody and Wilson note that you can’t have such interesting plates as “GOPSUX,” “GODEMS,” “RONPAUL, “”GVTSUX,” ANTIIRS,” “OBAMA,” “BARACK,” or “OBAMA44.”

And that’s right, you can’t have a license plate reading “FREEDOM.”

You can have “LIBERTY,” though, which might suffice. Wonder how they made that distinction. I tried a few other ideas. I once noted that Starbucks wouldn’t let you print “laissez-faire” on a customized Starbucks card. D.C. is more accommodating and has no objection to “LFAIRE.” “GAY” is OK, and perhaps surprisingly so are “HOMO” and “ANTIGAY.” I’ll bet the list of banned words will be constantly growing. “FEMNIST” passes muster, and so does “ANTIFEM.” But don’t try “SEX” or “SEXY.”

Moody and Wilson noted that you can’t have “RONPAUL” or “OBAMA.” But you can have “JEBBUSH”—who is speaking at Cato tomorrow, by the way—or “JEB2016” or “JEB45.” Also “HILLARY” and “BIDEN16.” (“CHRISTIE” is too long, but you can have “CHRISTI” or indeed “CHRIST.”) Hmmm, I’m beginning to wonder why you can’t have “RONPAUL.” But you can have “RAND,” “RAND16,” or indeed “AYNRAND.”

Try your own combinations. Just don’t expect to get “FREEDOM.”

Posted on March 5, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Buying Votes with Taxpayers’ Money — in India

When it comes to India, Washington Post reporter Rama Lakshmi seems to have no trouble recognizing that government benefits just might attract votes:

Trying to rekindle the fire of India’s economy, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram promised Thursday to rein in a runaway deficit even as he raised spending on welfare schemes that the government hopes will woo voters in elections scheduled for next year….

“The finance minister faced two counter-veiling pressures: to present a populist, voter-friendly budget and also control the huge fiscal deficit,” said Vir Sanghvi, a political analyst. “What he presented was a ‘this-is-the-best-we-can-manage-under-the-circumstances’ kind of a budget. .?.?. He is hoping that the economy will improve and prices will come down by the time of the election. That is a big political gamble.”

Chidambaram promised to increase spending on rural welfare schemes, rural roads and jobs, food guarantees for the poor, women’s safety programs, tax breaks on loans for first-time home buyers and a women’s bank.

Is it really impossible to suspect that similar programs might have similar effects in the United States?

Posted on March 5, 2013  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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