Soccer Mom Votes

During the recent presidential campaign, Bob Dole supporters in Denver held up a sign reading: "Honesty, Integrity, Soccer Moms for Dole." As it turned out Dole lost both the soccer moms and the election because he didn't address the source of these moms' anxieties. "Soccer moms"--suburban women with children--were a vital component to electoral victory. Any candidate who hoped to win had to identify and address the concerns of this important demographic group. And just what are the concerns of these mothers? Not surprisingly, they involve their kids. The big questions on their minds are "What kind of world are we leaving our children? Are schools any good? Are they safe?" And that's what they mean when they tell pollsters that the country is on the "wrong track." Unlike Mr. Dole, President Clinton scratched this itch. But he did so without rocking the boat. The president stressed issues like college education, home ownership, and deficit reduction--safe subjects. But amazingly, in an election in which the incumbent enjoyed the advantage of a strong economy, Senator Dole made an economic appeal. He seemed to think that when soccer moms talked about being on the wrong track they meant taxes are too high. No talk about school choice or about three million crimes committed in public schools each year. So neither candidate took the opportunity to start a debate on why Americans in the midst of an economic expansion feel apprehensive about their kids' futures. Neither of them squarely faced the question "what kind of society are we leaving our children?" No doubt part of their hesitation stemed from the belief that the electorate didn't really want to hear the answer: that our children's future is tied up inextricably with the state of our morals, both public and private. As Danielle Crittenden, of the Independent Women's Forum, wrote in the Washington Post, our fretting about our nation's moral decline has an incongruous, even hypocritical, ring. For instance, Crittinden said, "We favor . . . more rigorous worship but also reject religious restrictions on diet or personal conduct." For example, we know that intact families are best for kids and the polity. Yet we don't want to commit sins against "tolerance" by stigmatizing behavior that breaks up families. In other words, we want to enjoy the security that traditional morality brings without sacrificing any of our precious autonomy. No wonder neither candidate wanted to touch this issue. But the fact that the electorate is confused doesn't relieve would-be leaders from their responsibility to lead. True leadership isn't about telling Americans what they want to hear; it's telling them what they ought to know. In this case, it meant telling Americans that the source of their anxiety is their refusal to accept moral absolutes and restrictions on personal autonomy. By not raising the issue of morality, candidate Dole let the president dictate the terms of the battle with predictable results. And once again, our leaders went AWOL on one of the most important issues of the day--our kids' future. Yes, President Clinton won the soccer mom vote. Senator Dole lost both the moms and the election. But in my opinion, when it comes to addressing what really ails our country, both candidates dropped the ball.  


Chuck Colson


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