by Christopher Dodson,
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
I am writing this column on November 3, the day after the election. The presidential race is still officially undecided. Hopefully, the matter will be settled by the time this is printed.
It might seem premature to offer some post-election thoughts, but here I go.
Those who study social trends ought to look at the relationship between success of The Passion of the Christ and support for George W. Bush. The Passion broke box office records and, reportedly, led to an increase in church attendance. Research has shown that those who attend church regularly are more inclined to support the president. Even if there is not a correlation between The Passion and church attendance, there might exist a correlation between an area’s viewing of the movie with the area’s support for President Bush.
If there is such a correlation, it might reflect the growing moral divide in the country. This morning – remember, this is the day after the election – it was reported that exit polls revealed that the moral direction of the country was the top concern in states that went for Bush and was the least concern in states that went for Kerry.
The phrase “moral direction of the country” presumably means concerns about abortion, abstinence, marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and parenting. The exit pollsters, like us, should remember that the economy, the war in Iraq, and domestic policies are also moral issues.
Perhaps another example of the difficulties the news media and pollsters have with understanding the moral component of politics is the Forum’s poll on the marriage amendment. About a week before the election, the poll showed only 52 percent of likely voters supporting the amendment, with 36 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided. Other than a parish bulletin insert from the North Dakota Catholic Conference and a small press conference by the Family Alliance, supporters of the amendment did little that last week to increase support. Conventional wisdom is that ballot initiatives lose support in the final weeks and that most “undecideds” will vote “no.”
However, in the end, over 73% of the voters approved the amendment. That percentage is greater than the poll’s “support” and “undecided” combined. Either those few activities had a great impact or the poll was seriously flawed.
Now that the measure has passed, Catholics should make an effort to explain to opponents, especially young people, that the measure was not motivated by bigotry or partisan politics. Now is the time to explain and teach about marriage. It is also the time to explain that the Church opposes any unjust discrimination.
Looking ahead, it is also the time to get ready for the legislative session. The energy put into electing candidates should carry over to concern for the common good and the life and dignity of the human person. Every citizen, whether his or her candidate lost or won, should become involved in the legislative process.
To stay informed on the issues and how and when to contact your legislators about issues of concern to the Church, join the North Dakota Catholic Conference legislative action network. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-888-419-1237.