Was the Election of 2010 Faith-based?

Read this, from WaPo:

Some numbers and trends that jump out most:
* Catholic voters broke 53 to 45 percent for the GOP, a reversal from 2008, when they supported the Democrats by a 55 to 42 percent margin.

* White Catholics in particular supported the GOP 58 percent to 40 percent; two years ago, they backed the GOP by a narrower 52 to 46 percent margin.

*Republicans also gained the support of 59 percent of Protestants, up six points from 2008 and five points from 2006.

* Republicans also gain more support from white evangelical Protestants. Seventy-seven percent backed the GOP, up from 70 percent in 2008 and 2006. (White born-agains have tended to be more GOP in presidential elections.)

At work in this article is an issue: Does the social conservatism at work in this election also contain or entail a religious conservatism? As I read the article, I see concern by Democrats on this one. About 50% of the Tea Party is evangelical; evangelicalism clearly is not the whole of the Tea Party’s conservatism. The issue is whether or not the conservatism at the economic level will also be at work in moral issues.

What I see in Putnam and Caldwell, a book we are reading, is the increasing connection of politics and faith.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • RobS

    Well, 2008 the GOP choice was John McCain which probably did not drive a lot of excitement among the more conservative side. By now, those voters might be back and getting out in larger numbers because they see the result of single-party rule and they have Supreme Court justices (2), and other legislation that just makes them uneasy.

    Coupled with many other independents that saw things going too far left, the election ran the way it did.

    I’m doubting there will be much in the way of religious conservativism brought out in any way in the next 2 years. Those that may wish to fight for and champion those causes are presently overwhelmed with the desire to get America working again and make edits to the health care bills. Also, with the House and Senate/Presidency still split, there won’t likely be much in the way of any of the more “religious” related issues on the table.

  • Pat

    I don’t know about an increasing political connection but I do see parallels in the country and the Church. As I listen to some of the rhetoric out there about taking back the country and people seeming to vote out of desperation as they feel their country is slipping out of their hands, I also see people in the evangelical Church acting in desperation as they feel like their church is slipping through their hands. As churches struggle with the changing cultural tide and whether or not to change in response, I see some of the same desperation being exhibited. People determined not to go down without a fight, despite all indicators that change is necessary. In doing so, we lose people as they move on to other churches or to no church at all while our infighting seems to overshadow any hopes of real change and the real mission of the Church. It seems to become more important to fight for the institution than what we stand for: the saving of souls and the transformation of lives. In the country, it seems like ending President Obama’s term has become the goal as opposed to working together to solve the immediate issues. In the meantime, some have given up on the political process by not voting at all sickened by all the mudslinging, others have become impatient and are just throwing their vote to whoever seems to have the quick fix to get us out of this mess, etc.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    RobS,

    I think there is more to it than that. The Republican party is an uneasy coalition of libertarians and traditionalists. The tea party, and the Republican response to same, made conservatism palatable to the disparate elements of the party.

    Both fiscal and social conservatives alike found resonance in the Republican message. At least temporarily, Republicans unearthed a rare new demographic. History suggests they will retain it.

    On the other hand, moderate “party, not Palin” Republicans, including nascent Neocons, are on the outside looking in. If the Dems can get over their hypersensitivity w/r/t Islam, and unequivocally support Israel, there is room to make some major gains.

    To that end, I think you’ll see a challenge from Hillary on that score. At that point, the question of social vs. religious conservatism will be largely moot, and the Dems will inherit the coalition problem from the Dems.

    But to answer the question directly, I think one can arrive at the same socially conservative position from both religious and secular assumptions. Christians are starting to understand the latter path, and I think that is a good thing for being taken seriously on social issues.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    @Pat

    I think your thought process could use some nuance. Some examples…

    “As I listen to some of the rhetoric out there about taking back the country and people seeming to vote out of desperation”

    I don’t think the results of the election bear out your hypothesis. Sure, some people on the right expressed an interest in taking the country back. What are they going to say, that they are content to leave the country as is? It’s a talking point, and not much else.

    “I also see people in the evangelical Church acting in desperation as they feel like their church is slipping through their hands.”

    This isn’t the reality on the ground, but even if it were, this would hardly be the first time the Christians thought the church was slipping through their hands. George Barna has made a career of reinforcing precisely this attitude (and it splices both ways).

    “People determined not to go down without a fight, despite all indicators that change is necessary.”

    This is begging the question. Culture changes does not necessarily require change within the church. You can make a very persuasive case that the scriptures call for the opposite.

    “It seems to become more important to fight for the institution than what we stand for: the saving of souls and the transformation of lives.”

