It will take years to fully grasp the tsunami that swept Barrack Obama
into the presidency. "It’s the first time" or "not since" or "historic"
have punctuated most coverage of it – even President Bush called it
"awesome." It reconfigured electoral politics and created "never before
seen" voting blocs. One new and powerful wave of support for Obama came
from the most surprising of groups: evangelicals.
Incredible as it sounds, exit polls show
that the number of white evangelicals (ages 18-44), the base of the
Republican party, supported Obama in double the numbers that came out
for John Kerry in 2004. (Even Catholics were more enthusiastic
about protestant Obama than they were for Catholic Kerry-Obama won the
majority, 54%, of Catholic voters; Kerry got 47%.) Nationally, 25% of
white evangelicals voted for Obama. In certain key states, the numbers
were higher. He saw a 14% increase in support from white evangelicals
in crucial states like Colorado, 8% in Indiana, 8% in North Carolina
and 4% in Ohio. Most important, he won 32% of young evangelicals
(doubling the 16% for McCain).
The surge of Evangelical support
for Obama reflects stunning changes among voters who have traditionally
voted for the most right-wing of Republicans. Democratic strategists
should hear this message loud and clear: many morality voters have
party-hopped. Are these culture warriors laying down their swords? The
2008 election may mark the moment religious voters put reason above
rhetoric. The birth of the Obamagelical.
Obama’s inclusive approach resonated with many Evangelical voters–but
to only credit the candidate is to miss the bigger story. According to a poll taken by Beliefnet.com,
Obamagelicals believe the Democratic party platform holds the greatest
potential for progress on the most intransigent issues. Take, for
example, abortion. Of evangelicals who voted for Obama only 8% believed
that restricting abortion would lead to reductions in the abortion rate
(61% of Evangelicals for McCain did). A whopping 86% of Obamagelicals
believe that instead "the best way to reduce abortion is by preventing
unintended pregnancy (through education and birth control), or
providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers." This is in direct
opposition to the "pro-life" agenda, which seeks to ban many forms of
contraception along with abortion.
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re-priortized what they consider the critical issues our nation must
address. For McCain’s evangelical supporters, abortion is their top
issue; 65% select it as one of the most important issues of the
election. Only 10% of Obamagelicals think this. Most list, in order of
importance, the economy, Iraq war, reducing poverty, character of the
candidate, the environment, cleaning up government, access to
healthcare as the more critical issues facing our country. For McCain’s
evangelical voters abortion is the number one issue facing our country,
and "reducing poverty" weighs in at #13 in importance.
That 75% of women having abortion
list financial reasons as the basis of their decision doesn’t click for
McCain’s evangelicals. For Obamagelicals it apparently does.
As the Washington Post reported,
could be we’re at a tipping point in this culture," said R. Albert
Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"Ignoring the obvious will not help."
Obama and other Democrats have promised to work to make abortion rare,
so long as it remains legal. "Maybe it’s time to take them up on the
offer" instead of "bashing our heads over and over again against the
same wall," writes Paul Strand, a blogger for the Christian
The Rev. Joel Hunter, an influential
megachurch pastor in Florida, sees a new willingness among pro-life
activists to cooperate with pro-choice forces in search of a middle
ground. He traces that openness in part to the flourishing of crisis
pregnancy centers. As volunteers meet women struggling with unplanned
pregnancies, they begin to view abortion less as an absolute evil and
more as a practical challenge: How do we get this single mother a job,
or help that college student with child care so she doesn’t feel as
though abortion is her only option?"
No less than a
third of white evangelicals under 30 favored Obama. These young
evangelicals come to long intransigent issues like abortion with a
fresh, results-oriented approachttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifh,
and for the Republican party and the pro-life movement as a whole, this
is bad news. Prevention of unwanted pregnancy was important enough to
make it into the Democratic party platform this year (and previous ones). That platform states:
Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family
planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which
empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also
recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of
unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
The Republican platform
is silent on the subject pregnancy prevention. It has no strategy to
prevent unintended pregnancy, only to ban abortion. There is not one
"pro-life" organization in the United States that supports
contraception, though it’s the only proven way to reduce the need for
Now young evangelicals appear to be turning away from
the monolithic fights of their elders. They support prevention because
it delivers the results they seek. Bill Clinton, the nation’s first
pro-choice president, inherited high abortion rates from the previous
two "pro-life" Presidents, Reagan and Bush Sr. Clinton presided over the most dramatic decline in abortion rates
in the recorded history of our country. He backed prevention and
financial support for the most at risk; the pro-choice approach.
Banning abortion, the "pro-life" movement’s approach, has little effect
on its prevalence, study after study shows. The countries with the highest abortion rates
in the world are those that have already adopted our Republican party’s
platform and banned abortion. This includes most of Latin America where
abortion rates are equal to the US and in several countries twice as
Conversely, the strategy Obama promises to implement is what has proven to work in the countries where abortion is most rare.
These countries, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, have adopted
the strongest pro-choice policies-abortion is legal, often free,
contraception is widely available and abstinence-only education exists
only as an oxymoron.
Obamagelicals have moved beyond the
righteous rhetoric and political hyperbole to focus a wider array of
issues that impact rates of abortion, like poverty, education and
prevention. They may be the common ground movement pro-choice people
have long been praying for.