Why Clinton Has No Coattails

A Senate race in Georgia doesn't usually attract national attention, but the latest one did. In a surprising come-from-behind campaign, a moderate Republican—Paul Coverdell—defeated an incumbent liberal Democrat in a run-off race for the U.S. Senate. The reason this race was significant is that it was the first test of the political clout wielded by President-elect Clinton. Both he and Vice-President-elect Al Gore campaigned for the Democratic candidate. But Georgia voters turned a cold shoulder to them and voted Republican. In political lingo, what the outcome means is that Clinton had no coattails. In spite of their victory at the presidential level, Democrats gained no seats in the Senate and sustained a loss of nine seats in the House. On the local level, they lost control of state legislative chambers in eight states. In other words, the presidential election was more a repudiation of George Bush than an embrace of Bill Clinton. The vote expressed concern for the economy, not a wholesale endorsement of all the radical special interest groups that flocked to the Clinton banner: feminists, gays, children's-rights advocates, animal-rights groups, and the like. The polls show this clearly. On November 3, one exit poll asked voters: Do you think the government should promote traditional values, or should it promote tolerance for nontraditional values? Sixty-eight percent of voters said they wanted the government to promote traditional values. A recent Wirthlin poll found that 60 percent of Americans consider themselves either very or somewhat conservative, while only 35 percent consider themselves liberal. This is data you and I can put to good use. I've talked to Christians around the country who are very discouraged by Clinton's win. They fully expect to see years of hard work set back in such areas as abortion, gay rights, abstinence-based sex education, parents' rights, and so on. And there is cause to be concerned. When Clinton gets to Washington, he's going to be pressed hard to deliver on his campaign promises. But if he's a good politician, he'd better study the Georgia election results and read the polls. They should tell him that a radical social agenda is not what the people voted for. You and I ought to hammer home those statistics again and again, in letters to the editor and calls to your representatives in Congress. Sixty-eight percent of voters think government should support traditional values. Sixty percent of Americans consider themselves conservative. And of course, only four out of ten voters put Clinton into office in the first place. This election was not a call for radical social change. It does not signal widespread support for radical causes. The Coverdell victory in Georgia is an echo of the same theme. According to the Washington Post, the Democratic candidate tried to rally the special interest groups that voted him into office six years before—feminist, minority, and gay groups. But the people of Georgia turned thumbs down and voted in a moderate conservative. The only reason Bill Clinton won was that he presented himself likewise as a moderate—a so-called "new Democrat" and not the old liberal kind. It's up to us to hold him to it.


Chuck Colson


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