The dust from the US midterm elections is beginning to settle and experts are struggling to understand the implications. While most Republicans are disappointed, for Christian leaders, the results are particularly concerning.
It is clear that the elections seemed important to voters as turnout was relatively high by midterm standards. Voter turnout was the second-highest of any midterm, only slightly less than the elections in 1970. In addition, the 2022 midterm elections were the most expensive in the history of the United States.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate were contested to determine the 118th United States Congress. Voters were also called to the polls for 39 gubernatorial elections, as well as for numerous state and local elections. This was the first election affected by the 2022 redistricting that followed the 2020 census.
The House victory by the GOP ends four years of Democratic control of the lower chamber, handing Republicans the speakership and the chairmanships of key committees, while Democrats will maintain control of the Senate.
Midterm elections typically see the incumbent president’s party lose a substantial number of seats in Congress. However, Democrats dramatically outperformed the historical trend. Despite predictions of a “red tsunami”, Democrats retained control of the Senate, flipping a seat in Pennsylvania, while Republicans were able to flip the House of Representatives – albeit with a much lower-than-expected majority. Democrats made a net gain in the gubernatorial elections, flipping governorships in Arizona, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Conversely, Republicans flipped Nevada’s governorship, while Republican governor Ron DeSantis of Florida—previously considered one of the nation’s most contested swing states—won reelection in an unexpectedly large landslide.
The net result is that the US is looking at at least two years of split control of Congress. Both parties will be challenged to pass partisan legislation. Though Nancy Pelosi will no longer be the House Speaker, it is still unclear which Republican will replace her. Whoever is chosen, President Joe Biden will have an unsympathetic ear in the new Speaker.
POLARIZATION BY STATE
Jeff Hunt, the Director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and co-Chairman of the Western Conservative Summit, noted that the elections clearly reflected a growing trend toward polarization.
“We had a really unique election in America, probably unlike any election I can remember in my lifetime,” Hunt said. “So typically, in America, you have reactions and counter-reactions. So we generally swing back and forth between the two parties. Judging by history, this was to be a minor swing back toward Republicans like what happened to George W. Bush and happened to Obama. So we were expecting a swing back, but what we actually saw in America was red states getting redder and blue states getting bluer. So you actually have kind of a worldview division that’s playing itself out in particular states.”
This was notably manifested in the Florida gubernatorial election in which Ron Desantis, who barely won in his first election, ran reelection by nearly 20 points.
“So in one sense, you had a red wave in Florida, but here in Colorado, we had a blue wave,” Hunt said. “So it was very unique, and there’s a lot of people that aren’t sure what to make of it.”
“People were voting a lot of tribal things and moving to states that reflect their worldview. We see this a lot in Colorado. I know many colleagues of mine who have said, I’m not gonna live in Colorado anymore is too liberal. It’s too progressive. So they go live in a state like Wyoming or Florida or Texas. I think that explains how some states are getting redder. And then for the last 10 years or so, in Colorado, we’ve implemented policies that have been very appealing to liberals, who in return want to move here so they can freely access just about any drug in the state of Colorado.”
Hunt noted that the underlying religious nature of the US was being affected by this polarization.
“You’d have to look at the history of America,” Hunt said. “For a vast majority of our history, we were a Christian nation. Not an explicitly Christian nation in the sense that it’s declared in our Constitution, but culturally Christian. In the last 20 years, this has changed dramatically. You have the lowest number of people attending church regularly than ever before.”
He noted that secularism was quickly becoming a sect, religious in nature and with its own sectarianism.
“There are people who are traditionalist Christians and people that have rejected faith entirely and embrace a secular worldview that does not hold to the same values as Christians,” Hunt noted.
According to Hunt, the former want to live in a Christian-influenced state, while the latter want to live in a secular state.
THE CHRISTIAN VOTE
Christian leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about how, and whether, Christians vote. In 2012, while researching a book, Sealy Yates discovered that there were 25 million Christians who were registered, but didn’t vote. To address that, he founded My Faith Votes to “activate Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth.”
Jason Yates, the CEO, spoke with Israel365 News about the results of the midterm elections.
“You hear a lot of political pundits talking about how the red wave didn’t happen,” Yates said. “I don’t care about a red wave. I really care how God did and how the Bible did.”
Yates placed the blame firmly on the churches.
“First of all, a little bit disappointing that only one in two Christians showed up, only slightly more than the general population. I think we saw about a 46% turnout broadly, and we saw a little over 50% of the Christian community.”
“Only 19% of people said that their faith had some level of influence in their vote,” he added. “So what that says to me is that people are coming to the voting booth purely from a political perspective and not considering what the Word of God says.
