Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Watershed Election

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Watershed Election

Article excerpt

The 2006 midterm elections mark a significant turning point from the Religious Right's hold on evangelical voters. Moderate, and some conservative, Christians--especially evangelicals and Catholics--want a moral agenda broader than only abortion and same-sex marriage. The national exit polls showed 6 percent more Catholics and 5 percent more white evangelicals supported Democratic candidates in House races than in the 2004 elections. Eight percent fewer evangelicals voted for Republicans than did for President Bush in 2004. Many were concerned about poverty, the war in Iraq, strengthening families, and protecting the environment as important moral values.

An exit poll commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and conducted by Zogby International showed why that shift occurred. Iraq was considered the "moral issue that most affected your vote" by 45.8 percent of voters, almost six times as many voters as abortion and almost five times as many as same-sex marriage. Iraq was the top moral issue among Catholics, bornagain Christians, and frequent church attendees. Poverty and economic justice topped the list of "most urgent moral problem[s] in American culture."

Bob Casey, a Catholic, pro-life Democrat, won a senate seat in Pennsylvania because his campaign took both religion and abortion off the table. And in Ohio, ordained Methodist minister Ted Strickland defeated the Religious Right's favorite candidate, Kenneth Blackwell, for governor. Strickland's authentic Christian faith made it impossible for Blackwell to claim that God was on his side (a traditional Republican assertion). When the Republicans failed to win a religious advantage in these races, other issues--such as the war in Iraq and the economy--helped to defeat the Republican candidates. Also in Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown defeated Sen. Mike DeWine with a distinctively populist, faith-friendly campaign. The same was true in other races around the country.

When Democrats can run authentically as people of faith, they can beat back the idolatrous claims of the Religious Right that God is only on their side. And when Democrats take a more morally sensible position on issues like abortion, they do better than liberal Democrats have done. These results are bad news for the "religious fundamentalists" who have far too much influence in the Republican Party, and for the "secular fundamentalists" who have far too much influence in the Democratic Party. The Religious Right, who seek to impose the doctrines of a political theocracy on their fellow citizens, and secular fundamentalists, who wish to deprive the public square of needed moral and spiritual values often shaped by faith, both lost. This election saw many winning Democrats who spoke openly of their faith and how it informed their political views.

These results are good news for the majority of Americans who are alienated by the political extremes of right and left and are hungry for a new "moral center" for our public life. A number of candidates elected are social conservatives on issues of life and family, economic populists, and committed to a new direction in Iraq. It proved to be a winning combination.

ONE OF THE CENTRAL issues in this election was the continuing violence and death in Iraq. …

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