Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deal Hudson: "Are Religious Conservatives and the GOP Heading for Divorce?"

(Hat tip: Custos Fidei)

Deal Hudson writes at InsideCatholic:
On May 22, 2008,a new era began in the history of what is called the Religious Right. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain rejected the endorsements of two of the leading Evangelical pastors in the United States, Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Rod Parsley. The impact of McCain publicly disavowing these two major figures will create a new alignment among politically active religious conservatives and the political parties.

Within the past two months, McCain has unintentionally aggravated both Evangelicals and Catholics. Both groups had already responded to the McCain nomination with skepticism: Catholics because of McCain's position on embryonic stem cells, Evangelicals because of his blistering attack on Falwell and Robertson after the 2000 South Carolina primary.

As things stand, I believe Catholics are still in play for McCain, if his campaign conducts a vigorous outreach. L'Affaire Hagee will be harder for his campaign to overcome with Evangelicals without significantly ramping up their relationship with grassroots leaders.

And this is no small thing: McCain will need religiously ctive voters over the next five months. It's not the moderate voters who raise money, register voters, print and pass out voter guides, recruit their neighbors, and drive people to the polls. Moderates are... well... moderates. They don't bring passion to a campaign.

The fact is, McCain's moderates can't beat Obama's adoring groupies. With many religious conservative voters feeling benched, and others feeling outright rejection, the Religious Right will begin exploring other options for the investment of its energy. (Bob Barr, the newly nominated Libertarian Party candidate, may find himself the beneficiary of the present unhappiness.)

More likely, new leadership will emerge among religious conservatives propelled to the forefront by the national fight over gay marriage. McCain's best chance to recover their support would be to make the marriage issue a priority of his campaign. Lacking that, it will take another surprising circumstance to bring the Religious Right wholeheartedly back into the presidential campaign.

My Comments:
While I think there is likely to be something of a break between the GOP and religious conservatives during this election, it has very little to do with Hagee and Parsley. Hudson gives waaaay to much credit to those guys when it comes to how much influence they have on evangelical voters - they're fringe at best. Up until my entering the Church 4 years ago, I was an evangelical and somewhat active in politics, and I'd never even heard of Hagee or Parsley until a few months ago.

So, yes, there's likely to be little enthusiastic support for McCain and the GOP from religiously conservative voters this year, but that has everything to do with policy priorities and very little to do with personalities.

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