IFAS | Freedom Writer | December 1998 | elections.html

Clinton focus backfires in elections

Everyone knows that the Republicans retained the House and Senate in the November election. Not so well-known is the fact that virtually every House member who received a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition, and ran for reelection, won.

Still, Religious Right leaders were not totally pleased with the elections. In the last days of the campaign, the Republican Party attempted to make the election about President Clinton. The ploy backfired. In fact, a survey commissioned by the Christian Coalition found that many religious conservatives switched their votes from the Republican candidates to Democrat candidates. In 1994, 67% of religious conservatives voted Republican for Congress. This year, however, that number dropped to 54%, or thirteen percentage points.

Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition, said that the Republican Party's lack of a clear conservative message cost it the vote of many Christian conservatives. "Republicans tried to win a campaign based solely on anti-Clinton sentiment. Democrats had an agenda, albeit a liberal agenda. They talked about liberal approaches to social security, education and health care and some agenda will beat no agenda every time."

Nonetheless, in the weeks before the election, notable Republicans spoke out against gay rights; a dozen conservative Christian organizations ran full-page newspaper ads attacking gays; and the antiabortion movement stepped up its activities. It seemed that everything was being done to activate Religious Right voters, yet the Republicans still lost seats.

Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families and president of the Family Research Council, expressed general disappointment in the outcome of the election. He said that "conservatives and Republicans cannot win elections that end up being about nothing." He went on to say that "the GOP did not have a major tax cut on the table, seemed to hesitate in its defense of family values, and seemed almost embarrassed in many cases about its support of the sanctity of human life."

Christian conservatives did win some victories. Voters in Hawaii and Alaska voted against gay marriages. In Michigan, they defeated physician-assisted suicide. And in Colorado, voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring parental notification before a minor could obtain an abortion.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.