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Winter 1997
David Barton - 12/1997

Inside the 1996 Elections

Last November 5th, President Bill Clinton, the 17th President of this century, became only the 7th of the century to receive a second term (the others were Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan). Interestingly, President Clinton's recent victory was secured by what many considered a very unlikely source: born-again Christian voters.

How can this be? Post-election demographics showed that of the 26.8 million self-described born-again Christians who voted in the election, 38 percent voted for President Clinton's reelection. Amazingly, if only 24 percent of that group, rather than 38 percent, had voted for President Clinton, he would not have been returned for a second term. In other words, President Clinton's return to office was decided almost exclusively by the 10.2 million born-again Christians who gave him his necessary margin of victory.

That so many frequent church-goers made this selection seems amazing considering the President's record on Biblical and pro-family issues: he opposed any protection for the unborn; he advanced the cause of sodomy and homosexuality; he opposed congressional efforts to protect school prayer; he promoted condom distribution for students; and he fought family tax credits for children. Furthermore, many of his nominations for federal judges (202 were appointed in his first term) are an absolute terror to the pro-family movement.

Consider, for example, Judith McConnell (CA), who, as a State judge, awarded custody of a teenage boy to the homosexual lover of the boy's deceased father rather than to his Christian mother; or consider Charles Stack (FL), who praised the concept of allowing minors to sue their parents; or Samuel Paz (CA), an ACLU attorney specializing in suing police officers on behalf of criminals; or Margaret McKeown (WA), who not only worked for the ACLU in Washington but who also helped persuade the American Bar Association to abandon its abortion-neutral position and adopt an abortion-rights agenda; or Susan Oki Mollway (HI), a board member of the Hawaii ACLU-on record endorsing homosexual marriages. There are others; and despite this record of nominees hostile to Biblical and pro-family values, Christians were responsible for awarding this President an additional four years.

Incidentally, the third-party vote was not a significant factor in the President's reelection. Of the nearly 9 million votes cast for the 15 different third party candidates, Mr. Dole would have needed an unattainable 98.5 percent of the Perot voters, or 86.5 percent of all independent voters, to overcome the effect of the Christians who voted for President Clinton. (For more specific numbers, see "Inside the 1996 Election Numbers below.)

Recent Trends in Christian Voter Turnout

In addition to the disappointing decisions made by so many Christians in this election, millions of others simply stayed home. In fact, not only did the total percentage of evangelical or born-again Christian voters dropped for the first time in five elections but overall voter turnout was the lowest since the 1924 election of President Calvin Coolidge.

As a contrast, in 1994 when Christian voter turnout was at its highest level of recent years, 73 new members were swept into the House and 9 new members into the Senate-an exceptionally high number of whom were strong religious conservatives. (See our Winter 1995 and Spring 1996 newsletters for more information about that freshman class.)

Unfortunate Losses

The effect of the drop in evangelical/born-again voters in this election was especially apparent in the congressional races. For example, sever pro-life, pro-family members of Congress who were also religious conservatives were defeated, including Andrea Seastrand (CA), Dick Chrysler (MI), Randy Tate (WA), Bill Baker (CA), David Funderburk (NC), and Steve Stockman (TX). Additionally, many of the pro-family challengers who should have won were only narrowly defeated, including the Senate races of Woody Jenkins (LA), and Guy Millner (GA) and the House races of Bill Witt (OR) and Bud Cummings (AR).

Some Bright Spots

Yet, despite the downside, there were some positive results. For example, three new pro-life Democrats were sent to Congress: Bob Weygand (RI), Mike McIntyre (NC), and Chris John (LA). Other new pro-family conservatives include Asa Hutchinson (AR), Joe Pitts (PA), Jim Ryun and Vince Snowbarger (KS), Bob Riley and Robert Aderholt (AL), Dr. John Cooksey (LA), Bob Schaffer (CO), Anne Northrup (KY), and Kenny Hulshof (MO).

The U. S. Senate was also strengthened. Even though one conservative incumbent Senator was defeated (Larry Pressler, SD), three new ones were added, including Tim Hutchinson (AR), Gordon Smith (OR), and Jeff Sessions (AL). Additionally, several Senate seats were refilled by individuals more conservative than the retiring incumbent they replaced. These new conservatives Senators include Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts (KS), Chuck Hagel (NE), Mike Enzi (WY), and Wayne Allard (CO). This definitely makes the current Senate more conservative and more pro-family than the previous one.

Positive State Gains

There were even some positive changes at the State level. For example, in Florida there was sufficient change to allow Rep. Daniel Webster, a strong Christian and a dedicated pro-family leader, to assume the Speakership of the Florida House. This means a potentially significant change in the direction and tone of that legislature.

