Form a Circle, and Commence Firing!

From The New York Times:

AFTER the 2004 elections, religious conservatives were riding high. Newly anointed by pundits as “values voters” — a more flattering label than “religious right” — they claimed credit for propelling George W. Bush to two terms in the White House. Even in wartime, they had managed to fixate the nation on their pet issues: opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.

Now with the 2008 race taking shape, religious conservatives say they sense they have taken a tumble. Their issues are no longer at the forefront, and their leaders have failed so far to coalesce around a candidate, as they did around Mr. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Original VHS cover.

What unites them right now is their dismay — even panic — at the idea of Rudolph W. Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because of his support for abortion rights and gay rights, as well as what they regard as a troubling history of marital infidelity. But what to do about it is where they again diverge, with some religious conservatives last week threatening to bolt to a third party if Mr. Giuliani gets the nomination, and others arguing that this is the sure road to defeat.


Scholars who study the role of religion in politics now say it is possible that the Bush years were an anomaly and that evangelicals, of whom religious conservatives are only a subset, could find themselves back where they were before — divided among themselves and just one of many interest groups vying for attention.


And that stings. Religious conservatives were alarmed last month when none of the Republican front-runners showed up for the Values Voter Debate Straw Poll in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than 40 groups, some of them major organizations known for their capacity to mobilize voters, had put together the event. Questions were directed even at the no-show candidates, and many of those questions were angry.


Phyllis Schlafly, the founder of Eagle Forum and a leader in the social conservative movement since 1972, said: “If the Republican Party kicks away the religious conservatives, then they’re entitled to be called the stupid party. You have to keep your own friends. A sense of betrayal can become more compelling than other issues.”


The spectacle has laid bare the enduring myth that evangelicals are a monolith that is “easy to command,” to use the phrase made famous by a Washington Post article in 1993.

Evangelical Protestants make up about 26 percent of the population. But according to surveys in the new book “The Faith Factor” by John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, that pie can be sliced even further. Only 12 percent of the population are the evangelical Protestants Mr. Green calls “traditionalists,” the political and theological conservatives who make up the bedrock of the religious right. Almost an equal share (11 percent of the population) are evangelical “centrists” and about 3 percent are “modernists,” groups that are politically less predictable.

As for “easy to command,” just look at what happened late last month, when one of the oracles of the Christian right, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, in Colorado Springs, sent an e-mail message denigrating Mr. Thompson, the “Law & Order” actor and former Tennessee senator whom some conservative Christians are latching onto as the antidote to Mr. Giuliani.

Dr. Dobson’s leaked message said that Mr. Thompson “can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail.” He added: “And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”


Dr. Dobson’s leaked message said that Mr. Thompson “can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail.” He added: “And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”


Mr. Giuliani’s campaign is betting that he can do without the hard-core “religious right” for whom abortion and homosexuality are litmus tests.


The religious right may still try to anoint a Republican candidate, get behind him and push. Some leaders said in interviews that they were waiting to see how the Republican candidates performed at a conference of the Family Research Council, a religious conservative group in Washington, later this month. All of the Republicans, except Mr. Giuliani, have agreed to make a pitch to that group.

The panic that has gripped the leadership of the religious right is over how the only candidate who doesn’t stand with them on abortion and has barely bothered to court them can prevail; Mr. Giuliani is even viewed favorably in polls among voters who identify themselves as born-again Christians.

Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, a Texas-based group that has a network of 5,000 pastors willing to mobilize their churches to vote, was at the recent meeting of those who threatened to back a third-party candidate, and he said they were not just bluffing.


Filed under 2008 election, abortion, Chimpy, Christianity, Eagle Forum, Evangelicals, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Fred Thompson, Gay rights, George W. Bush, Homophobia, humor, James Dobson, movies, parody, Phyllis Schlafly, politics, religion, Republicans, Rick Scarborough, Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani, snark, Values Voters, Vision America

7 responses to “Form a Circle, and Commence Firing!

  1. Friend of the court

    Oh lord, please let these hard workin’ folks back a third party candidate. Amen.

  2. nonnie9999

    i don’t think it will make much of a difference if they back a third party candidate or not. the days when they had any power are over (spitting 3 times so i don’t jinx anything). i hope that the news stations realize that they are now just a fringe group and no longer give them any airtime.

  3. Got a Grip

    It’s not exactly true that they don’t have power anymore, kids. Their power may be limited on a national scale (presidential elections), but in state and local races and issues, they still have plenty of power. I’m hoping that dividing them on the presidential race may sap some of their strength from more localized politics (and I’m banging freely on my wooden desk as I say this).

  4. Friend of the court

    I know, that they would have to look long and hard for another Bush type, who would be willing to let them write policy, but they do cast a lot of votes and any that the Republicans don’t get, the better. I doubt that a fundie third party run would hurt the Democrats much. They don’t need so much air time, when they can blow it from the pulpit. There are many of them and they all seem to feel ok about going along with the flock.

  5. nonnie9999

    that’s true, gotta. they do have pockets of power, but i was talking about on a national level. in those pockets of power, i doubt that we can make inroads right now. it is a matter of waiting for the next generation to replace the old.
    i say let them continue to hold their breath and turn blue (well, maybe not blue 😆 ), and let the rethugs continue to pander to them. it will turn off a lot of independents and hopefully make the lazy dems angry enough to get off their asses and vote.
    fotc, they already have someone who is willing to let them write policy. his name is alan keyes, and he is exactly what they are looking for, except he happens to be the wrong color. once again, their prejudices override their so-called principles.

  6. Well I must say that here in Texas they are falling from grace, so to speak. People are actually starting to wake up.

    We can only hope that this split will confuse the sheep.

  7. nonnie9999

    nyt! 😀
    how nice to see you again! thanks for a bit of good news. if there is hope for texas, i guess there is hope everywhere.