    You don’t seem entirely comfortable with this assertion, hence “it seems” and the use of the royal “we”. I don’t see a lot of fighting for the institution. In fact, evangelicals are actively rebelling against established constitutions viz. denominations.

    “In the country, it seems like ending President Obama’s term has become the goal as opposed to working together to solve the immediate issues.”

    I’ve heard this point a lot, and it seems very strange coming on the heels of a mid-term election. If the goal is simply to end Obama’s term, it is hard to explain the enthusiasm here.

    “In the meantime, some have given up on the political process by not voting at all sickened by all the mudslinging,”

    Actually, those who are most offended by mudslinging are the most likely to vote, for the reason that they are most familiar with the mudslinging. As it happens, voter turnout was at or near a record levels for a midterm. I don’t see any evidence that people simply gave up.

    “others have become impatient and are just throwing their vote to whoever seems to have the quick fix to get us out of this mess, etc.”

    This happens during every election cycle. Independents like quick fixes, and independents elect candidates.

  • Robin

    This was almost entirely an economic election. Religious people might trust the democrats (presently) less on the economy than non-religious people, but I would be willing to guess that has more to do with the socio-economic status than their religious status.

    The only “moral” issue that I can recall from the past 2 years has been the alleged provision of abortions provided in Health Care Reform. Bart Stupak led the charge against health care reform because he said it allowed tax dollars to be spent for elective abortions; when the feces hit the fan, he backed off his opposition in exchange for the President pinkie swearing to not pay for abortions.

    The Right to Life folks not only forced Stupak out of the 2010 election (after holding the seat for 18 years), the Democrat candidate running in that district lost by 10 points.

    That seat has been held by a Democrat since 1933. 77 years of uninterrupted Democrat representation…Democrat votes for a bill that is alleged to pay for abortions…Republicans take seat.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    Robin,

    The majority of those years were Conyers and Stupak. It’s a very moderate district.

    Through the consverative lens, Bart Stupak became a symbol for the sort of bribes that have come to characterize the House. Republicans finally figured out that, instead of simply hitting him as a baby-killer, they could speak to the fundamental problem of leaders sacrificing principle to “get something done”.

  • Phil Atley

    Robin,

    Obamacare will use taxpayer money for abortions and already has (e.g., the Pennsylvania project last spring). It’s not merely an allegation. It’s true. The Catholic bishops, no Tea Party wing-nuts they, recognized that it would, simply because the federal court decisions soon after Roe v Wade consistently interpreted RvW as requiring (to avoid deprivation of civil rights) taxpayer funded abortions. You can bet the farm that the bishops dearly desired to support Obamacare. That means that their lawyers’ conclusion that it would, as written, require tp-funded abortions is an admission against interest and thus very likely to be true.

    That’s why the Hyde Amendment was passed in the first place. Absent explicit exclusion of taxpayer funding, taxpayers will pay. The executive order that Stupak was sopped with would never stand up in court when challenged–for the reasons given above.

  • Diane

    Kevin S.,

    I agree that the Republican party is an uneasy coalition of social and fiscal conservatives. A political scientist recently made two observations: 1. That Karl Rove’s (unstated) number 1 mission for the next two years will be to try to insure that Palin doesn’t get the Presidential nomination, and 2. That since the fall of communism, Republicans rally people by demonizing the “enemy” of any Democratic President.
    I think a fundamental is that the interests of the ruling elite in government are almost wholly economic self-interest–lobbying the government to behave in a way that makes the elite richer (we might or might not call this hard-headed common sense) whereas the interests of the people are both moral and economic. I believe this makes moral agendas difficult to address politically.

  • Robin

    Even before Conyers and Stupak, it had been held by a Democrat for 32 years. If you look at the seat’s history, it went back and forth up until the great depression and then the new deal sealed it as a Democrat seat. If Stupak had stood his ground on abortion it would still be held by a Democrat.

  • Richard

    “I’ve heard this point a lot, and it seems very strange coming on the heels of a mid-term election. If the goal is simply to end Obama’s term, it is hard to explain the enthusiasm here.”

    You’re hearing this point because the GOP/Tea Party amalgamation leadership is stating this as top priority or interchangeable with repealing healthcare.

    As to the OP: “Does the social conservatism at work in this election also contain or entail a religious conservatism?”

    I think the GOP was wise in staying away from the usual rhetoric about being pro-life and anti gay marriage. Many of the libertarian branch that was energizing the opposition to the POTUS and Congress would oppose notions of legislating morality at the federal level and I think attempts to do so will splinter the movement.

    I personally think it’s very much an example of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and we see that especially personified in the Focus on the Family/Moral Majority crowd that has openly supported Glenn Beck and turned their eyes away from his deeply held and promoted Mormonism while vilifying Islam even though there are remarkable theological and historical parallels between both religions.