In Texas, two new social conservatives were added to the 15-member State Board of Education. This now provides enough conservative member on that Board that the rest of the nation can expect benefits. Why? Because Texas is so populous that the textbooks published for Texas invariably will be introduced in most other States. Therefore, with the shift on the Texas Board of Education, expect to see an accompanying conservative shift in textbooks five to six years from now.

An Historical Perspective

Both the successes and the failures of this past election can unquestionably be attributed to Christians. In fact, the dramatically different results between this election and that of 1994 reaffirm the truth of revivalist Charles Finney's warning delivered during the Second Great Awakening:

God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.

The direction that America moves, both culturally and morally, is especially dependent upon the action taken by Christians. Very simply, God has placed into our own hands the means of sustaining or destroying the nation by giving us the choice of our leaders. While this is a sober responsibility, it also provides hope, for it means that in the 1998 elections, Christians will have the opportunity to amend the mistakes made in the 1996 election.

Inside the 1996 Election Numbers

For those interested in the details, a total of 92,493,972 votes were cast for 17 different Presidential candidates. Of those, the top two, Clinton and Dole, received 45,628,667 and 37,869,435 votes respectively; all others received 8,995,761.

Some 29 percent of the 1996 voters (26,823,251) was identified as born-again Christians who frequently attend church; and of that group, 38 percent voted for Clinton. This means that of Clinton's vote total, 10,192,836 votes were received from born-again Christians, with 35,435,831 votes coming from other groups. Understanding that a win required Clinton or Dole to garner just over 50 percent of the 83,498,102 votes cast between their supporters (assuming an equal effect on the electoral college), then the "magic number" for each candidate was 41,749,051. By counting all of Clinton's non-Christian votes, he needed an additional 6,313,220 votes from the Christians - or 23.5 percent of the votes cast by identified Christians - in order to secure a win. In other words, if just 23.4 percent of born-again Christians had voted for Clinton, he would not have won. While they were an unlikely ally, it was the 38 percent of self-identified born-again Christians who gave Clinton the victory.

Interestingly, had there been no third-party vote, the results would not have been different. Since Dole lost by a margin of 7,759,232 votes, he would have needed 98.5 percent of the 7,784,283 Perot voters, or 86.5 percent of the 8,995,761 third-party voters to have won. Since no exit poll showed Dole receiving 86.5 percent of any group, it is illogical to expect that he would receive such a high percentage from independent voters. Furthermore, since only 9 percent, or 2,414,903, of born-again Christian voters selected a third-party candidate; that number clearly would not have given Dole a victory.

The conclusion remains the same: the Clinton victory was not due to the splitting of the vote; it was definitely due to the born-again Christians who voted for him.

(Basic data from ABC News Internet Report of November 6th, 1996 (99 percent of precincts reporting) and the Wirthlin Worldwide study commissioned by Christian Coalition, November 6, 1996.)

What Happens to Your Contributions?

A primary focus of WallBuilders is to educate the public on the benefits of moral and religious values to American society. As this education occurs, citizens frequently respond by becoming active in the restoration and/or protection of the traditional values of our American culture. To aid in the preservation of these values, we offer our research services to legislators, judges, and public officials at no charge.

However, because we receive scores of calls from federal, State, and local officials requesting help, WallBuilders incurs significant expenses for both the research time and materials that we provide. This means that our beneficial services can be made available to our leaders only to the extent of the contributions we receive from you - our supporters. Thank you for your gifts and contributions - they do make a difference!

Meet a Friend: The National Legal Foundation

While not as well known as other national legal groups, the National Legal Foundation has nonetheless been at the forefront of the defense of many of our Biblical values. For example, they won the Supreme Court case Westside v. Mergens which has now resulted in Bible clubs being started on some 12,000 public school campuses. Also, they not only helped draft Colorado's Amendment 2 which denied special benefits to homosexuals, they were involved in the recent Romer v. Evans case, trying to persuade the Supreme Court to uphold the results of the Colorado vote. They were also in the forefront of the defense of marriage case in Hawaii, trying to prohibit same-sex marriages. Additionally, they have been a leader in numerous other significant cases - including the current potential landmark case in Oregon challenging Outcome-Based Education as a violation of parental rights. The National Legal Foundation is a worthy organization and may be contacted at P.O. Box D, Chesapeake, VA 23328, (757) 424-4242.

We Need Your Help!

We currently are working with several hundred State legislators and judges. They frequently call, asking for assistance on a specific bill, or for general information on effective legislative initiatives. Because we actively collect worthwhile pieces of pro-family legislation from various States across the nation, we are able to help.

However, with over 150,000 pieces of legislation introduced each session, we are unable to stay abreast of all of them. This is where you can help: if you know of any beneficial legislation in your State legislature - whether passed or even if just introduced - on issues like parental rights, abortion, education, public morality, marriage, gambling, restitution, religious liberties, etc., please inform us, or send us a copy, so that it may be passed on. (800) 332-3174.

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