By Cherilyn Bacon
After the polls closed election night, political diehards stayed up all hours watching returns as “red” began to dominate “blue” claiming its winning territory on the map. For John Kerry it must have felt like one very bad night at the Risk game board. I felt his pain, having had plenty of experience with my kids slaughtering me one too many times around the family game table. I don’t play too much Risk any more.
As predicted, Ohio became the linchpin that secured a second term for President Bush. One RNC official attributed the win primarily to the voters who trusted President Bush’s leadership in the war effort and who liked his character and commitment. Others insisted the “values voter” made the difference.
So which was it? Was it the war effort and the President’s character that won the election? Or was it a passionate surge of new voters and volunteers committed to voting their values? The Iraq War certainly played a big role in voter turnout. But to those of us stationed at Ground Zero Ohio there was no question. We saw it first hand. And there are some interesting stats to support it.
This article and one to follow will tell this fascinating story from the battle lines. As the domestic war has just begun, the final segment will identify a post-election strategy for supporting marriage and values in America.
Engaging a Passionate Volunteer Force
Darrin Klinger, Executive Director of the Ohio Bush Cheney campaign said, “Obviously the climate – the war, overseas fighting to defend the country — made this election unique. But what was also unique was the number of new volunteers we had. Ninety percent of people not normally involved in politics came out and said they just wanted to help this president. What brought them was that they believed in the president’s character and commitment. What made the difference was their passion. And the numbers. Our original goal was 52,000 volunteers. We got 86,000. The beauty of that was these folks were really engaged.”
Why were these folks so passionate and engaged? (There’s that word again.) A lead story in the The Washington Post the day after the election explained:
“.the untold story of the 2004 election, according to national religious leaders and grass-roots activists, is that evangelical Christian groups were often more aggressive and sometimes better organized on the ground than the Bush campaign. The White House struggled to stay abreast of the Christian right and consulted with the movement’s leaders in weekly conference calls. But in many respects, Christian activists led the charge that GOP operatives followed and capitalized upon.
This was particularly true of the same-sex marriage issue. One of the most successful tactics of social conservatives — the ballot referendums against same-sex marriage in 13 states — bubbled up from below and initially met resistance from White House aides, Christian leaders said.”
According to this report, the RNC knew Bush needed to bring out 4 million more evangelicals than he did in 2000 in order to win. Evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholic clergy in battleground states such as Ohio “attended legal sessions explaining how they could talk about the election from the pulpit. Hundreds of churches launched registration drives, thousands of churchgoers registered to vote, and millions of voter guides were distributed by Christian and anti-abortion groups.”
Lori Viars, a county GOP co-chair, headed up registration drives in churches beginning July 4. Then she gathered “Moms and Kids for Bush” supporters at a local McDonald’s. “By the time the Bush campaign said, ‘You should do voter registration through churches,’ we were already doing that,” Viars said.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council said that the same sex marriage initiatives in battleground states, as well as concerns about future Supreme Court nominees, abortion, school prayer and pornography, became “the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term.”
The article conceded that while the exact numbers are not known, the values voters were “without question . essential to his victory.. According to surveys of voters leaving the polls, Bush won 79 percent of the 26.5 million evangelical votes and 52 percent of the 31 million Catholic votes.” He also got 16% of the black vote statewide.
In Ohio’s Warren County, Bush got 18,000 more votes than in 2000, and local activists said churches were the reason. At Clearcreek Christian Assembly, the Rev. Bruce Moore passed out voter registration cards and gave a sermon on the responsibility to vote. His congregation of 400 then turned out hundreds of other voters.
“.because of the issues before the state of Ohio and the nation, they were passionate,” Moore said. “It was all hands on deck. I have never seen a rush for voter registration cards in my life as a minister.”
In all my years of working in campaigns from presidential to local races, I too have never seen anything like this campaign. In Part Two I’ll share my experience at Ground Zero Ohio. I can personally vouch for the fact that the vast majority of the volunteers were Christian and were there to defend their values. I was on the phones and I heard their comments. In spite of some reports that downplay the impact the values issues had on the election, make no mistake: Issue One (the marriage amendment) in Ohio won the election for President Bush.
Lest the Politicians Forget
The message of the impact values issues had – particularly the marriage issue – on the outcome of this election needs to be told and retold. President Bush and every member of Congress needs to be reminded that the marriage initiatives in all 11 states (plus two others that passed this year in state referenda) were not just strong mandates for favoring marriage between a man and a woman, they were, for the most part, also mandates strongly opposing civil unions.
The Election Battlegrounds were only the beginning. On the national front, the fight is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even though Arlen Specter, the new committee chairman, pledged just a few weeks ago to stop President Bush’s strict constructionist nominees to the Supreme Court, he did a Kerryism and flip flopped. He pledged not to hold up President Bush’s strict constructionist nominees, if he could be chairman.
We wonder if he will be the cheerleader needed for such traditional values causes to persuade his committee to replace the activist Supreme Court judges with original intent advocates. Sheldon Kinsel, of Defend Marriage and the Yes For Marriage political issue committee that helped pass Utah’s marriage amendment has his doubts. He pointed out, “A chairman needs to be a strong leader for the cause. He needs to do the arm-twisting and the pushing and pressuring. I’m afraid we’re not going to get any of that from Specter.”
Then there is Congress. We have the momentum for a federal marriage amendment now. The election was the unquestionable mandate. Representatives that voted against the wishes of their constituents need to be given a second chance to do what they were elected to do: represent their constituents.
On the state level, those that passed marriage amendments will now face legal challenges. The question remains: Is marriage worth defending? Two Utah attorneys, Monte Stewart and Bill Duncan, think so. They’ve established a resource for attorneys nationally to assist in defending the various states’ amendments against the inevitable challenges, The Marriage Law Foundation.
My friends, it’s time to sing a resounding chorus of We’ve Only Just Begun. It’s time to gird up our legal loins to defend marriage and the “white lace and promises” that give our families and our children strength and security. We can’t wimp out now. If you’re an attorney and want to help, email CherilynBacon@comcast.net.
In Part Two, some of our own Latter-day Saint volunteers that responded to www.anxiouslyengaged.org’s call for the 72 Hour Task Force will share their remarkable stories from the field.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.