Friday, May 12, 2006

Losing the Evangelical Vote: The Right

I've pointed out in earlier posts how Democrats lost the Evangelical vote and are still losing it today, both locally in Washington State and nationally.

In the Wall Street Journal's editorial content, Naomi Schaefer Riley points out how some on the right can be as tone-deaf as those on the left.

Tomorrow morning, Sen. John McCain delivers the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Conventional wisdom has it that Mr. McCain is trying to win support from the religious wing of the GOP for a presidential run. The decision to appear at a university founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell has not gone over well with Mr. McCain's fans on the left. "You're killin' me here," Jon Stewart told the senator when he appeared on the comedian's "Daily Show." "I feel like it's a condoning of Falwell's kind of crazymaking."

Mr. McCain's advisers probably saw this reaction coming but felt it was worth the hassle if it meant getting evangelicals on the "Straight Talk Express." What they didn't consider, but should have, is the evangelicals who cringe when they hear Mr. Falwell's name. It is exhausting to recount the ways in which Mr. Falwell offends many devout Christians, but Mr. McCain should get used to hearing them....

So why doesn't Mr. McCain just go to Wheaton? Or Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, whose 7,000 members more closely mirror mainstream evangelicals? Or Saddleback, the Southern California church led by Rick Warren, whose "The Purpose Driven Life" has sold more than 20 million copies? Or how about a meeting of World Vision, a Christian relief organization operating in 99 countries?

John C. Green, a pollster and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, tells me that "there are lots of other places that Sen. McCain could go where there wouldn't be the downside" associated with Mr. Falwell. Mr. McCain could still appeal to "the religious right" by talking to what Mr. Green calls the "centrist" evangelicals.

I guess that politicians, Left, Right, and Center don't see Evangelicals as people whose primary focus is (for better or worse) otherworldly. The see demographic figures and power blocks. I'm sure that it is much easier to pick up a phone and talk to a Fallwell or a Robertson, than to deal with the untidy mass of individuals represented by the broad swath of Evangelical Churches in America.

I'll bet though, that Senator McCain deosn't lecture the graduates about his favorite New Testament book of Job.


Taleena said...

McCain, feh.

WhidbeyIslander said...

Still swooning over Ken Blackwell?

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