December 2012 - Volume 17, Number 4
The 2012 Elections: A Nation Divided
by John Hendrickson
For supporters of conservatism and limited government the November 2012 elections were discouraging. President Barack Obama defeated his Republican opponent Governor Mitt Romney, while the Democrats also held on to the United States Senate. The Republicans did manage to keep control of the House of Representatives and win some key races. Even though the status quo remains, conservatives are stunned that President Barack Obama was reelected with both a failed economic record and his policies of government expansion through regulation and health care (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).
The policy and economic uncertainty remain as policymakers will continue to debate solutions in regard to economic policy and the fiscal crisis. Voters also sent a mixed message at the state level as a number of referendum and initiatives demonstrated the divided nature of the nation. The results of the 2012 election demonstrate that the nation is at a serious political, economic, and cultural crossroads and it is vital that Americans renew themselves with the values of the American founding in order to reverse the current national decline.
The Initiative and Referendum Institute based at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law reported that “voters decided 174 ballot propositions across 38 states” on Election Day. An overview of these measures included “42 initiatives, 12 referendums, 117 legislative measures, and three votes on constitutional conventions.” The more controversial issues included taxes, marriage, health care, and marijuana legalization efforts. Numerous bond issues also appeared on ballots across the nation as well as efforts to protect the right to hunt and fish.
In regard to taxes, the results were mixed for taxpayers. In commenting on the election results National Taxpayers Union (NTU) Executive Vice President Pete Sepp stated:
Some of the victories for taxpayers included:
Some of the defeats for taxpayers included:
The issue of labor unions also had mixed results, especially in the aftermath of battles over
collective bargaining, pensions, and pay that occurred in such states as Wisconsin and Ohio. As
Stephen Moore, an editorial writer with The Wall Street
Moore also noted that several states also stood their ground in regard to health care and the
Patient Protection and
The election also proved that the cultural war continues with the nation divided over important social questions such as marriage and drug legalization. Voters in Colorado and Washington passed measures to legalize marijuana, which has been applauded by some libertarians and progressives, but many conservatives see this as a troublesome trend. This will also bring up some constitutional questions because of federal drug laws. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington also approved same-sex marriage, while voters in Minnesota rejected a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The battle to redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage will most likely have to be resolved by the Supreme Court. So far “32 out of 32 states that put the issue to a vote defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman,” which still urgently calls for the need of a federal constitutional amendment to protect marriage.
Other important issues at the ballot box included a constitutional amendment in Minnesota to require voters to present an ID in order to vote that failed. This is an issue that will be debated not only here in Iowa in the upcoming Legislative session, but across the nation. Voters in California “declined to abolish capital punishment.” Several states also passed measures to secure the right to hunt and fish and voters in Louisiana passed Amendment 2, which “requires ‘strict scrutiny’ from courts when evaluating laws that restrict gun possession.”
In describing the results of the election, Sepp stated that “Americans spoke with many voices in the 2012 election, but when it comes to pocketbook issues they vote on directly, their political vocabulary often opposed excessive taxation and spending while calling for moderation.” Moore argues that “the overall voter message of these various initiatives if there is one, is the electorate is moving in a more libertarian direction…” Nevertheless, ideas and votes do have consequences, and the overall message of the election both on the state and national level demonstrate a divided nation. The 2012 election will have a tremendous impact on the future of the nation, and it is quite clear that in order to solve our national and state problems will require a return to traditional conservative principles and a defense of our American heritage.
 “Election Results 2012: Breakthrough Wins for Marijuana and Same-Sex Marriage,” Ballotwatch, Initiative and Referendum Institute, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, No. 3, November 2012, <http://iandrinstitute.org/BW%202012-3%20Election%20results%20v1.pdf> accessed on November 13, 2012.
John Hendrickson is a Research Analyst for Public Interest Institute.
LIMITS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in March, June, September, and December. It consists of short articles and essays on protection of human rights by limiting the powers of government.
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