  • Houghton Grandmal

    Robin, the experts in demonizing are the Democrats. They do not use argumentation. They go ad hominem, again and again and again. Their fundamental response to the Reagan Revolution was to demonize the Religious Right, to great success, judging from the knee-jerk Religious Right bashing Jesus Creed. The Religious Right was a legitimate response by a legitimate portion of the electorate to massive changes, secularization via the courts and the increasingly unmoored-from-local-control education system since the 1940s.

    But you’d never know it if you did a media-content search for “Religious Right” over the past two decades.

    Religious and other conservatives have reasonable arguments for subsidiarity (small government is the term most often used), face-to-face ways of dealing with poverty and healthcare and education etc. The Left has never ever debated these issues rationally. The 1994 Republican sweep was greeted with commercials claiming Republicans wanted to starve old people and kill sick people. It worked, because the mainstream media (see Angelo Codevilla’s “Ruling Class” thesis) carried water for the Left.

    Pro-Lifers have been demonized beyond recognition as clinic bombers, inherently violent while the greater amount of violence from pro-aborts at clinics has been ignored.

    The use of the term “demonization” by the Left is itself dishonest. They characterize policy disagreements, policy denunciations of themselves by conservatives as being demonized. We see this in the public square: to take a reasoned position opposing the normalization-of-same-sex-relations is called “hateful”–i.e., if I disagree with the Leftie, I can only be doing so because I hate him, not because I disagree rationally.

    I will not be surprised if you simply deny that this is true. I think an objective review of political discourse would bear it out, but as long as the media are uncritical water-carriers, the impression most people (who pay relatively little attention to the details of political discourse) have is “rightwing bad, violent, mean” and “Lefties kind, compassionate, caring.”

    The New Media has modified this, but slightly. Blogs tend to end up preaching to the choir. So people gravitate to the blogs and internet sites that toe the line they already believe in. This blog is no different. I have observed it for 5 years. Conservative voices pop up for a few months, perhaps longer but eventually get tired of spitting into the wind and disappear. A new voice then pops up and the cycle is repeated.

    To some degree, however, the Internet has provided alternative sources of information and discussion beyond the Ruling Elites’ Media. Word-of-mouth networking, an ancient and basic human characteristic, informs people of internet sites and blogs along the lines of their own convictions and they become better informed. This was always possible, even pre-internet, but it’s easier to bypass the Ruling Elites’ Media now, which has permitted the Tea Party grass roots movement to develop.

    It’s easy to conclude, “a pox on both your houses,” both sides demonize equally. I think that is in fact not true. I don’t like Liberalism, I think it’s misguided. That’s an intellectual, rational conclusion I have drawn. I don’t hate Liberals. I think they do however viscerally fear social/religious conservatives because the latter represent a voice of conscience that the Left has been trying to silence in their own heads for decades.

  • http://www.gettingfree.wordpress.com T

    What the last several of elections show, I think, is that religion plays a role. And lots of other things play a role. Economics and ideology were particularly up this year, though religion never goes away (just as the others don’t either).

    The Republican party strikes me as an explosive party right now. Yes, there is a lot of energy, but most of it is negative/destructive, perhaps potentially more to itself than anyone else over the coming year or two; we’ll see. The Tea Party members are generally openly and strongly critical of the Republican party (for compromising and/or not being far enough to the right), but the control of the House alone is not going to be enough to repeal or pass anything without Democrat help. The best they can do is block new items.

    Where will the explosive energy go when the Repubs cannot repeal the Healthcare law, cannot extend Bush’s tax cuts, can’t “do” anything but block some future bills? Will the Repubs be able to contain it and control it for two years and direct it towards the Dems again? Or will it rip the Republican party apart? Regardless, I think that many religious folks are caught up in the “God & country / take the country back” resurgence right now. I don’t know where it go as the months of a largely impotent Repub. house roll on. I have to bet, though, that much depends on the state of the economy over that period. If things improve economically in a clear way, the energy may dissipate, regardless of the religious factor.

  • http://www.gettingfree.wordpress.com T

    Houghton,

    If you really don’t think pols on the right demonize as well as thos on the left, you’re too much of a fan of your team. I’m a registered republican, FWIW. I vote for a couple of dems from time to time. That said, the way that George W. attacked even fellow repub. John McCain in the So. Carolina primary back when was more than enough demonization for me. And that’s nothing compared to what I’ve seen since b/n the parties.

  • smcknight

    Grandmal,

    I’d hate to get into a serious study of who treats the other side the best or who sticks to rational discourse the best. Frankly, it seems to me there’s enough guilt to go around on both sides. I read NtlRev and NYTimes each day — there are rational writers at both sites and there are rhetorical lambasters at each site. I hope you would agree.

