Divided We Vote

  On Tuesday, more than one hundred million Americans - - a new record -- voted. And amazing as it may seem, we still don't know who won -- and may not for days or weeks! Thank God that we live in a constitutional democracy. In some countries we'd be seeing troops in the streets. But, whoever becomes the forty-third president, this election -- a dead heat, and Congress almost evenly split -- has revealed an extraordinary division in this country between two distinct camps of voters. As columnist David Broder wrote in Wednesday's Washington Post, "It was as if two different nations went to vote yesterday." Whereas women favored Gore, men favored Bush. While the smaller, more rural states voted for Bush, the larger, more urban ones voted for Gore. City dwellers overwhelmingly supported Gore; rural and small-town residents, Bush. Finally, the suburban vote split down the middle. The result of these divisions gave us what Charles O. Jones, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, described as "the strangest-looking electoral map I've ever seen." What makes the map "strange" is that the fault line running through the American electorate this time had to do with divisions, as David Broder put it, over "morality." It's remarkable that for a time of peace and prosperity, when Americans ought to be contented, half were distressed about the moral direction of American life. On one side are people who voted for Bush and saw the scandal surrounding the current administration as key to their vote. Fully twenty percent of all voters told exit pollsters they were voting against Clinton. These voters continuously cited honesty as the most important character trait for a candidate. This is more than a rejection of one administration's ethics. It represents a different vision of what constitutes a good society. "The moral dimension," Broder put it, "kept Bush in the race." On the other side of the divide, fifty percent of the voters basically voted their pocketbooks, telling exit pollsters they voted for economic policies and experience. The country then is split fifty-fifty, down the middle -- morality versus pragmatism and economics. The electoral map looks like an aerial photo of the contending armies in the culture war. So what does that mean for us? Well, for starters, we ought to be encouraged at how many people's votes were guided by cultural and moral concerns. Evangelical Christians are often labeled a fringe minority, but that can no longer be said. Secondly, no matter who is elected, we need to intensify our efforts. Remember that we are contending for people's hearts and minds, and we can lovingly persuade our neighbors and change their attitudes in this country. It's happened frequently. Just in my lifetime, for example, the civil rights movement produced a complete turnaround in our culture in just a few decades. So, what's needed today are Christians who are well informed and whose lives embody the truths they proclaim. We need Christians who will lovingly engage this culture. This election was not just a gripping cliff-hanger; it exposed a nation split down the middle on moral issues. But that ought to encourage us -- ought to spur us on. Half the nation, after all, is with us. And even more importantly, truth is on our side. For further reading: Broker, David. "Voters' Views Sharply Divided." The Washington Post. 8 November 2000.


Chuck Colson


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