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FIRST-PERSON: Values, at center stage

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–While the pundits and prognosticators continue to analyze and rehash everything that happened on Election Day 2004, it is clear that values still matter to the American electorate.

While the economy, jobs, Iraq and terrorism dominated the presidential campaign, the issue voters voiced more than any other when they spoke to exit pollsters was “moral values.” And of those who named that issue, 79 percent voted for President Bush. You could almost see members of the media and some politicians with their mouths agape when those numbers rolled in!

What can we read into the moral values issue?

First, the community of faith played a major factor in this election, which garnered the largest voter numbers in U.S. history and for the first time since 1988 gave us a majority-vote president. Forty percent of those voting said they attend church weekly and, of those, 60 percent broke for Bush.

This election evidenced the fact that without winning a majority of the faith community, it is very difficult to win national office in the United States. Democratic contender John Kerry seemed to be realizing this in the final weeks of the campaign as he talked more about his faith in the debates and made frequent stops in churches while crisscrossing the country.

Second, social issues matter. Measures limiting marriage to between one man and one woman won in each state in which they were on the ballot. That included Oregon and Michigan where Kerry won the presidential vote. Of the 71 percent in exit polls who said they opposed same-sex “marriage,” a significant majority went for Bush. And Bush won two-thirds of the 41 percent who favor stronger pro-life laws.

Third, at both the national and state level, the Democratic Party is increasingly out of step with the rest of the United States. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s defeat in South Dakota convincingly illustrated this point. As a leader among Democrats in Washington, Daschle became beholden to special interest groups like Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League that insist on a lock-step policy that opposes even minimal limits on abortion, including the Partial Birth Abortion Ban and parental notification laws.

When exit polls showed 75 percent of Americans feel some restrictions on the procedure are reasonable, Democrats have placed themselves outside the mainstream on this issue. John Thune, Daschle’s opponent, and most of those newly elected to the House and Senate, carry a consistent pro-life position that served them well on election night.

Daschle also took the lead in the Senate in opposing a Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while Thune endorsed the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage. Because of the Democratic Party’s allegiance to homosexual activists who insist on policies outside the mainstream, Democrats have another issue that makes it increasingly difficult for them to win elections beyond their core strongholds in the Northeast and West Coast.

Even The New York Times seems to be noticing the problem in quoting Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns the day after the election. “On values, they [Democrats] are really noncompetitive in the heartland,” Johanns noted. “This kind of elitist, Eastern approach to the party is just devastating in the Midwest and Western states. It’s very difficult for senatorial, congressional and even local candidates to survive.”

At a time when people of faith have risen again to prominence in the American political landscape, this is no time to go back to business as usual and ignore the political process. With weighty issues like judicial appointments, stem cell research, same-sex “marriage” and tax reform still at center stage, those who voted for values at the ballot box must continue reminding politicians of their mandate in the days and months ahead.
Robert E. Reccord is president of the North American Mission Board, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention whose 16 million members make up the largest group of evangelical Christians in the United States.

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  • Robert E. Reccord