Barry Goldwater biographer Rick Perlstein reports on some surprising numbers crunched by political scientist Phil Klinkner. Bush’s support among heavy churchgoers in 2000 and 2004? Identical. Bush’s support among wealthy voters? Big surge in ’04. “It’s the wealth, stupid,” writes Perlstein.

Intriguing, but we’re not buying. 1. Why are wealthy voters different than religious voters? Aren’t evangelicals increasingly affluent? 2. Why does one need to be a “heavy churchgoer” to be considered part of the religious right? Doesn’t voting for rightwing policies on religious grounds qualify you? 3. As evidence that gay marriage did notmove the electorate, Perlstein quotes Klinkner as saying that the Bush vote in referendum states “was a bit lower than expected.” Why couldn’t that be because gay activists actually helped win Michigan, Oregon, etc., for the Dems, even if they lost the referendums? They put muscle into those fights, most of which were started by gay marriage opponents in states where gay marriage wasn’t on the agenda. Gay activists lost. But is this weakness, or a hint of growing strength? The religious right picked the place and the time of the battle against gay marriage, and they still had to fight hard to win.

Bottom line: The politics-as-usual crowd wants you to believe there isn’t a culture war, after all. Move along, folks, nothing to see. But the culture warriors in the trenches of the right, who’ve thrown their lives into causes close to their hearts, know it ain’t so. And an increasing number in the great liberal/left/progressive/radical fog are recognizing the “reality” of culture war as well. It’s not the wealth, stupid, it’s the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world.

In other words, as one Bushite famously declared, “we create our own realities.” The Revealer is willing to go further than that — we believe that no more astute analysis of the master narrative of American politics — as determined by religion — exists than that of our Commander in Chief himself.

Let’s reflect. “You’re either with us, or against us.” Indeed. “We’ll fight at a time and place of our own choosing.” That’s just what the GOP did, putting gay marriage on the ballot in states where it hadn’t been an issue. “You can run, but you can’t hide.” Does anyone doubt Karl Rove woke up November 3, and thought, California, state of evangelical exurbs — ’08?

–Jeff Sharlet