Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Tuesday's election was one of the largest shifts in congressional history, and conservative political activists were enthusiastic about the results. Not only did Republicans win, but the number of social conservatives increased due to strategic campaigning by pro-family and pro-life activists.
In at least a dozen races, social conservatives targeted moderate Democrats representing right-leaning districts, and the strategy seems to have worked. Races targeted by pro-life organizations and pro-family groups broke for the GOP. Most of these contests involved conservative Republicans against Democrats who voted for the healthcare bill—a vote many of these groups saw as a vote to fund abortions and the most important abortion policy change since Roe v. Wade.
Concerned Women for America's Shari Rendall said, "Last night's vote was crystal clear: Americans do not want their money to pay for abortions."
Not all targets, however, voted for the healthcare law. Some were strong social conservatives.
Ike Shelton (D-MO) is a Democrat who votes for pro-family causes more than he votes against them, according to the Family Research Council (FRC) and CitizenLink voting scorecards. His votes against the FRC-CitizenLink positions included voting for hate crimes legislation and for large, omnibus bills that included objectionable policies. As chair of the Armed Services Committee, Skelton opposed repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell and he voted against the amendment (and in favor of keeping the ban) when the House considered it. Skelton also had a nearly perfect pro-life voting record according to Americans United for Life, and was endorsed by Missouri Right to Life Action.
Skelton's opponent, however, was also a social conservative—but more so. Vicky Hartzler is a state legislator who was the spokesperson for the 2004 ballot initiative on traditional marriage. She was also endorsed by Missouri Right to Life Action. FRC and CitizenLink both supported Hartzler. CitizenLink paid for a radio ad in Ike Skelton's district that said:
There's a new voice rising in America.
It's a voice that says, "We've had enough!"
Enough taxes, enough deficits,
And enough Members of Congress who won't listen to We the People.
We're tired of the assaults on our faith, our families, our freedoms.
The time has come to change our entire broken system.
And to start, we have to change the people who broke it.
That is why on election day we need Vicky Hartzler.
CitizenLink used the same ad (albeit with a different candidate name) in 18 other congressional races. Of the candidates CitizenLink opposed, Skelton was the most conservative according to their own voting scorecard. CitizenLink also campaigned against Joe Donnelly (D-IN), but Donnelly won his reelection bid.
Other Democrats who tended to vote with the FRC, CitizenLink, and pro-life groups were defeated: Bobby Bright (D-AL), Jim Marshall (D-GA), Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Travis Childers (D-MS), and Gene Taylor (D-MS). Besides Donnelly, the remaining social conservatives in the Democratic Caucus are Mike Ross (D-AR), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Heath Shuler (D-NC). There are also a few others who are more moderate but vote pro-life.
In the wake of Tuesday's election tsunami, pundits have offered two explanations for Republican gains in Congress. For Democrats, the reason given is that it is the economy. A midterm election in the midst of a slow economic recovery was bound to produce losses for the President's party. Republicans acknowledge the economy, but also blame poor fiscal policy and unpopular government expansion as the motivation. Faith-based activists, however, added their own interpretations.
Tom Minnery of CitizenLink said, "[The election] was a huge U-turn. People understood what left-leaning liberalism is at the federal level, and they said, 'Not us.'"
Speaking the day after the election, FRC president Tony Perkins said, "Last night millions of Americans went to the polls to express their strong disagreement with the change President Obama has brought to Washington. Out of control spending, government takeovers of health care and other private enterprise and an allegiance to a pro-abortion/anti-family coalition are all issues the American people said 'Enough!' to last night."
Sojourners president Jim Wallis said that voters weren't voting for Republicans as much as they were casting their ballots against something.
"Most voters cast their ballot against something. Some people voted against Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. Others voted against the Tea Party," said Wallis. "My primary concern is not the electoral math but how our country approaches politics. When all our leaders are able to do is express opposition to the 'other' side, we are in a crisis of leadership."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), agreed that the vote was not an endorsement of Republicans per se.
