Aftermath: Lessons from the 2012 Election

Posted: November 8, 2012 in Albert Mohler
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The 2012 U.S. election is over, and more than 100 million Americans  participated in the great exercise of democracy — fulfilling the  franchise of the vote. Even with some votes not yet counted and some  issues as yet clarified, a general picture of the election is clearly in  view, and the impact of this election will be both massive and  enduring.

Several lessons emerge in the immediate aftermath of the election and Christians should consider them carefully.

A Decisive Victory

First,  we must recognize that President Barack Obama won a decisive and clear  victory, surging to over 300 votes in the Electoral College before  midnight. Against the expectations of many, the President held his 2008  coalition together. Voting intensity among younger Americans,  African-Americans, Hispanics, and other crucial constituencies held  firm. Once the election results started coming in, an Obama victory came  quickly into view.

Barack Obama avoided the ignominy of an  electoral repudiation and may also have won the popular vote. The  decisive nature of his win spared the nation the agonies of the 2000  election and points to a major political realignment. Other issues also  became clear. The election returns and voting data indicate that  President Obama’s “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage cost him  nothing. That probably surprised both sides in that controversy.

Christians  must now pray for our President. As the Apostle Paul instructs us,  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions,  and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in  high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and  dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV) We should eagerly and  urgently pray for our President. We should pray for his health and his  family, for his stamina and his character. We should even pray that he  and his administration will be remembered as one of the greatest of our  nation’s history, measured even by the convictions that are most  important to us.

We are rightly and deeply concerned. We must pray  that God will change President Obama’s heart on a host of issues,  ranging from the sanctity of unborn life to the integrity of marriage.  We must push back against his contraception mandate that tramples upon  religious liberty. Given the trajectory of his first term in office, we  are urgently concerned about a second term, knowing that the President  will never again face the electorate.

As the President  acknowledged in his speech last night, our nation faces huge challenges.  We must pray that President Obama will lead in a spirit of national  unity and mutual respect, bringing Americans together to resolve these  ominous problems. Incredible responsibility now rests on his shoulders.  He has won a second term, now he must rightly lead.

A Divided Electorate

As  morning dawned, the election of 2012 looms as one of the closest in  American history. At 2:00 a.m., only 240,000 votes out of more than 103  million cast separated President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. That is a  margin of .3% and would rank the election as the third closest, falling  behind the slim margins of the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and  Richard M. Nixon and the 1880 election between James Garfield and  Winfield S. Hancock.

The margin in the Electoral College is  significant, but the popular vote reveals a deeply divided nation. The  nation is divided politically, but that divide points to a division at  the level of worldview. The 2012 election makes clear that Americans are  divided over fundamental questions. Americans are divided into camps  that define and see the world in fundamentally different terms. The  election did not cause this division, it merely revealed it. This deep  division at the level of worldview presents President Obama with a  daunting political challenge, but a worldview crisis is an even greater  challenge for the church.

A Changed and Changing Electorate

Fundamental  changes to the American electorate also became evident. Vast  demographic changes mean that the electorate is far more ethnically,  culturally, and ideologically diverse. The electorate is becoming more  secular. Recent studies have indicated that the single greatest  predictor of voting patterns is the frequency of church attendance. Far  fewer Americans now attend church, and a recent study indicated that  fully 20% of all Americans identify with no religious preference at all.  The secularizing of the electorate will have monumental consequences.

America  is becoming more urbanized, and this also changes voting patterns.  Younger voters are disproportionately identified in ethnic terms,  pointing to long-term electoral shifts. Fewer Americans are married and  fewer have children in the home. This, too, changes voting habits. These  are just a few of the factors pointing to a fundamental change in the  nation.

The Demise of the Republican Coalition

Though  many Republicans will draw encouragement from the popular vote, the  Electoral College now confronts the Republican Party as a massive  problem. The map just does not add up for Republicans in terms of the  present reality, much less the shape of the future. Put simply, the  Republican Party cannot win unless it becomes the party of aspiration  for younger Americans and Hispanic Americans. Otherwise, it will soon  become a retirement community for aging conservatives. The party’s  position on immigration is disastrous, and it is at odds with the  party’s own values.

No party can win if it is seen as  heartless. No party can win if it appeals only to white and older  Americans. No party can win if it looks more like the way to the past  than the way to the future. The Republican Party could not defeat a  sitting President with a weak economy and catastrophic unemployment. As  columnist George Will has said, a party that cannot win under these  circumstances might need to look for another line of work.

The  Republican Party will surely enter into a period of intense  self-examination and a struggle for the future shape and direction of  the party. That fight will be necessary, and it will be important to  those of us who are concerned about a range of issues.

A Catastrophe on Moral Issues

Evangelical  Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial  moral concerns. The election of President Obama returns a radically  pro-abortion President to the White House, soon after he had endorsed  same-sex marriage. President Obama is likely to have the opportunity to  appoint one or more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they are  almost sure to agree with his constitutional philosophy.

Furthermore,  at least two states, Maine and Maryland, legalized same-sex marriage  last night. Washington State is likely to join them once the votes there  are counted. An effort to pass a constitutional amendment preventing  same-sex marriage went down to defeat in Minnesota. These came after 33  states had passed some measure defining marriage as the union of a man  and a woman. After 33 victories, last night brought multiple defeats.

Other states considered issues ranging  from abortion and marijuana to assisted suicide. While not all were  lost, the moral shift was evident in the voting patterns.

Clearly,  we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those  of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview  challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must  learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions  about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues.  This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.

More than the Presidency Was at Stake

Scores  of other offices were at stake in the 2012 election, and at every  level. The lack of complete election results leaves many unanswered  questions this morning, but one big fact is known — the U.S. Senate  will remain in Democratic hands. As a matter of fact, this election may  well point to a liberal shift in that body. The election of Elizabeth  Warren (MA) and Tammy Baldwin (WI) and the re-election of Sherrod Brown  (OH) point in this direction. Tammy Baldwin becomes the first openly-gay  candidate elected to the U.S. Senate.

It’s Not Really About Politics

Christians  must never see political action as an end, but only as a means. We can  never seek salvation through the voting booth, and we must never look  for a political messiah. Nevertheless, Christians do bear a political  responsibility, established in love of God and love of neighbor. We are  rightly concerned about this world, but only to a limited extent. Our  main concern is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Being in the world but  not of the world has never been easy. The 2012 election underlines the  challenges we now face and the responsibilities we dare not neglect.

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