5 Takeaways from Vote 2012

Values & moral concerns resonate in an economy-driven election

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3) Democrats attract non-traditionalists, who nonetheless vote values. As growing numbers of Americans (nearly 20 percent) profess no religious affiliation, Democrats are reaping the harvest of their skeptical votes. Sixty-two percent of those who never attend religious services voted for Obama. In fact, it’s now proven that the less often one worships, the more likely he/she is to vote Democratic.

Demographic shifts point in Democrats’ favor, as the ranks of Hispanics, single adults and people with no religious ties all continue to grow. If there’s a shared value system holding these disparate groups together, it might revolve around this conviction: let’s promote wider sharing of all that’s good in America, from steady wages to freedom to marry the person of one’s choice. But “sharing” in many contexts means curtailing what individuals can do. That might eventually chafe this constituency somewhat if and when the ‘let’s share’ principle gets written into law.

4) Establishment values are safe with Republicans. People who might fancy themselves as stalwarts of society – married women, weekly churchgoers and high earners, for example – voted overwhelmingly for Romney. These are people who, if we may generalize, tend to value societal stability and the taking of personal responsibility for one’s affairs. In other words, they value holding people accountable, sometimes by letting markets mete out discipline and sometimes by enforcing limits on what individuals may do.


Being an establishment-friendly party isn’t especially promising, however, at a time when more and more people feel alienated from institutions. If there’s hope here, it’s for the moral value of accountability to be applied meaningfully to powerful corporations and individuals, along with everyone else. If establishment pillars get a free pass, then lip service to accountability will ring hollow and disingenuous. A party that seems unwilling to use power judiciously won’t appeal to fairness-minded, religious voters forever.

5) Issues framed in moral terms resonate. The religious right might be smarting after Vote 2012, but moral concerns in public life are far from defeated. Candidates such as Elizabeth Warren framed issues in terms of moral responsibilities. Example: holding white-collar lawbreakers accountable. A presumed duty to protect the vulnerable, articulated by Nuns on the Bus and others, gave a moral architecture to President Obama’s victorious campaign.

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G. Jeffrey MacDonald
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