Panelists on Thursday's Focus on the Family broadcast (listen) had mixed reaction to Tuesday's election results, asserting both that "we didn't succeed," and that "our values were validated in this election."
The panelists, which included Focus chairman James Dobson, Focus vice president of public policy Tom Minnery, Focus analyst Carrie Gordon Earll, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and FRC former president Gary Bauer, praised Democrats while savaging Republicans.
"Our good friend John Hostettler from Indiana lost to Brad Ellsworth, and Brad Ellsworth identified himself as pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-Pelosi," said Minnery. "Now, we're not necessarily pro-gun, but he identified himself as a social conservative. A gentleman running in North Carolina, Heath Shuler, ran openly as a born-again Christian as a Democrat. We're glad to see Christians emerging in the Democratic Party. There has been a growth of them. But they have to recognize, even if the Republicans do not, the value of values."
Minnery also quoted favorably from a recent speech from Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who has announced that he is considering a run for president. However, Minnery said, "He sounds like a social conservative. All it is so far is rhetoric. He doesn't vote according to these words."
Still, Minnery said, Democrats have "moved into the vacuum that the Republicans have left."
Perkins agreed. "The values that we care about," such as abortion and gay marriage, he said, "are issues that not just evangelicals care about, but more people in this society care about, even, as we've seen, the Democratic candidates running on those issues. We can't shrink back now. Our values were validated in this election. We simply have to get people who will run for public office who openly share those views and will create policy reflective of those views."
Minnery named the faith-based initiative and the federal marriage amendment as two areas where Republicans in Congress failed to enact legislation. Dobson added "protecting religious liberty" and "spending wildly" as concerns.
Dobson singled out congressional leaders Arlen Specter and Dick Armey for criticism both on the air and in a press release issued Thursday morning, and said Specter and Armey were wrong to blame social conservatives for Tuesday's losses.
"If the Republicans are not going to support those principles, then somebody else is," Dobson said near the end of the broadcast. "We've been harder today on the Republicans than we are on the Democrats because in fact it's the Republicans who dropped the ball here."
Though the panelists repeatedly stressed that their allegiance was to issues rather than to the Republican Party, Minnery said, "Republicans had the ideas to solve our greatest challenge. If we focus on ideas, our majority status will take care of itself. They did not focus on ideas, and the majority became a minority."
Though Dobson repeatedly stressed that "values voters" saw victories Tuesday night, he was downcast.
"Tuesday night was terribly frustrating, not because Republicans went down to defeat. I think frankly, they deserved it. But because with it went a lot of moral issues, profamily issues, and things that the future of the country depends on," he said. "We did the best we could. We didn't succeed. But success is in God's hands, and faithfulness is what he expects of us. I think we ought to let the Republican leadership know that if they want to change this outcome in two years, they'd better pay attention to their base, and their base is made up of values voters."
In his press release, Dobson said that "many of the Values Voters of '04 simply stayed at home this year" because congressional Republicans did "very little that Values Voters care about. Sadly for conservatives, that in large measure explains what happened on Tuesday night."
Dobson and the other panelists stressed that the defeat of Arizona's marriage amendmentthe first such time that a state marriage amendment has not passed with votersshould be seen in the context of the seven other states that passed such amendments Tuesday night, and the 20 states that had earlier done so.
Also, Minnery noted, the Arizona amendment effort was hurt by leadership changes. Lynn Stanley, chairwoman for the Protect Marriage Arizona Coalition, died in a July car crash, and Len Munsil quit as the Focus-affiliated Center For Arizona Policy to run for governor.
Minnery also said that the vote "does not mean that there will be gay marriage because Arizona already has a statue, a regular law, defining marriage as one man and one woman. This was just insurance."
Arizona's statute is similar to the federal Defense of Marriage Act signed by Bill Clinton in 1996. Focus on the Family has pushed for a federal marriage amendment because it says the Defense of Marriage Act is not strong enough to beat a court order.
Two cents on Pence
Minnery and Dobson both backed Indiana congressman Mike Pence in his effort to become House Minority leader.
Minnery called Pence "one of the most impressive young, social conservative members of Congress," and said it "would be wonderful if a man like him could get that job."
"No kidding," Dobson replied.
"What we do best"
Dobson began and closed the broadcast with words on the nature of the program.
"I want to emphasize to all of our listeners that we are not devoting this program to political matters although it involves the moral issues that have played out in a political arena," he said in the broadcast's first few seconds.
Near the end, he noted that it was not the only recent broadcast to deal with election issues. "I know we have dealt a lot lately with issues related to the election," he said. "We felt we had to do that, but the election is over, and we're going to do what we can to back off of that now and get back to what we do best."
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Christianity Today's previous coverage of the 2006 mid-term election includes:
Declaring Victory | Evangelical Democrats claim credit, leading conservatives find plenty to blame. (Nov 8, 2006)
Speaking Out: Faith-Based Triangulation | Religious moderates propelled the Democrats to victory. by Joseph Loconte (Nov 8, 2006)
Speaking Out: Good News for Democrats, Good News for Evangelicals | And Good News for the world. by George G. Hunter III (Nov 8, 2006)
Margin of Victory | Races where evangelicals play a decisive role in the November election. (Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2006)
Meet the Patriot Pastors | Ohio leaders draft a 'mighty army' to fight the 'secular jihad.' (Nov. 3, 2006)
High-Impact Leader and Shaker | Harry Jackson says it's time for a new civil rights movement and a new black church. (Oct. 27, 2006)
Christianity Today also had an Election Night weblog rounding up the religion news from the evening.