Value voters suffered some tough setbacks on Election Night. But in a few states, some rays of light are breaking of through.
You watched the returns on Election Night, so you already know how most things turned out: President Obama won his second term in office, and Congress remains unchanged, with the House of Representatives in Republican hands and the Senate under Democratic control.
So what does that tell us about what we can expect over the next four years?
On the federal level, the outlook on social issues is far from rosy. With as many as four vacancies potentially coming up on the U.S. Supreme Court, this election was a game-changer, and its effects of it will likely be felt for decades.
Obama, noted Mike Franc, vice president for government studies at The Heritage Foundation, “will never run again, so he can do what he wants.” That means the only real form of accountability he now faces is to members of his own party planning future campaigns—and his sense of loyalty to them is not entirely certain on issues he feels strongly about.
“My instinct is that he will cherry-pick the things that are really transformational,” Franc said. “If he gets the chance to pick a Supreme Court nominee that will fundamentally alter the court, he will.”
CitizenLink Federal Issues Analyst Ashley Horne predicts a difficult road for social issues.
“You’ll see more of a push for the (gay) agenda,” she said. “(The Democrats will) come back with things that will probably make the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell look mild. Depending on what the Supreme Court does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Congress jump the gun and at least in the Senate, try to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And you know (the president would) sign it, so we’ll have to defend it in the House.”
Though the Republican majority there will serve as a check, it isn’t foolproof—especially given Obama’s proven preference for using executive orders to push his agenda forward when Congress isn’t willing to go along.
“Obama has been far more aggressive with executive orders than any other president so far, so he might become even more aggressive,” agreed John Paulton, CitizenLink’s manager of special projects. “I would expect him to show his boldest and brightest liberal colors in terms of what he puts forward from now on.”
And he will be aided in those efforts by the Senate, where Democrats picked up two additional seats to give them a 55-45 majority.
So what now? On CitizenLink’s election-night webcast, the guests lent some big-picture perspective to the ongoing challenges—political, cultural, spiritual—and noted that with challenges come opportunities to reach others and to grow in faith.
“The church flourishes in difficult times,” said Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s senior vice president for government and public policy. “In easy times, it gets flabby. It is difficulty that creates strong Christians.”
States Go Left
While most people’s eyes were focused on the national elections, voters in several states were deciding issues that will have a long-term impact on the culture: Same-sex marriage. Doctor-assisted suicide. Abortion. Religious freedom. Legalized marijuana—not only for purportedly medical purposes, but for openly recreational ones.
The Left enjoyed big advantages going into the election. On same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, they had several times as much money to spend, with the likes of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros filling their coffers. They also were fighting on their own turf: Many of the battles took place in solid blue states and their proposals raced out to big leads in polls long before the election.
For all that, pro-family forces made a fight of it—cutting into those leads so dramatically that nearly every outcome was in doubt headed into Nov. 6.
Before November, every state where voters weighed in on marriage had affirmed the union of one man and one woman, with a perfect 32-0 record.
But this year, some of the most liberal states took up the question. And the record is no longer perfect.
Maine became the first state to approve same-sex marriage by referendum. And Washington, where mail-in ballots were still being counted as this issue of Citizen went to press, was poised to become the second.
In Maryland, where legislators established same-sex marriage earlier this year, the public upheld the law. While Minnesota did not establish same-sex marriage, it narrowly voted down a constitutional amendment that would have prevented it, though a state law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman remains on the books. And in Iowa, the judge who wrote the opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in 2009 won his retention vote.
Though all of the votes were close, together they added up to a trend. The results had a lot to do with where they took place—and how much was spent on them.
“There’s a lot of similarities among all the states,” noted Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which worked on all four ballot measures. “The biggest similarity was how grossly we were outspent. We had been outspent two to one in North Carolina (earlier this year), and were able to win, but the margins here were around four to one. In Washington State, they raised over $14 million.
“In each of the states, we’re not talking major losses—a few points, one point, half a point,” he added. “But we significantly got a much higher percentage of the vote than the Republican presidential candidate did in each of these states! It’s still a winning issue, but these were the states that were the most difficult for us.”
In addition to the financial mismatch, those states are also among the most unchurched in the nation—reflecting a discrepancy in the way voters there regard marriage compared to other areas of the country.
