See also Part I: “Created Equal.”
The Big Loser: The Religious Right
Liberty won another victory in that the faith-based politics of the religious right suffered defeat. I will repeat what I said on the CBS 4 webcast last night: Democrats in Colorado have not won their races; Republicans have lost theirs. (And if Democrats forget that, they will find their majority, both at the national and state level, short lived.) By hitching their party to the religious right, Republicans have driven themselves to overwhelming losses. I’ll start at the top of the ballot and work down.
President: Palin Alienated Nonsectarians
As I’ve pointed out, John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin energized the evangelical vote at the cost of alienating independents and nonsectarian Republicans. McCain selected Palin for one overriding reason: her credentials on banning abortion are unassailable. As a result, McCain selected a running mate utterly unprepared to serve as president of the nation. McCain earned the vote of James Dobson, and he lost the votes of countless others turned off by Palin’s faith-based politics and inexperience.
Notably, the Interior West split over the president. Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada went for Obama, while Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana went for McCain. The Interior West has 44 electoral votes, and they went 19 to Obama, 25 to McCain. This reveals the problem for the Interior West: we had to pick between a candidate who wants more government in our bedroom and one who wants more government in our pocketbook. Generally, the Interior West leans toward liberty — which explains the paradox of Colorado’s election results (which I’ll review in a subsequent part). Both Obama and McCain are enemies of liberty on multiple fronts, so figuring out the lesser of evils was a difficult task (and one that I could not ultimately accomplish).
U.S. Senate: Udall Endorsed Separation of Church and State
It came as no surprise that Mark Udall beat Bob Schaffer; Udall maintained a consistent lead. Udall won because he convinced Colorado that he’ll legislate from the center, while Schaffer will not. As I’ve noted, Udall wrote the most eloquent defense of the separation of church and state I’ve seen from any living politician. His full remarks are worth reviewing. It is that statement, above all, with which Udall earned my vote, despite my profound disagreements with him on economic matters.
A big part of Schaffer’s problem is that he was hypocritical on the issue of abortion, thereby alienating both the religious right and the secular free marketers. Consider, for instance, what Schaffer’s campaign manager recently told Newsweek about Amendment 48 and its sponsor:
“I do greatly respect Kristi Burton and you have to admire her accomplishments,” says Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager. “But there is disagreement over whether this is the right thing to do at this time.” The state Republican Party will remain neutral.
Well, the state Republican Party did not remain neutral when it passed a resolution to overturn Roe v. Wade at its state convention. And many of its candidates did not stay neutral; they endorsed 48. Besides, neutrality on Amendment 48 is hardly adequate. Now that the Republican Party has firmly and steadfastly proven its loyalty to the religious right, and expressly cast out the free market secularists, it’s going to take a lot more than neutrality on a stinker of a ballot measure. It’s going to take candidates explicitly and seriously committed to the separation of church and state.
U.S. House: Markey Upsets Musgrave
The big upset of the night was the defeat of Marilyn Musgrave by challenger Betsy Markey. Back in August, I was ready to declare Musgrave the winner. Yet, as I noted, Musgrave’s faith-based politics played a huge role in that race. And it was repudiated.
I live in District 2, where Boulder too is located, where Jared Polis (who happens to be gay) soundly beat challenger Scott Starin. I considered voting for Starin just to protest Polis’s grand central plans, but I found on his web page the abortion-banning euphemism about “Respecting the Sanctity of life.” The fact that he didn’t even have the guts to detail his views on the matter also turned me off.
Of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, the Democrats now own five. The two Republicans, Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, signed the Colorado Right to Life survey, demonstrating that faith-based politics is not everywhere in the state a loser. But those seats were never in question. Neither was Musgrave’s seat, so I thought; on the whole the GOP’s faith-based strategy has cost them huge.
State Legislature: Hudak Beats Szabo
I live in State Senate District 19, in which Republican Libby Szabo battled Evie Hudak. As I noted, Szabo wanted to outlaw abortion and pass Amendment 48. Nevertheless, I suspected that Szabo would win because her supporters unleashed powerful attacks on Hudak, while Hudak’s supporters did not take advantage of Szabo’s endorsement of Amendment 48.
The outcome: Hudak eked out a slim victory.
On Monday, I received a letter from Focus on the Family Action complaining that rich guy Tim Gill spent millions electing “those favoring the homosexual agenda.” And — bum bum bum — Gill has also funded Hudak! I think that’s the sky falling. Apparently this didn’t scare voters too badly. Nor is it any surprise that Gill spent his money to beat Republicans given the anti-gay vitriol coming from the religious right. A winning political strategy is not to tell successful rich homosexuals that they’re corrupting the youth, headed for hell, and undeserving of equal rights. The Republicans richly deserved every penny that Gill spent to defeat them. Plus, as Ryan Sager points out, younger voters are much more accepting of homosexuals, and this year they were energized by the Democrats.
So Hudak did not just beat Szabo and her abortion-banning agenda; she beat Focus on the Family.
In my state house district, 29, Democrat Debbie Benefield crushed challenger Mary Arnold. This outcome was not a surprise.
On Monday, I wrote Arnold the following note:
Dear Ms. Arnold,
Tomorrow I will vote for your opponent because you desire to “pass legislation that would severely restrict abortions.”
While I appreciate the fact that you also oppose Amendment 48, that is not enough. If Republicans want my vote, they must endorse the separation of church and state and oppose faith-based measures such as bans or “severe restrictions” on abortions. As much as it pains me to vote for statist Democrats, I deem them the lesser threat to my liberties.
Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life
Amendment 48 lost with preliminary results of 72 to 27 percent.
This is the measure that I spent most of my time trying to defeat. Diana Hsieh and I wrote the paper, “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” and I also wrote a lot about it elsewhere.
The timing of Amendment 48 could not have been worse for Republicans, for it kept in voters’ minds the simple fact that Republicans have sold their souls to the religious right. The measure caused Schaffer especially a great deal of grief. And I’m glad of that, because it drew out this issue with finality.
However, while the measure was crushed according to the usual political calculus, the simple fact is that 27 percent of the state voted for the faith-based proposition that a fertilized egg is a person. The religious right is not going away. Its leaders do not care about immediate political success; they care about imposing God’s alleged will on earth.
And the well-funded opponents of Amendment 48 may have done lasting harm in claiming the measure “simply goes too far.” Many on the religious right will be perfectly happy to run a measure that goes slightly less far.
Still, the resounding defeat of Amendment 48, along with the defeat of various faith-based candidates, shows that the religious right is, at this time and in this region, in retreat. And that is the best news of the election.