"This was clearly a rejection at a basic level of the president's economic policies and Obamacare. However, it was not an affirmation of the Republican Party. It was a decision by a majority of the American people to give the Republicans one more chance to cut the size of government, cut government spending and repeal and start over with health-care reform," said Land.
Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice agreed that the election was a referendum against something, but said that something was President Obama's agenda.
"In my view, voters sent the Obama Administration a powerful message—rejecting the President's agenda while signaling a need to repeal the health care law that most Americans oppose," said Sekulow.
Traditional Values Coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty did not believe that the President heard this message. "Mr. Obama refuses to accept the rejection of his ideas. He talks generically about 'frustration' and 'rejection' without admitting that the public's frustration is with him and his refusal to abandon his failed policy approaches," said Lafferty.
Land said the GOP should listen carefully to their new members. "The Republican establishment in Washington would do well to listen to the 60-plus House freshmen who are coming to Congress straight from the real world," said Land.
FRC Action's senior vice president Tom McClusky echoed Land's warning to Republican leaders to walk the walk on conservative principles.
"The Republican Party has made a promise to the American people," said McClusky. "Accountability is going to be rule number one. You're going to have to look at where they go with the tax cuts, where they go with, of course, repealing Obamacare, and where they go on defunding some of these evil people on the left including organizations like, well, the unions [and] Planned Parenthood."
Marriage: Not Technically on the Ballot
Unlike in recent elections, there were no traditional marriage amendments up for a vote. This does not mean, however, that the issue was not on the minds of some voters.
This was particularly true in Iowa, where three justices on the Iowa Supreme Court were defeated in a retention vote. Iowa is one of a dozen states that appoints judges using a nonpartisan, merit-based commission, but then has the justices be retained if they win a nonpartisan election in which there are no opponents. The justices lost the retention election because of their decision that same-sex couples had the right to marry under the Iowa Constitution.
ERLC president Richard Land praised the outcome. "As signs at the victory rally declared, 'No Activist Judges' and 'It's we the people, not we the courts.' Kudos to the people of Iowa for reminding us that it is government 'of the people, by the people, for the people' not 'of the judges, by the judges, for the judges,'" said Land.
CitizenLink executive vice president Tom Minnery said the justices were "pursuing political agendas." Minnery said that the courts have become politicized and, as a result, should stop pretending to be nonpartisan.
"It seems to me that what we've got to have, gradually, is judges running for office, identified by political party, reduced from their black robed isolation that keeps them thinking they're sacrosanct," said Minnery. "They're not anymore. They're politicians."
FRC president Tony Perkins said the Iowa outcome was just one of many victories against "the homosexual agenda" on Tuesday.
"When it comes to the homosexual agenda, the American people could not be clearer. The flipping of at least six state legislatures, the defeat of three justicesin Iowa who imposed same-sex 'marriage' and the defeat ofthe House Memberleading the chargeto overturnthe currentmilitary policyare all examples of how the American people have grown tired of the Democratic Party's adherence to an anti-family coalition," said Perkins.
Voters in Alaska also took on a justice in a retention race, but Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe narrowly kept her place on the bench.
Jim Minnery of Alaska Family Action felt the close loss was still a victory. "The eyes are on the Court now," said Minnery. "The public is aware now of what's going on, and we'd like to think that's going to have an impact on her future decisions."
• Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) easily won reelection, but he is stepping down from his role as leader of the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives. In September, Pence won the straw poll for president at the Values Voter Summit, beating Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin. Pence told WOWO in Fort Wayne, "[Karen and I] just feel compelled to prayerfully take some time to consider other opportunities, and that's what we're beginning the process of doing."
FRC's Tony Perkins said, "Mike is a true statesman and we owe him a debt of gratitude for his focused leadership that has not wavered in upholding faith, family and freedom. Without question, Mike has set the bar for what conservative voters will be looking for in the Republican leadership. … This may very well be the first major test for the new Republican majority in selecting leadership that reflects the message that voters sent to Washington [on Tuesday]."
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