According to Yates, some 70% of the churches did not encourage people to vote or offer guidelines.
“There’s a problem here where we are unable to connect our faith to the public square, we’re unable to see why it matters,” he said. “It’s part of our faith why we go and vote because it is good and we want to impact and influence society for good and repel evil. Our faith tells us to judge good and evil in society. Now, politics doesn’t define that for our country, but it reflects it.”
Hunt noted that one of the most important issues to Christian voters is abortion. He explained that the Dobbs decision did overturn Roe V. Wade but did not negatively affect abortion. It merely transferred the decision to the state level.
“If people want free access to abortion, they will move to a state that has it legislated,” he said.
Yates noted that abortion was a significant issue in the election and many people, religious and secular, voted accordingly.
“There were some points of hope,” Yates said. “When you look at incumbent governors running for reelection, every governor that put forth pro-life legislation during their past term did win reelection. So that’s a small win.”
Yates went on to lament that in the state ballot, abortion laws were expanded.
“Unfortunately, in these midterm elections that just took place, life lost,” Yates said. “Every pro-choice measure on state ballots won. And these ballot measures went well beyond what we used to have in the United States.”
He highlighted how California, Vermont, and Michigan all voted to modify the state constitution, not just simply to make Roe v Wade law in the state but to take it to the degree to which they’re saying abortion is acceptable up until the moment before birth.
Other measures affected the age at which young women can have an abortion without parental approval, with some states lowering this to 12 years. He noted that this battle is expanding to include the issue of hormone treatments and puberty blockers for adolescents. Yates believes that parental rights over their children are the next “faith-based” battleground.
“Parents are going to be blocked out and it’s going to create some real battles in communities across the United States,” he said, noting that this was not even up for debate a few years ago.
“What I’m concerned about is when we look at some of the exit polls from the midterm elections, things like parental rights, and religious freedom are at the very bottom of concerns of voters,” he added. “But we’re going to see extreme battles around religious freedom and parental rights. These new laws are going to force discussions on those issues. And we’re gonna see lots of pain and lots of concern.”
Hunt believes that Christian nationalism is becoming more of a force in US society and politics as evidenced in the elections. He acknowledged that this term is grossly misunderstood.
“Part of the Christian nationalism debate is that it’s not well defined,” Hunt said.
“The media defines it by mischaracterizing traditional conservative positions,” he explained. “But Christian nationalism is about believing that the teachings of the Bible are important. And we don’t think there’s anything wrong with bringing those values based upon the Bible into the public square with regard to our lawmaking. We believe in strong borders. We think that nations should exist.”
Hunt explained that this is not the same as a theocracy.
“I don’t see people or conservative leaders saying we should become an officially Christian state,” Hunt said. “No one thinks we should disregard Article Six of our Constitution which bans religious tests for servicing in public offices.”
“I think what most people are arguing for is that Christianity ought to be able to guide our values,” he pointed out. “It should inform not only our cultural values but the state values as well. And Christians have every right to argue from their perspective from a faith perspective. Because what we’re seeing in America by the secularists is an effort to just shame Christianity out entirely.”
Hunt explained that Christian nationalism was at the roots of the United States.
“The founders were deeply religious people who came to the New World for religious reasons,” he said. “John Adams said that our Constitution can only work for moral and religious people.”
Yates noted that the political parties in America were becoming organized along religious lines.
“We just need to look at the party platforms,” Yates said. “I would say there’s a ‘God gap’ in the Democratic platform. I’m not saying everything they do is evil and I’m not saying everything the Republicans do is good. But there is a God gap in the Democratic platform.“
“I think this is the reason why we’re starting to see greater diversity within the Republican Party,” he argued. “We’re starting to see, especially with Hispanics, people who really value family, to move more in the direction of the Republican Party because they’re recognizing that gap.”
ISRAEL AND THE CHRISTIAN VOTE
Yates noted that for most Christian voters in general and for his organization in particular, support for Israel was a given.
“Our honorary national chairman is the former governor of Arkansas, iMike Huckabee,” Yates said. “I can’t think of anyone who is a greater partner and advocate for Israel. I know he’s there every single year and engaging with those in Israel.”
“77% of faith voters agree that Israel is a special country and that America should support Israel,” Yates said. “So I would say you have the full support of the Christian community in Israel. We are hoping that Israel stands strong as a nation, and we know that it can only stand strong as a nation if the family as an institution is celebrated and honored.”
Similarly, Hunt argued that Christian Nationalism would be good for American Jews and good for Israel.
“I think there will be no problem for the Jews,” he said. “They’ll be treasured for being a part of the Christian nation. Orthodox Jews are not faring very well under secularism.”