Some of you will remember that I wrote an open letter to Dr. James Dobson a few weeks ago, and posted it here on this blog. Well, Dr. Dobson released a statement yesterday regarding his assessment of what happened in the election on Tuesday. According to Dr. Dobson, "Many of my colleagues saw this coming. I said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report shortly after the 2004 elections, 'If Republicans in the White House and in Congress squander this opportunity, I believe they will pay a price for it in four years - or maybe in two.' Sadly for conservatives, that in large measure explains what happened on Tuesday night. Many of the Values Voters of '04 simply stayed at home this year."
Unfortunately, Dr. Dobson's assessment that "values voters of '04 simply stayed home this year," is just not supported by the facts. According to the CNN/NYT/AP national media exit polls, evangelicals did show up: 24 percent this year compared to 23 percent of the electorate in 2004. The reality is that evangelical voters showed up despite being disillusioned and frustrated. Principled conservative evangelical leaders like Rich Cizik of the NAE understand what is going on, as evidenced in this article on Salon.
The question is, what were values voters disillusioned about? The fact that the Bush administration has let them down by failing to make progress on the hot-button issues of gay marriage and abortion? Or are evangelicals tired of the narrow agenda of their Religious Right leaders and decided to vote all their values? Maybe some decided to cross over and vote the way they did in this election because they care about values like honesty and integrity; values like ensuring that families can earn a living wage and care for themselves, while growing an economy that is equitable, fair, and sustainable; values like caring for the whole of creation, and ensuring that we leave the world in better condition for the next generation.
I think the values voters did show up. And they demonstrated that they are no longer a reliable constituency for either political party. In the long run, that may be the best thing for both our politics and our faith.
Jeff Carr is chief of staff at Sojourners/Call to Renewal and an ordained evangelical minister in the Church of the Nazarene.