“This debate does not end here, but it’s unfortunate that a majority of our state has concluded that the institution of marriage exists solely to ratify the emotional connection of adults,” said Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “As is always the case when adults decide they’re the most important people in the world, it’s the kids that will lose.”
However, there was also a very real intimidation factor at work behind the scenes, especially where funding was concerned.
“It should be noted that our opponents have been quite successful in intimidating people into being silent and letting them control the dialog,” said Frank Schubert, president of Mission: Public Affairs, the political consulting firm that worked with NOM on the measures. “There’s a perception that if someone gives money, they’ll suffer the consequences. Our opponents will try to spin this as a great shift, but that is not the case in Americans’ attitudes toward marriage. The polling NOM has done shows that the strong majority of American people believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and support that wholeheartedly.”
So pro-family leaders resolved to keep working, especially on the cultural front. And they made a point of reiterating why they won’t stop.
“Despite the outcome of this election, we rejoice tonight that marriage is still marriage,” said John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council. “We know that God has defined marriage as between one man and one woman, regardless of the efforts of some to overthrow His design.
“We give thanks to God for His creation of marriage, and we commit ourselves to work and pray that attempts to redefine marriage in our courts and legislature will not succeed.”
And cultural changes notwithstanding, CitizenLink’s Paulton pointed out that what happened in these states doesn’t reflect the will of the entire country.
“We knew all along that this was going to be the most difficult challenge we had yet faced on the marriage issue,” he said. “All four states involved were blue states where people would be rallying to vote for a president who openly supports same-sex marriage. And in the state where the pro-family leadership was strongest, Minnesota, we faced an extra hurdle in which a blank ballot on the issue would be a vote against us.
“Add to all of that the huge financial disadvantage that our side faced and, while the results are disappointing, it’s not shocking. But these losses don’t minimize the incredible support that marriage has received throughout the rest of the country.”
Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, agreed.
“We all knew we’d be here after this election,” he said. “And we’ll continue to defend and promote marriage in the culture.”
It was a bad night on several other fronts as well.
Two states—Colorado and Washington—made history by legalizing recreational marijuana; Massachusetts joined the list of states that has legalized it for medicinal purposes.
Once again, the results owed a lot to sheer dollars in all the states. “The ‘Vote Yes’ side had far more cash, nearly all of it from out of state,” said Jessica Haverkate, director of Colorado Family Action. “The ‘Vote No’ side was significantly underfunded.”
But the pro-pot side didn’t fare as well as the pro-gay marriage side. Voters in Oregon refused to legalize recreational marijuana, while those in Arkansas did the same with its “medical” counterpart. Montanans, meanwhile, upheld a statute—previously passed by the legislature—toughening the state’s medical-marijuana sanctions, over concerns it was being abused.
In Florida, constitutional amendments which would have strengthened religious-freedom protections and a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion were defeated. In part, this resulted from widespread voter backlash against too many constitutional amendments on the ballot (11 in all, many of them confusingly worded) which drowned out individual merits of the measures and produced widespread opposition to all but the most non-controversial ones.
Montana, however, was the site of one of the night’s bright spots: By a two-to-one margin, voters backed a measure requiring parental notice before a minor child can have an abortion.
The outcome was gratifying to Allen Whitt, director of policy for the Montana Family Foundation, which developed the parental-notice campaign. “It’s rewarding to see that campaign result in a landslide victory for parental rights in our state,” he said.
And the biggest pro-life win came in Massachusetts, of all places. There, a proposal to legalize assisted suicide—which a few months ago drew support from two-thirds of the public in polls—instead was voted down by a narrow margin. (For more, see “Choosing Life in the Bay State.”)
Even on a dark night, some light can break through—a reminder that there still is a dawn.
“It may feel like everything has changed and that the way forward has been dashed. But the reality is quite the opposite,” observed Focus on the Family President Jim Daly. “That’s because the greatest challenges facing the family still rage red hot. It’s time to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the moment: To rebuild the American family and renew our hope in the God in whose hands we rest.
“Simply put—it’s time to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Focus on the Family Citizen magazine sets the record straight on the issues that affect your family, your community and your church. You’ll read about local heroes and find practical steps to help you make a difference. If you want a nation that honors faith, family and freedom, Citizen is for you.