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FIRST-PERSON: Looking at the ’06 election and beyond

DALLAS (BP)–Before we hit these final weeks of politicking leading up to Election Day, it looked as if Democrats would win the House and had a chance of taking the Senate. After the dust settles on the neck-wrenching scandals, international threats and competing accusations, that may still be the outcome. If it is, it does not mean the country is leaning Democrat or liberal.

The truth is, for Democrats to win the House, they will have to do well in Republican districts. Democrats occupy seats in 41 congressional districts that voted for President Bush in 2004, while Republicans hold 18 seats in districts that voted for John Kerry. So there are more than twice as many Democrats running in Bush-Republican districts than Republicans running in Kerry-Democrat districts. Most of the Democratic candidates in these races either hold positions that are more conservative than the normal Democrat, or they simply don’t talk much about their stances on hot-button issues. If the Democrats win the House it will be because they’ve moved rightward, or are perceived to have done so. This election, whatever the outcome, will not be a clear statement on which direction the country is moving. And we should not make too much of it in predicting long-term trends.

Scandal mongering likely will affect the vote. Whether or not Democratic operatives timed the release of reports on the Mark Foley instant message revelations, the party capitalized on it. The motive: to suppress conservative turnout and hurt Republicans. Exit polls certainly will give us some answers as to how well that tactic worked. But conservatives already were disgruntled over what many see as a loss of Republicans’ commitment to small government. Congressional performance, not the Foley scandal, will be the foundational reason for any Republican losses. If Republicans do badly, the lesson is not “move to the left.” It’s “stick to conservative principles.”

What if one or both houses of Congress changes hands? The major stakes in this election are the national security and war on terror policies of this country. And they are huge. On the social issues, the filibusters in the Senate will continue on judicial nominees as well as common sense pro-life, pro-family legislation (that is, if any of that even makes it to the floor.) With committee leadership positions changing hands we’ll have a Patrick Leahy-led Senate Judiciary Committee likely bottling up the president’s judicial nominees. New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who favors rolling back the Bush tax cuts, would chair the House Ways and Means Committee. And the man who would run the House Judiciary Committee is Michigan’s John Conyers, who has voiced his intentions to investigate grounds for impeaching President Bush.

But looking past the 2006 election, the country will get only more conservative. Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks discussed the liberals’ “baby problem” in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Liberals simply are not bringing enough babies into the world to sustain their next generation of voters. The 2004 General Social Survey shows that 100 randomly selected politically liberal adults would have, between them, 147 children. The same number of conservatives would have 208. Hence, Professor Brooks calculates a “fertility gap” of 41 percent. He writes, “Given that about 80 percent of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than Democrats to vote in future elections.” He suggests that the population-controllers on the left may have been too successful for their own good.

In 2004, the “values voters” were identified as a powerful voting bloc that was instrumental in re-electing President Bush and increasing the conservative voice in both houses of Congress. Then, as now, national security ranked as the top voter concern. But promoting the sanctity of human life, protecting marriage and preserving our constitutional religious freedoms remain among the worthiest of political goals. Voters who are frustrated and disappointed because of a lack of legislative progress in the “values” arena should not give up or stay home this election season. (Need motivation? Think about the two new justices sitting on the Supreme Court.) As in any war, men’s political victories are never complete or pure, but Christ’s victory over sin is both. So, friends, do not grow weary. And don’t forget to go to the polls.
Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program “Life on the Line” (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of “Jerry Johnson Live,” a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program.

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  • Penna Dexter