What’s At Stake in the 2016 Presidential Election?
The Family Foundation exists to empower you, Virginia's families, to apply Biblical worldview and founding principles to politics and culture. That includes your vote. As I am making my decision, I am considering several issues, some of which I've spelled out here. This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list, but just some issues that I hope you are thinking about as you prayerfully consider your vote.
Our unborn future family, friends and neighbors
Since Roe v. Wade, 59,423,970 unborn lives have been lost to abortion. Just today, 1,392 lives will be lost at Planned Parenthood and other entities in the abortion industry.[i] A strong society must understand and protect the dignity and worth of every person from the moment of conception. From the now-famous people, we know whose moms considered or were advised to abort them, each of those lives is valuable in their own way (Celine Deon, Cher, Jack Nicholson, Andrea Bocelli, Pope John Paul II and the list goes on).[ii] The next president will either work to fund the abortion work of Planned Parenthood and praise abortion as a good choice for women or they will use their position to stand for these lives in their words, through Court appointments and with their signature on key legislation. The next president will be asked to support or oppose pro-life efforts from the 40-year-old Hyde Amendment that protects taxpayers from being forced to fund abortions to prohibitions on abortion after an unborn child can begin to feel pain. The next generations of our society are counting on us choosing a president who will honor their unborn existence and make decisions that promote life.
The next President will either understand and agree with what the Founders intended when they etched our right to Free Exercise of Religion into the Constitution or they will not. If the next President understands this, he or she will work to remove obstacles to religious freedom including impositions on faith-based organizations serving our communities and limitations like the IRS “Johnson Amendment” which places restrictions on what can be said in America’s pulpits. The next president could be instrumental in determining whether “religious freedom” will be interpreted as merely a limited toleration for an individual to practice his religion within the confines of his house of worship, but not to act consistently with his conscience when entering the public square or marketplace. If this view prevails, then our nation will see a continuation of fines, litigation and potential jail time for business owners like those of Hobby Lobby whose faith deems it immoral to fund abortion-inducing drugs, and for florists who believe it is wrong to use their gifts to celebrate a matrimonial ceremony for a same-sex couple when their religious convictions hold marriage as a sacred covenant with God. Religious Freedom, defined in the broadest terms, must be restored to our First Freedom, upon which the Freedom of Speech and Association can be upheld.
In 2016, it is estimated that 2.3 million students are educated at home through the direction and curricula choices of their parents.[iii] A little more than 10% of the nation’s K-12 students attend a private school.[iv] Meanwhile, neither of these numbers accounts for the unknown number of students who would choose a route other than a public school if their parent(s) had the financial means to make that choice. Many parents could more readily do so if their government would do more to facilitate educational choices through common-sense policies like tax credits, scholarship incentives or other means of education freedom. The next president could view education through the lens of a low-income parent seeking the best for their child or they may otherwise view it through the lens of the education establishment monopoly which all too often traps students in one-size fits all system that may not meet those students’ needs. The goals and regulations that flow from the Department of Education are influenced by this presidential viewpoint and the political appointees they select. Our children deserve a president who envisions America as a nation where competition, rather than monopolies, promotes best outcomes in all areas of life including education, and who believes parents of all economic backgrounds should make the decision about how to best educate their child, rather than having to accept whatever school their zip code assigns them.
Economy, Debt and Taxes
The next president will make key decisions that deeply affect the financial health of this nation and every family within it. The United States is now nearly $20 Trillion in debt. On average, that means that every citizen in our country owes approximately $60,000.[v] But when accounting for the fact that not everyone pays taxes, that number is more realistically around $163,000 for every taxpayer. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, the average wage earner is already paying 31.5% of their earnings in taxes. So for every $50,000 of income, Americans only pocket around $34,250 to provide for their family. These two fiscal statistics go hand in hand because the only way to stop the escalating debt, let alone pay it back, is to either drastically cut spending or increase the tax burden further. A president’s philosophy on spending becomes very personal and impactful. Our country must reverse its debt accumulation and control its budget. This will require a hard look at making significant cuts to government programs, agencies and entitlements.
Free Speech and Political Retribution
The right to speak freely and to advocate for and against certain ideas and beliefs within our political system is foundational to the American experience. It is also a bedrock principle that allows for religious freedom, but it is even broader. In the recent past, we have witnessed how certain groups have been targeted by the IRS and other agencies solely because of the substance of their political viewpoints. The executive branch actually used the coercive power of the state to stifle and penalize free speech and political activism with which it disagreed. A President has tremendous power over the mission and conduct of the vast “alphabet soup” (IRS, EPA, FBI, DOJ, etc.) of federal bureaucratic agencies. These agencies can either be weaponized to punish political dissent or be reined in to make sure they perform only those basic governmental functions which justify their existence. The ability to speak freely and openly on matters of political concern is essential to any free and prosperous nation. It requires the government’s protection of all viewpoints and opinions.
This presidential election decision has an impact not just for four years, but for decades. The next President will likely appoint three or more justices to the highest court of the land. One seat is already vacant from the death of Justice Scalia, and of the eight remaining on this bench, three are advanced in their years (ages 83, 80 and 78) and all have served 23 years or longer already.
If history is any indication, the newly appointed Justices will serve an average term of 26 years, thereby affecting not just the future of our children but also our grandchildren.
In years past, the Court has been roughly balanced between those who view the Constitution through the lens of its Framers original intent versus those who believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document open to new interpretations. Whoever fills Justice Scalia’s shoes and any future vacancies has the power to tip the Court solidly in one direction or the other, thus making the Court an incredible obstacle for those with the opposite viewpoint.
In the last few years, the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage despite a strong majority of states who had a contrary public policy and upheld the imposition of Obamacare on the American people. Most recently the Court told the state of Texas that requiring a high level of safety standards for abortion clinics creates an undue burden on women, thus threatening our own abortion center standards here in Virginia, not to mention the threat it could pose to other Virginia laws like Informed Consent and Parental Consent. A Supreme Court hostile to education freedom could turn its back on the thousands of kids enjoying scholarships provided through programs like Virginia’s Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit program.
What might the Court do next? Only an originalist perspective of the Constitution will avoid these kinds of legal precedential pitfalls.
The Family Foundation Action is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and paid for this informational communication. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.