There were many reasons that people voted Republican last week. They worried about Obamacare, the border crisis, the explosion of Islamist violence around the world, and the plain lack of leadership that has marked the past six years. What I want to talk is about is the way they voted Republican, the character, styles, and beliefs of the candidates who won—and those who lost.
Unless we understand the deeper roots of this recent triumph, we will see it squandered like similar landslides, such as George H.W. Bush’s in 1988, and Newt Gingrich’s congressional sweep in 1994. As Paul Weyrich warned in his prophetic “Letter to Conservatives,” it is all too easy to waste electoral victories by ignoring the principles that drove them. If we want 2014 to mean much more than a windfall for political consultants, we must follow it up with concerted political action on behalf of conservative principles, and increased activism in the culture, from the movie screen and Youtube to college campuses and humble homeschools, advancing the moral values that make America’s experiment in ordered liberty workable.
If Republicans want to leap across ethnic, sex, and generational boundaries to expand their support and continue to win, the message they should take from this election is obvious: Nominate principled candidates who care about issues of universal human significance—the sanctity of human life, the integrity of the family, and liberty constrained by personal responsibility—alongside traditional Republican areas of strength such as low taxes, smaller and more local government, and fiscal restraint.
As Jon Stewart admitted in a panic on The Daily Show, the most exciting candidates to win in 2014 were young, prolife social conservatives. The first black woman elected by Republicans to Congress in U.S. history was the charismatic Mia Love of Utah, whose campaign website announces, “I am proud to say that I am pro-life. My commitment to pro-life policies is unwavering.” In case you think her win was just some Utah quirk, prolifer Elise Stefanik defeated millionaire filmmaker Aaron Woolf to become at 31 the youngest woman in Congress, representing a district in deep-blue New York state. In traditionally Democratic West Virginia, 18-year-old Saira Blair was just elected to the state house, making her the youngest lawmaker in the country. This “millennial” told Fox News, “I am pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and I'm pro-Constitution because those are my uncompromising principles.” So much for old white men being the only people who care about such issues.
Nor are the demographic changes fueled by immigration flipping states to Democrat candidates, as both the left and the Republican establishment have long warned us was inevitable. In the increasingly Latino state of Texas, prolife conservative Greg Abbott crushed partial birth abortion crusader Wendy Davis by more than a million votes, even though she outspent him by some $11 million.
Democrats who thought they could spin the defense of unborn life into a “Republican War on Women” were stunned when the state where they banged that piano key the loudest, Colorado, tossed out incumbent, favorite son, and abortion advocate Mark Udall in favor of prolife Cory Gardner. In New Hampshire, by contrast, prochoice immigration alarmist Scott Brown was beaten by Democratic incumbent Jean Shaheen—in a state whose other senator, Republican Kelly Ayotte, is solidly prolife. So much for the claims of Republican establishment strategists that economic and security issues are winners, while human life is a loser.
Mainstream, secular survey organizations have shown that this generation of college students is far more prolife than their parents. Groups like College Students for Life and Live Action, led by heroic young women such as Kristan Hawkins and Lila Rose, are changing the way young people see the face of abortion. Instead of a liberating choice that empowers women to embrace their sexual freedom, young people are realizing that abortion is a cruel and destructive means for young men to evade their responsibilities, and leave women to pay all the cost for an adolescent, male-driven “hook-up culture.”
If Republicans want to leap across ethnic, sex, and generational boundaries to expand their support and continue to win, the message they should take from this election is obvious: Nominate principled candidates who care about issues of universal human significance—the sanctity of human life, the integrity of the family, and liberty constrained by personal responsibility—alongside traditional Republican areas of strength such as low taxes, smaller and more local government, and fiscal restraint. Help those candidates to campaign on these issues that cut across traditional lines of self-interest and groupthink, which in fact inspire magnificent coalitions like the one that formed the Republican party in the first place, to elect America’s greatest leader, Abraham Lincoln. It is men and women who invoked the Lincoln tradition in politics who secured the most enduring changes in America, not squirrelly pragmatists like Richard Nixon or Karl Rove. Machiavellian strategists might swing an election here or there, but by failing to address the deeper principles that are changing society itself, they ensure that their causes will flounder and be forgotten. The next Abraham Lincoln, the next Ronald Reagan, will be a leader who speaks to America’s heart, soul, and conscience. Let us prepare the way for that leader by speaking from ours.
Jason Scott Jones is co-author of The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture of Life.