For several years, the conventional wisdom has been that conservatives who are Republicans should keep quiet about social issues since their positions are not mainstream enough. Instead, they have been advised to talk about the economy. Well, for the second presidential election in a row, we see where that got us.
In 2000 and 2004, it was widely acknowledged that value voters drove the election results. They turned out like Ronald Reagan was running for office. In 2008, they clearly stayed home. I’ll leave it to the experts to analyze what happened this year, but values were not front and center.
When we suffer defeat, we can always learn from our opponents. They did something better than we did. As Tom Peters and others have noted, they ran on social values: abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Those “in the know,” i.e. those of us who tend to be more of the activist type, got the message that Romney was running on our issues, cloaked under the assumedly more palatable guise of the economy. But we activist types are the minority.
Unemployment and the fiscal mess that we seem to be heading into did not do enough to move voters.
I have supported Republican candidates because I believe that the social values issues, as set forth by the Catholic Church, are core to our society and the most prominent Democrat candidates have been explicitly opposed to the most fundamental of these same values. I don’t think that a society/government/economy will function well if human dignity is not respected at all levels. Looking back at history, I have yet to see one that did.
As Catholics, we have just begun the Year of Faith. If anything, this election tells me that we need to proclaim the truth that our faith teaches, particularly as it concerns the dignity of the human person. Let’s not try to sanitize the values issues with talk of the economy. It hasn’t worked. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics voting who don’t understand or accept the Catholic Church’s consistent teaching on social values. That’s a great place to start our Year of Faith. As a church, we need to teach. As citizens, we need to voice our opinions, even when we fear that they might be unpopular.
Playing it safe just got us four more years of unprecendented support for the victimization and destruction of the least among us. It just guaranteed us a long, uphill battle to protect our freedoms of religion and conscience. What better way to start this next four years than with the Year of Faith?