    Now a question for you: is using “demonizing” or “water carriers” or “Ruling Elites Media” illustration of the same?

    Frankly, I agree with some central ideas of yours here. I don’t think political rhetoric is even mildly rational; it frequently becomes apocalyptic.

    Now an offer: you frequently enough read this blog and weigh in, usually posting a protest or two, but I’ll offer you a post or two on subsidiarity. Readable, digestible, and converse-able. No more than a 1000 words. We’ll hear you out.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    @T

    Let’s face it, the Tea Party isn’t going to be able to win. If they stick to their guns and create a political ruckus, they’ll be seen as obstinate. If they work within the party system to oppose the Obama agenda (and I think they should), they’ll be criticized for abandoning principle.

    It’s like James Dobson. When he tries to change the political discourse, he is accused of wanting to play kingmaker. When he goes along with the status quo, he is co-opted.

    @Diane

    I’m not sure which political scientist opined that Palin is Rove’s number one target, but whether or not he is correct has a great deal to do with who hires Rove as a strategist. To date, he has simply opined that Palin is not electable, which is more or less the null hypothesis going into the 2012 election cycle.

    “2. That since the fall of communism, Republicans rally people by demonizing the “enemy” of any Democratic President.”

    I think what you meant to write is that Republicans demonize Democratic candidates, not the enemies of Democratic candidates. Both parties demonize each others candidates, and did so long before the fall of communism.

    I agree that the ruling elite is self-reinforcing, and that it is difficult to execute a moral agenda through an elected government.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    @Richard

    “You’re hearing this point because the GOP/Tea Party amalgamation leadership is stating this as top priority or interchangeable with repealing healthcare.”

    The top priority in virtually every ad or campaign website for any tea party candidate was health care, followed by cutting spending. Opposing Obama is a means to an end, certainly, but didn’t factor into the campaigns all that much.

    The issues drove the campaigns, and not Obama, though it suffices to say he is unpopular with Republicans right now.

  • Richard

    @ 16

    My point was that while the average voter is concerned with the economy, the GOP/Tea Party is trying to make Obama/health care the main focus. If they were so concerned about deficits they wouldn’t be in favor of extending the Bush era tax cuts. If they were serious about cutting taxes as a means of stimulus then they would be honest in admitting that taxes are even lower now under Obama than they were under President Bush and that was a major focal point of the stimulus they opposed.

    The economy is and was the issue according to exit polls.
    If the GOP wants to maintain and increase their gains, they would be wise to focus on the economy. If the Dems want to reverse their losses and see the POTUS re-elected, they need to focus on job creation and the economy.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    FEAR drove the recent election.

    Yesterday I heard a very interesting sermon that I believe addresses the issues of the election. The pastor spoke of house payments, car payments, tuition payments and other regular middle class expenses. She said “We had these expenses 5-7 years ago, but it felt different when we believed that our homes would continue to increase in value and that our jobs were secure.

    The primary issue in the recent election was the economic and other angst felt by what is left of the middle class. More fundamental to the question Scot poses — The election demonstrated the degree to which many voters, some of them claiming to be Christian, turned from a view of hope for the future to a view of worry that what they were entitled to was being taken away.

    This became more real to me the day after the election, when I visited a Museum of Jim Crow, where openly racist memorabilia is used to teach about how racism is alive in our society. The many tee-shirts and other material specifically related to President Obama 1) had very much a voice of “He is going to take your _____ and give it to them.” I was shocked at the creation of “them.” This is what Christians should be working against. 2) For someone born near the end of the Civil Rights Era (Feb. 1968), it was shocking to see how similar the anti-Obama material was to the same claims made against Lyndon Johnson after he signed the Civil Rights Act.

    Mix economic angst with race and you have a very toxic mix when it comes to elections.

    Peace,
    Randy Gabrielse

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    @Randy

    As a Republican, I hope Democrats continue to call the voters racist. As happened in 1994, I suspect someone will call on the Dems to put a lid on it.

    But no, Democrats didn’t lose because voters are racist. The same voters who elected Obama voted out freshman congressmen in the same districts.

    “My point was that while the average voter is concerned with the economy, the GOP/Tea Party is trying to make Obama/health care the main focus.”

    Obama made health care reform the centerpiece of his plan to revive the economy. He said so many times. If voters made the connection, he has nobody to blame but himself.

    And he’s right. How government does or does not commit a trillion dollars to something that affects everyone’s bottom line IS an economic issue. Republicans will focus on other economic issues, certainly, but I think they will have the voter’s support in revisiting the health care discussion.

    Either way, though, it simply isn’t true that the number one goal of this election was to unseat Obama. It was to flip congress with the intention of changing policy direction.


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