Aftermath: Lessons From the 2012 Election

The 2012 U.S. election is over, and more than 100 million Americans participated in the great exercise of democracy — fulfilling the franchise of the vote. Even with some votes not yet counted and some issues as yet clarified, a general picture of the election is clearly in view, and the impact of this election will be both massive and enduring.

Several lessons emerge in the immediate aftermath of the election and Christians should consider them carefully.

A Decisive Victory

First, we must recognize that President Barack Obama won a decisive and clear victory, surging to over 300 votes in the electoral college before midnight. Against the expectations of many, the president held his 2008 coalition together. Voting intensity among younger Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other crucial constituencies held firm. Once the election results started coming in, an Obama victory came quickly into view.

Barack Obama avoided the ignominy of an electoral repudiation and may also have won the popular vote. The decisive nature of his win spared the nation the agonies of the 2000 election and points to a major political realignment. Other issues also became clear. The election returns and voting data indicate that President Obama’s “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage cost him nothing. That probably surprised both sides in that controversy

Christians must now pray for our president. As the Apostle Paul instructs us, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV). We should eagerly and urgently pray for our president. We should pray for his health and his family, for his stamina and his character. We should even pray that he and his administration will be remembered as one of the greatest of our nation’s history, measured even by the convictions that are most important to us.

We are rightly and deeply concerned. We must pray that god will change President Obama’s heart on a host of issues, ranging from the sanctity of unborn life to the integrity of marriage. We must push back against his contraception mandate that tramples upon religious liberty. Given the trajectory of his first term in office, we are urgently concerned about a second term, knowing that the president will never again face the electorate.

As the president acknowledged in his speech last night, our nation faces huge challenges. We must pray that President Obama will lead in a spirit of national unity and mutual respect, bringing Americans together to resolve these ominous problems. Incredible responsibility now rests on his shoulders. He has won a second term, now he must rightly lead.

A Divided Electorate

As morning dawned, the election of 2012 looms as one of the closest in American history. At 2 a.m., only 240,000 votes out of more than 103 million cast separated President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. That is a margin of 0.3 percent and would rank the election as the third closest, falling behind the slim margins of the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon and the 1880 election between James Garfield and Winfield S. Hancock.

The margin in the electoral college is significant, but the popular vote reveals a deeply divided nation. The nation is divided politically, but that divide points to a division at the level of worldview. The 2012 election makes clear that Americans are divided over fundamental questions. Americans are divided into camps that define and see the world in fundamentally different terms. The election did not cause this division, it merely revealed it. This deep division at the level of worldview presents President Obama with a daunting political challenge, but a worldview crisis is an even greater challenge for the church.