Tra­di­tional val­ues and vot­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

In 2004, vot­ers who em­pha­size tra­di­tional val­ues played a cru­cial role in re­elect­ing Pres­i­dent Bush and in­creas­ing Repub­li­can con­trol of both cham­bers of Congress. In 2006, how­ever, tra­di­tional-val­ues vot­ers were un­able to stem the Demo­cratic tide, and, based on exit-polling data, some even con­trib­uted to it. Last year Democrats cap­tured con­trol of both bod­ies of Congress by de­feat­ing six in­cum­bent Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and win­ning 30 House seats held by Repub­li­cans. In her ex­tra­or­di­nary three-part se­ries (“The Way Back for Val­ues Vot­ers,” which be­gan in the May 21 edi­tion), Ch­eryl Wet­zstein, who has been re­port­ing on fam­ily and so­cial is­sues for The Wash­ing­ton Times since 1994, pro­vides an in-depth anal­y­sis of what hap­pened in 2006 by fo­cus­ing on the abor­tion is­sue and the role of women. Through­out the se­ries, she ex­am­ined the fu­ture of the tra­di­tional-val­ues move­ment, looked at the coali­tion of groups on the other side and re­viewed the po­lit­i­cal strate­gies of both for 2008 and be­yond.

Cit­ing the Iraq war as the “real wal­lop” and de­tect­ing “a per­fect storm in the po­lit­i­cal sea­son,” Joseph Cella, pres­i­dent of Fi­delis, a Michi­gan-based Catholic tra­di­tional-val­ues group, told The Wash­ing­ton Times that the 2006 elec­tion was “a real shot across the bow for so­cial con­serva- tives and the Repub­li­can Party.” Mrs. Wet­zstein cat­a­logued the cas­cad­ing events that con­trib­uted to the elec­toral rout: the Ka­t­rina re­lief de­ba­cle; the per­cep­tion of over­reach­ing in the Terri Schi­avo right-to-die case; scan­dals in­volv­ing prom­i­nent Chris­tian lead­ers Ralph Reed and the Rev. Ted Hag­gard and nu­mer­ous Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tives (in­clud­ing Mark Fo­ley’s sex scan­dal with for­mer con­gres­sional pages); and a book by the for­mer deputy di­rec­tor of the White House’s faith-based ini­tia­tive of­fice charg­ing that Pres­i­dent Bush’s poli­cies were more sop than strat­egy.

Sev­eral vot­ing trends are wor­ri­some for tra­di­tional-val­ues ad­vo­cates. Com­pared to 2004, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Pew Fo­rum on Re­li­gion & Pub­lic Life, Democrats in­creased their share of the vote by 5 per­cent­age points (from 22 per­cent to 27 per­cent) among white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants, who com­prised 22 per­cent of the elec­torate; by 5 points (from 45 per­cent to 50 per­cent) among white Catholics, who made up 20 per­cent of 2006 vot­ers; and by 3 points (from 44 per­cent to 47 per­cent) among white main­line Protes­tants, who to­taled 22 per­cent of the elec­torate. The Repub­li­cans’ 15-point ad­van­tage (57-42) in 2004 among weekly church at­ten­dees dropped to 7 points (53-46) last year, ac­cord­ing to a CNN exit poll.

An anal­y­sis of CNN 2006 exit polls for House races by Lake Re­search Part­ners re­vealed ma­jor Demo­cratic gains among women, who com­prised 51 per­cent of vot­ers. The six-point ad­van­tage (52-46) that Democrats en­joyed among women in 2004 in­creased to 13 points (56-43) last year, more than enough to over­whelm the four­point ad­van­tage (51-47) Repub­li­cans en­joyed among men. Af­ter vot­ing for Repub­li­cans 54-45 in 2004, white women split their vote (49-49) last year. The Repub­li­cans’ nine-point ad­van­tage (52-43) in 2004 among mar­ried women (32 per­cent of the elec­torate) col­lapsed to 1 point (50-49) in 2006. Un­mar­ried women (14 per­cent of vot­ers) voted for Democrats 66-32 last year. Re­gard­ing mi­nori­ties of both gen­ders, Democrats en­joyed an 89-10 ad­van­tage among blacks and a 69-29 ma­jor­ity among His­pan­ics (up from 56-39 in 2004). Democrats nar­rowed their 22-point (6038) dis­ad­van­tage among white men in 2004 to 8 points (53-45) last year.

Women’s votes clearly made the dif­fer­ence in the nar­row de­feats of Repub­li­can in­cum­bent sen­a­tors: Ge­orge Allen of Vir­ginia lost the women’s vote 55-45; Con­rad Burns of Mon­tana lost the women’s vote 52-45; and Jim Tal­ent of Mis­souri lost the women’s vote 51-45. In all three cases, not only did each Repub­li­can in­cum­bent win the men’s vote, but each also re­ceived 100 per­cent rat­ings from the Chris­tian Coali­tion in 2004.

“If tra­di­tional-val­ues can­di­dates took a beat­ing in the 2006 elec­tions,” Mrs. Wet­zstein be­gan her sec­ond in­stall­ment, “pro­life causes were pul­ver­ized.” Even in states “as red as Dorothy’s ruby slip­pers,” Mrs. Wet­zstein re­ported that vot­ers de­feated pro-life mea­sures and of­fi­cials. Af­ter South Dakota’s law­mak­ers and Repub­li­can gov­er­nor en­acted a vir­tual ban on abor­tion, pro-choice forces placed the is­sue on the bal­lot and over­turned the law in a 56-44 vote. Kansas vot­ers re­placed their cru­sad­ing pro-life at­tor­ney gen­eral with a Demo­crat who ef­fec­tively promised not to pur­sue the in­cum­bent’s agenda, which in­cluded in­ves­ti­gat­ing il­le­gal lateterm abor­tions. Mis­souri vot­ers nar­rowly ap­proved an amend­ment that will per­mit state fund­ing of em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search, which pro-life forces op­posed.

The Supreme Court’s re­cent 5-4 de­ci­sion to up­hold the ban on par­tial-birth abor­tion rep­re­sented a ma­jor div­i­dend from the re-elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Bush, whose two re­cent Supreme Court ap­point­ments were in the ma­jor­ity. In a sub­se­quent edi­to­rial, we shall ex­am­ine how the tra­di­tional-val­ues move­ment plans to re­group af­ter the 2006 de­ba­cle and re­gain the mo­men­tum that pro­duced the re­cent Supreme Court vic­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.