the friend online
14 November 2008

The plot twists of 4 November

C Wess Daniels ran a poll to see how some Quakers voted

Tuesday 4 November 2008 will be one of those days none of us will ever forget. Pundit after pundit, headline upon headline stated the historic nature of Tuesday’s election of Barack Obama. Every news anchor and radio show host made sure no American was in the dark about how important this election was. And rightly so: if someone was in the dark over the gravity of this election then it’s most likely because his or her head was in the sand.

Among the many reasons why this election is historic, one obvious reason is that president-elect Barack Obama represents a once-colonised people coming full circle and ascending to power. How often do you see this kind of plot twist in the West? But other things are important as well. One is that what The New York Times is calling ‘generation O’ not only turned out to vote in greater numbers then ever before in history but actively participated in helping ensure an Obama victory. The NY Times reports that sixty-six per cent of those aged eighteen to twenty-two and fifty-two per cent of thirty to forty-four-year-olds voted for Obama.

I find myself in this group of people desiring to see America become a place that we can identify with. Growing up learning about the exploits of our ancestors with Africans and the First Nations People, I felt ashamed of our (shared) history. It’s been only in the last ten years that I’ve been interested in politics, and the last eight have helped to reinforce my own sense of shame about American ideology. I have wanted to be a part of an America I could be proud of. On Tuesday when I cast my vote, I voted for the America I hope we are becoming and I was not alone.

Another thing that happened in this election is that the aging ‘Religious Right’ lost a foothold in our country’s politics. Even just eight years ago, being an evangelical Quaker would have made me unlikely to vote for any Democrat. Obama put serious effort into reaching the new younger generation of evangelicals whose own political agenda is much broader than the single-issue platform of the ‘Moral Majority’. In fact, The NY Times reports that Obama’s support among all evangelicals was forty-one per cent, the highest since 1976. Among young evangelicals (eighteen to twenty-nine) he doubled John Kerry’s sixteen per cent from 2004, faring just about as well with those aged thirty to forty-four.

I started to wonder whether this big shift was also reflected in how Quakers voted, so on 6 November I decided to conduct a basic poll on my website among US Quaker voters. The purpose was in part to see if there were any similarities between what The NY Times said and Quakers, but I was also curious how the various branches of Quakerism voted, what the top issues were and if their faith orientation – Christian, Universalist, Non-theist – played a role in how they voted.

At the time of writing, 137 Quakers participated in the poll (now 161). Eighty-two per cent voted for Barack Obama. Further statistics are in the table.

Obama’s victory signifies many hopeful changes taking place in America’s political landscape. Among those shifts are the unexpected election of an African-American, the active involvement of younger Americans and evangelicals who desire to see a new era of American politics emerge. Not only did Quaker evangelicals follow suit, but the statistics show that here too is a plot twist: this widely diverse group of Friends may find it has common ground around shared political convictions.

C Wess Daniels is a PhD student in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary, USA, and is a member of the editorial board for the QUIP youth book. For more on the poll see Gathering in Light.

How they voted

Barack Obama 82%

Liberal votes

Obama 50

McCain 2

Evangelical votes (of poll) 26%

Obama 28

McCain 8

Conservative votes

Obama 9

Abstained 2

Other votes (total 28)

Obama 22

McCain 6

Basis of faith: percentage

Christian 77

Universalist 14

Post Christian 6

Top five issues influencing

their vote percentage

War 26

Energy/environment 20

Economics 20

Healthcare 19

Character of candidate 15

Abortion 10.5

C Wess Daniels


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News round-up
Calls for fairer global financial structure
Oliver Robertson
A new story on climate change?
Laurie Michaelis
Trish Carn & Barbara Tonge, Eva Hopwood and Tim Baynes
He’s not the messiah…
Chuck Fager
The plot twists of 4 November
C Wess Daniels
Every note has a colour
Jeffery Smith
Body theology
Annette White
Also remembering
Judy Kirby
Web extra – Quaker Tapestry wins award
Richard Evens

Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

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