Capitol Report, November 3, 2004

SYNOPSIS: Post-election debate on Disaster 2004 between Krugman and some Family Research Council guy. Why oh why did this happen?

ALAN MURRAY, co-host: Welcome back to this special edition of CAPITAL REPORT, live from Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The 2004 election wasn't just a face-off between two candidates. According to exit polls it was also a referendum on American values, and the results showed a deep divide between the red states and the blue. Joining me now, Paul Krugman, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Thank you both for being with me.

Mr. TONY PERKINS (Family Research Council): Good evening.

MURRAY: Paul Krugman, I want to start with you. Are you surprised at the degree to which the exit polls show that the issue in this election was not Iraq, was not terrorism, but were these cultural issues that divide the nation?

Mr. PAUL KRUGMAN (The New York Times): I'm a little surprised but not totally. I mean, part of the point is that I think the--you have to interpret those polls a little bit carefully. I think terrorism and Iraq was a very crucial background, but then in the way people responded to it, it depended a lot on their views on religious, cultural issues, and this is the big divide in America.

MURRAY: Yeah. Tony Perkins, I mean, part of the problem with these issues is that there doesn't seem to be any middle ground when you're talking about something like abortion, when you're talking about something like gay rights. There's no way to compromise. Am I right about that?

Mr. PERKINS: Well, I don't think so. When you look what happened just last night on the issue of marriage, 11 states had constitutional amendments on the ballot; they all passed by a large majority. In fact, even the blue states--blue and red states passed amendments; two states that went for Kerry passed amendments. That's now 17 states that have had the opportunity and have passed amendments. So, you know, it's an issue that I think has broader support than many people realize.

MURRAY: That's pretty significant, Paul Krugman, isn't it, to see all those states pass bans on gay marriage?

Mr. KRUGMAN: Well, I think it's--you know, gay marriage happens to be something. That was a gift to the Republican Party 'cause it's--there are a number of people who might be slight--might be uncomfortable with gay marriage, who are very tolerant of people--you know, differing lifestyles, if you like. But this was one that allowed the Republican Party to play in to the people who are really intolerant in a fairly genteel way. You know, it's just...

MURRAY: Is this...

Mr. KRUGMAN: But, you know, there are some of these issues--abortion is an issue where there really is just no way to resolve. But I think it's a crucial issue for fewer voters than we think.

MURRAY: Tony Perkins, what...

Mr. KRUGMAN: I think was something--go ahead.

MURRAY: I just want...

Mr. PERKINS: Yeah, I...

MURRAY: I want to ask Tony Perkins about your comment about tolerance and intolerance.

Mr. PERKINS: No, in fact the party did not, I don't think, understood the significance of this issue, that there is such a broad-based support for the preservation of marriage. And I think even beyond that, there's the issue of the courts, and I think that in a lot of the support we see for these marriage amendments, it's also the only way that voters have the ability to express their frustration with courts that continue to impose their set of values on the public, that do not reflect the majority of Americans.

MURRAY: Do you two think the political power of these issues is rising in America? Paul Krugman first.

Mr. KRUGMAN: I think it's not really. I think there's a special window of opportunity. My model, my theory of the election, is that really 9/11, terrorism, created a situation in which a candidate could run well to the right and George Bush could run well to the right of what would normally be acceptable and that the Catholic Church, religious groups saw this as a window of opportunity to really push their agendas, to get a big rollback in process on Roe v. Wade. I'm not sure that the public is any more excited about these issues. I think it's all about the political maneuvering.

Mr. PERKINS: No, I disagree. I don't think this is--the politicians, the parties didn't understand this. What happened after 9/11, when there's external threat, people do turn inward. We saw that after 9/11. But then because of the media and others, that sense kind of went underground. But I think we saw it re-emerge yesterday when people again are expressing their views, when they have an opportunity to go to the polls. When we--what we've seen in these other states as marriage amendments have come forward is that the pre-poll--the pre-election-data polling does not show the level of support. A lot of people, as Paul is talking about--you know, there's this idea that they're intolerant, and so people don't want to publicly express it. But when they have the opportunity to go into the polls and vote in private, overwhelmingly Americans say they want marriage protected; they want to be able to define the values by which they live under.

MURRAY: Yeah. Tony Perkins, I mean, we've been talking about how the youth vote didn't turn out to the degree that some people thought it would. But the evangelical Christian vote certainly turned out the way Karl Rove wanted it to, didn't it?

Mr. PERKINS: I think it probably exceeded Karl Rove's expectations. There was a massive effort in this election cycle to register evangelical voters and bring them to the polls.


Mr. PERKINS: But I think what's interesting in the exit information is that this idea of value voters goes beyond just evangelicals. It includes pro-life Catholics...


Mr. PERKINS: ...and it includes others that just have some traditional values.

MURRAY: And just quickly, Paul Krugman, is it possible that you and I and a lot of people who live in this--live on the coast simply don't understand what's going on out there sufficiently, and that's one of the reasons why people keep getting this one wrong?

Mr. KRUGMAN: Well, I think people like you and me probably under--we understand intellectually, but probably not emotionally. I think that's a fair comment. But again, I think this was--this is 2 percent of Bush's vote is really what was determined by this, which, of course, is more or less the margin of victory.


Mr. PERKINS: Which is significant when you consider Ohio was the state that had an amendment on the ballot...

Mr. KRUGMAN: Oh, yeah.

Mr. PERKINS: ...and that's where the vote came to give him the election.

Mr. KRUGMAN: No question.

MURRAY: Yep. OK, thank you very much, Paul Krugman of The New York Times, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. I think it is a big, big deal, Gloria. I mean, you look at those polls--I had actually written a column about this on Tuesday. These forces are on--these disagreements are getting more intense, not less intense, and they transcend the Iraq War.

GLORIA BORGER (Co-host): Well, Alan, and you also look at the number of churchgoers who support George W. Bush. The people who say that they go to church regularly, six out of 10 of them supported George W. Bush. People who say they never go to church, 62 percent, you see right there, supported John Kerry. So it's very clear that for some reason the Democratic Party is just not connecting with people of faith and people who...

MURRAY: Well, I think the reasons are pretty clear, too. I mean, you know, you look at these issues like what Hollywood--what's on television, the kind of stuff--you know, the kind of stuff people are watching on a regular basis on...

BORGER: You know...

MURRAY: Go ahead.

BORGER: Yeah, no, Kerry made an effort, though, right? He really tried. He spoke at churches; he spoke about his faith; he tried to talk about his Catholicism. Didn't work.

MURRAY: Yeah. No, I think people understand that for George Bush, this is a big part of his life. They don't get the same feeling about John Kerry.

BORGER: Absolutely. And up next, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle loses his seat. Can the Democrats bounce back after blistering defeats in the race for the presidency and Capitol Hill? Stay with us, you're watching CAPITAL REPORT, live from Democracy Plaza in New York.


Originally broadcast, 11.3.04