Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is the Christian Right Relevant?

Sam is a Catbacker. His supporters are known as Brownbackers. (Photo:

These are lean days for America's "value voters," who tend to exceed the average American in endorsing US support for Israel. Two recent events in Republican circles, I believe, belie the claim of many - often from the secular left-of-center and abroad -- that evangelical Christian voters firmly control the GOP. The first was Sen. Sam Brownback's announcement late last week that he will bow out of the race for the Republican nomination for president. The Kansan conceded that his personal "yellow brick road" stopped short of the White House - this time. The Wizard of Oz rhetoric aside, this was an unceremonious end to a campaign designed to appeal to the moral instincts of the Republican base. In fact, at times, one could make the case that Brownback was the only candidate in the Republican field who truly fit the bill for the deeply religious voter, the one pollsters see as motivated by hot-button issues like abortion, gay marriage, and pornography. And Brownback was no country bumpkin ignorant of the ways of Washington - though he often boasted rather ingenuously about his experience with farm life. Very early on, the influential evangelical leader Pat Robertson endorsed this charismatic Catholic and Opus Dei member.

The second event occurred over the weekend at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. The Christian Right's convention appears to have produced no clear darling. Mitt Romney has somehow persuaded part of this voting bloc that, though a Mormon, and until quite recently, no ardent foe of abortion, he is indeed one of them. But Romney gained no more support in the straw poll than Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister. They both netted about 27% of the vote.

Why didn't the coalition throw their weight behind Huckabee? He has performed more than admirably in the televised debates, and looks to some to possess the intangible traits of a winner so sorely lacking among all the rest. One answer is that the evangelicals are clearly more pragmatic than many would give them credit for. There's a concern that Huckabee isn't electable; that he'll stumble in blue states. Yet there is also talk on the Christian right of a third-party candidacy. My reading of the situation is that this group of voters isn't the invincible monolith that hysterical commentators have made it out to be in recent years. Brownback's faltering, Romney's awkward courtship, and the neglect of Huckabee all point to a dysfunctional political machine. Don't be scared.

1 comment:

A Christian Prophet said...

I think Mitt Romney would win EVERYONE over, even Muslims, with the following speech on religion: