The term “values voters” has long described a specific portion of the American electorate. These voters are understood to express values that stem from their religious views, which are overwhelmingly Christian and socially conservative. In 2006, the movement made itself official by holding its first Value Voters Summit, an annual convention with the mission to “help inform and mobilize the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life, and limited government that make America strong.” American media has followed suit, and it consistently refers to voters who hold these priorities by their preferred moniker “value voters.”
The term, however, is inaccurate and dishonest. To begin with, it assumes that only those who vote for the conservative Christian issues, such as eliminating legal abortion, opposing marriage equality for the LGBTQ community, and the rather peculiar definition of “religious liberty” expressed in the recent spate of religious freedom restoration acts, are voting based on their values.
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Last night, aside from a few hold-outs, a prevailing consensus formed about the election that won President Barack Obama a second term, and kept the Senate in Democratic control despite unfavorable odds: America’s demographics have shifted. “The white establishment is now the minority,” Bill O’Reilly, one of the network’s most famous personalities, said earlier this evening. “The demographics are changing: It’s not a traditional America anymore.” Minutes later, former Gov. Mike Huckabee would slam his own party for failing to reach out to non-white voters. “I think Republicans have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color,” Huckabee said during an appearance on Fox. “That’s something we’ve got to work on. It’s a group of people that frankly should be with us based on the real policy of conservatism.”
But the erosion of “traditional” America wasn’t simply about fewer white voters, it was also about women, and younger voters, who defied the ever-popular notion that they are politically apathetic.
It’s election day here in the United States, and most Americans are glued to their news sources of choice to see who will guide this nation for the next four years. In addition, control of our Senate, and the outcome of several local ballot initiatives will decided this day, making for an exciting evening for those invested in our democratic republic. Many American Pagans, like every other group in this country, also find themselves deeply invested in our political process if my Facebook wall is any indicator, and so they should, as the very notions of democracy, of a republic, originated in pagan thought, in pre-Christian societies. Thomas Jefferson, a key architect of America’s religious freedoms, was proud that our country, in principle, encompassed “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
So on this election day, as we wait for the results to roll in, let’s focus on some electoral/election stories of interest to, or involving, modern Pagans. The ever-politically active Starhawk shares some final thoughts on the election, making her endorsements, but also stressing the importance of voting in general. Quote: “Still need inspiration? Consider the sixty years women struggled to get the right to vote. Think of those suffragists on hunger strike, force-fed through tubes, lying in rat-infested prisons—they want you to vote! Think of the civil rights workers in the South, risking their lives to register voters, think of the three who were murdered in 1964, Shwerner, Chaney and Goodman. They want you to vote!”