As another year draws to a close, I usually take time to evaluate what has happened in my life during this past year and what I might look forward to in the next. It always feels good when the past year takes the clouds of uncertainty away and gives me a solid expectation for the next year.
Those who represent us at the local, state and national government levels need to look critically at what the year has taught them, so they can bring the nation forward in 2014. This is prudent not only for the citizens they represent but many will face reelection and the possibility of losing their jobs.
Heading into the midterm elections, prognosticators and analysts will undoubtedly continue to tease out predictions based on the few contests that were held in November. Most of the focus will remain on Governor Chris Christie’s landslide reelection in New Jersey and Governor Terry McAuliff’s narrow victory over Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia.
Many have already concluded that Governor Christie’s wide margin of victory and Cuccinelli’s narrow defeat are proof that the Republican Party must become more centrist on moral issues. They point to Cuccinelli’s vocal support of the sanctity of life and traditional marriage as proof that these positions are becoming passé and should be abandoned.
The call to the “moral middle” is also bolstered by the fact that Governor Christie recently equivocated on the issue of marriage. Although he has repeatedly expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage, he withdrew an appeal to the New Jersey State Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage to include same sex couples. Christie’s defenders accepted his explanation that he didn’t want to waste state resources by having the attorney general pursue what was bound to be a losing fight. Critics pointed out that it is the governor’s job to reign in an activist judiciary, which is stepping beyond the boundaries of interpreting the state’s constitution by creating new laws on its own.
But on closer examination, Christie’s victory is far from a clarion call to the GOP to compromise on moral issues. Whatever one believes about Governor Christie’s decision, it is highly unlikely that it affected the outcome of his reelection bid. According to Edison Research exit polls, just 6% of New Jersey voters cited same-sex marriage as the driving force behind their vote. Furthermore, few analysts remember that Governor Christie vetoed state funding of Planned Parenthood five times during this first term as governor. Yet he handily beat his female opponent, winning women by 12 points.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.