By Rachel Hunter
Although the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit wrapped up last weekend, social and evangelical activists are networking and appear ready to make sure their opinions are understood in 2012.
“We will never shrink the size and scope of government until we strengthen the family. The reason we have big government programs is because we have dysfunctional families that have been discouraged through government policy ” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told reporters on Saturday following the VVS straw poll.
“I’ve already had a handful of people come up to me and say that they changed who they wanted to vote for because of this information,” said Christopher Plante, the executive director of the National Organization for Marriage – Rhode Island, as he held up a spreadsheet with all of the candidates’ stances on several key values.
“People are grateful for this information. We need all the candidates to lead on marriage, not something else. Right now there are many who believe in marriage to be between one man and a woman. But, we don’t want them to just believe it. We need them to lead on it. So far, Rick Santorum is the only one who seems to be doing that,” Mr. Plante added.
Each year the summit draws social conservatives to Washington, where they can hear speakers discuss religious liberty, smaller government, the sanctity of life, and marriage between a man and a woman. A number of non-profits and activist groups also get a chance to exhibit.
Many attendees, like Scott Smith of Terra Alta, W.Va., appreciated the exhibitors’ transparency and frankness, believing that they can’t trust the information that was being “disseminated by the liberal media.”
“In times like these, you can’t trust the media,” he said. “Instead, you have to look up all the information yourself. So, I was really glad to see organizations like The Heritage Foundation down there. They gave me a lot of good info. No offense, but journalists only report what they want people to know, not what is really happening in the world.”
More than 3,400 conservatives – the largest registration count in the summit’s history – flooded into the exhibition area over the long weekend, eager to peruse the displays and pick the brains of the people representing the organizations present.
But, many booth laborers, like Deborah Hart, believed it was the conservative attendees that made the atmosphere so lively and interesting.
“I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people,” she said. “This is the perfect place for people to connect with us on a personal level. Some have already heard of us, some didn’t. It’s quite an experience to be able to interact with so many of the nation’s most devout conservatives.”
All the GOP presidential candidates spoke at the summit except former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. And while skepticism about the summit’s straw poll results (Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Republican, won.) from Mr. Perkins surfaced during a press conference and controversy over remarks from a pastor who introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry enveloped the weekend’s events, nevertheless the Values Voter Summit will likely have just as large of a draw next year.