How Will the ‘Values Voter’ Vote in ’06?
Pity the poor values voter. She’s all dressed up, but does she have anywhere to go? In 2004, she was the darling of the election. Now she feels like a wallflower, taken for granted by the Republicans and mocked by the Democrats.
"Values voter" is, of course, a euphemism for evangelicals and conservative Catholics. It is more politically correct to use the euphemism than to acknowledge that one’s religious faith actually influences their decision in the voting booth. After all, one must take care not to run afoul of the radical notion of separation of church and state promoted by the Secular Left. Such secularists think it’s provincial, indeed dangerous, to affirm the notion that one’s religious faith should influence all aspects of their daily life—including their political views and decisions.
This notion that religious faith should translate into action is not a novel concept. There is a long standing linkage between faith and politics in this country. The founding of our American republic was animated by religious faith. The signers of the Declaration of Independence, in forcibly throwing off the fetters of George III, appealed to the "Supreme Judge of the World" for the rectitude of their intentions and placed their reliance "on the protection of Divine Providence." George Washington, our first President, declared, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." The abolitionists appealed to Biblical principles of justice in overthrowing the shackles of slavery. Advocates for the elimination of child labor and sweat shops argued from Biblical notions of justice as they fought for changes in the law of the workplace. Martin Luther King thundered for the passage of civil rights laws ending discrimination against African-Americans and called for "justice to roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).
Conscientious Christians take seriously the injunctions of James, the brother of Jesus, who exhorted us to be "doers" of the Word and not "hearers" only (James1:22); yet, the notion that they would do so is apparently terrifying to secularists in the Democratic Party. They warn of "theocrats" and "Christocrats" who dare to consult their Bibles in making political and social judgments. They point to the large expanse of red states on the political map and refer to it derisively as "Jesus Land", and they belittle Christian conservatives, calling them the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party."
Is it any wonder that values voters moved in droves over to the Republican Party?
The affinity that Christian conservatives felt for the Republican Party accounted, in no small part, for the elections of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as our current president, George W. Bush. Nevertheless, there is an increasing level of discomfiture that these voters are feeling with Republicans in the current election cycle. While they acknowledge the attention that the party has paid them in the past, they are asking the question most voters posit, "What have you done for me lately?"
A review of the recent record leaves them chagrined. Notwithstanding the party’s lip service, and aside from the confirmation of two promising (yet untested) Supreme Court justices, little real progress has been made in the last two years toward advancing the values agenda. Planned Parenthood has not been prevented from receiving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. The federal courts’ jurisdiction has not been trimmed to limit its ability to hear cases involving abortion or same-sex marriage. And the Republican-controlled Congress is outspending its liberal Democratic predecessors.
No doubt, the Republicans would point to the vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment as a testament to their commitment to values voters’ priorities. It was, however, little more than a cynical ploy. Republican leaders knew the measure had no chance of passage and did precious little to make it pass. That they couldn’t even muster majority support in the Republican-controlled Senate is evidence of just how anemic their efforts really were. Eyewash is not a substitute for the real thing.
In truth, the Republican Party in the last two years has done what it regarded as the absolute minimum necessary to pacify its values voter base. Sadly, that pacification has come cheap. Meanwhile, the party has worked hard to advance the agenda of the moneyed and business interests that finance its campaigns. The unmistakable message has been that the party values money over votes.
Despite all of this, the Democratic Party has not yet been able to effectively exploit the vulnerability of the Republican Party this campaign season. Early in the aftermath of 2004, some Democrats called for a new dialogue on the role of faith and values in civic life. With few exceptions, you don’t hear much about that today. The radical Secular Left is in control of the Democratic Party. If you doubt that, ask Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew whose politics have been shaped in large part by his faith.
For many values voters, the fall elections seem to offer one of two choices: choose a party that takes them for granted, believing that such voters have no place else to go; or choose one that mocks and ridicules them.
It’s enough to make a wallflower stay at home.