Over three years ago in my senior elective class, "Election Process 2004" with Dr. Haas, I wrote the following assessment of the evangelical's political predicament. When I came across this essay in my files earlier today, it make me curious whether evangelicals have started to learn their lesson over the last four years. Are they going to continue voting as a "block" based on the same token issues, which have changed so little over the years, or are they going to begin holding politicians accountable to their positions by diversifying their vote and identifying with Christian causes from the "other side" of the aisle? Give this a read, and let me know what you think.
"On Moral Issues: Bush Need Not Make Positive Change, Just Avoid the Negative"
David Cramer 11/16/04
Sunday morning, as my Sunday school teacher expressed how thankful he was that Bush was reelected, it became clear that all Bush has to do in order to keep evangelical conservative voters happy is halt things from getting worse. The mindset of many evangelicals, including my Sunday school teacher, is that Kerry (or any "liberal" Democrat) would so dramatically effect moral issues in America that the damage would be irreversible. (Perhaps this perception is the aftermath of the Clinton era???) By keeping things as they are, Bush can maintain that he is upholding the values that these conservatives hold dear, without having to take drastic actions that would stir up the moderates.
In his article "Dupes and Dopes of Campaign '04," Richard Cohen states: "When it comes to gays, for instance, the Republican Party has engaged in unconscionable demagoguery—and the president knows it." Whether or not this statement is entirely true is debatable, but the president must at least know that he does not have to do anything, other than stop the national legalization of gay marriage (which is unlikely to happen in the next four years anyway), in order to keep the conservatives happy. Merely the appearance that the cultural evils are being temporarily adverted will do.
In his article “Moderates, Not Moralists,” E. J. Dionne Jr. states:
When Karl Rove went after the red-hot right-wing vote, he did so largely through person-to-person contact, mailings and conservative talk-meisters. Bush always spoke in code to this group—he talked of a "culture of life" far more than he did about abortion—reducing the risk of turning off the middle.
It is precisely this kind of “culture of life” talk that will keep Christian conservatives content and supportive. Every time Bush makes a statement like this, the evangelical constituency imagines him giving them a little wink. They read between the lines and hear Bush telling them secretly: “You know what I’m talking about.” If nothing is pushed forward on these issues, these voters assume that it is the evils of the Washington liberals that are stopping it from happening. It is all of the special interest groups with their money in their Democratic senators’ pockets stopping change for the good. It is Hillary Clinton.
The problem is not that evangelical conservatives are all completely ignorant; it is that they have no options. They have to put their faith in the Republican president and the Republican party. The Religious Right has become so tied to the Republican party (as the name suggests), that they do not have any power or say in what actually happens. Chuck Colson and Pat Robertson cannot call up the president and say, “Make this happen, or else!” because there is no “or else.” They are not going to be able to embrace a candidate from another party, because they have painted the parties as black (Democrat) and white (Republican). They have picked the social issues that they think most important on the national stage (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, the ten commandments, “under God”), thus linking themselves with the conservative party and conservative candidates, and they have neglected the social issues that make the other party seem more Christian (e.g. equality, care for the poor, etc.) Whether either party really has a monopoly on any of these issues is once again debatable, but clearly evangelicals are not going to stop voting Republican, and thus, just like the African-American vote for Democrats, Republicans can continue to take evangelicals for granted.