Life Issues and the Mid-Term Elections

This year, plenty of American voters are angry. They’re unhappy about the sad state of the economy, the anemic job market, and the “big brother knows best” policies emanating from the Obama administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress on everything from health care to climate change.

This anger has sparked such anti-incumbent enthusiasm that pollsters have trouble believing their public opinion poll findings. The voter intensity of Tea Party and Republican supporters registering in polls is contrary to average off-year election weighted vote formulas. This explains why various poll results in a host of gubernatorial, U.S. Senate, and Congressional races may seem to conflict with one another. Some pollsters are sticking to their traditional methodology, which modifies anti-incumbent turnout, while other pollsters are calling the results as their findings dictate. This means that Republican challengers, particularly in tight contests, may be further ahead of their opponents than conventional poll results indicate.

In the final month of the fall campaign, the voting group to watch is the baby boomers. They are the most bummed-out group because the dreams of early and prosperous retirement for many of them have been shattered. Their diminished 401(k)s can no longer throw off the income needed to support the lifestyle to which they believe they are entitled. They are bitter because they have been hit by a triple whammy. They got clobbered when the tech bubble burst in 2000; then the equity in their homes significantly declined; and then their clocks were cleaned in the 2008-2009 stock market meltdown.

Congressional candidates who support social issues that matter to Catholics could benefit from all this pent-up baby boomer anger. Unlike 2004, when moral and cultural issues were the most important factor in the voters’ decision-making process, this year these issues are at the bottom of the list of concerns. Hence, polls are indicating that many baby boomer anti-incumbent voters who are socially progressive, will vote for fiscally conservative challengers, even though those candidates may be pro-life.

This is good news for house races in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana that went for Obama in 2008. In my home state of New York, Republican and Conservative Party-endorsed Congressional candidates (most of whom oppose abortion) could pick up as many as six seats. Even former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, an unabashed social conservative, has a shot at knocking off our unelected junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. Also, it looks like New York’s GOP will regain majority control of the state senate which means same-sex marriage proposals will be blocked.

Likewise, in the very blue state of California, pro-lifer Carly Fiorina is in a dead heat in her race against Senator Barbara Boxer. And in Pennsylvania, Republican senatorial candidate Pat Toomey has a safe lead over pro-abortion opponent Congressman Joe Sestak.

There’s more positive news: The sellout on the abortion provisions in Obamacare legislation by Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak and Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, Jr. – in return for a lame executive order supposedly banning Federal funds for abortion – put an end to the argument that they can be a moderating influence on their party’s social issues agenda. Because the Democratic leadership has rejected Hillary Clinton’s 2005 call to be more tolerant of the beliefs of those who oppose abortion and ruthlessly crushed their tiny pro-life caucus, expect old-time Democrats of the Governor Bob Casey, Sr. type, to align themselves with like-minded Republicans. A recent poll of all baptized Catholics indicates they are trending Republican. Republicans have a twelve- point lead with Church-going Catholics. This is a significant shift from 2008, when 54 percent of baptized Catholics sided with Obama and practicing/church-going Catholics gave McCain 55 percent of their vote.

The GOP’s “Pledge to America” manifesto calls for a repeal of the abortion provision in the health care law and for a continued ban on tax-funded abortions. Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, an up and coming GOP star and respected health care expert, has declared, “the cause of life can’t be severed from the cause of freedom.” “All conservatives,” he wrote in a recent column, “should find it easy to agree that government must uphold every person’s right to make choices regarding their lives and that every person’s right to live must be secured before he or she can exercise that right of choice.”

Meanwhile, Washington Democrats, who are afraid to alienate organizations like NARAL and EMILY’s List who have deep financial pockets, continue to wave their battle flag. In a recent press conference, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer insisted that pro-abortion Democratic congressional candidates were experiencing a “resurgence.” The delusional Congressman denied “there’s a death knell.” “I think,” he said, “there’s a resurgence of Democrats throughout the country.”

If the anti-Obama, anti-incumbent fervor holds up for twenty-six more days, pro-lifers should expect to be pleased with the November 2 results.

George J. Marlin

George J. Marlin, Chairman of the Board of Aid to the Church in Need USA, is the author of The American Catholic Voter and Sons of St. Patrick, written with Brad Miner. Parts of this essay are excerpted from his forthcoming book to be published on October 23, Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.