Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Republican Squeaky Wheels

The overhyped story of the 2008 elections so far is the role of the Religious Right in picking a GOP candidate, fueled by headlines about Huckabee's commercial cross, Romney's speech on "Faith in America," Pat Robertson's underwhelming endorsement of Giuliani and the Rev. James Dobson's serial excommunication of each aspirant as he edges toward supporting his fellow preacher.

But this media melodrama may be obscuring the decline of the so-called God Vote in Republican politics, starting last November when opposition to the war in Iraq overwhelmed candidates of the Bush theocracy and gave control of Congress to the Democrats.

Even as Huckabee rises in the polls, prominent Republicans are questioning what Peggy Noonan calls his "creepy" appeal and, in New Hampshire, the resurgence of the resolutely secular John McCain is threatening Romney.

A new Gallup poll offers some perspective, showing only 32 percent of Americans now feel religion is increasing its influence in national life, compared to the Eisenhower era half a century ago when 69 percent felt that way.

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that "younger white evangelicals have become increasingly dissatisfied with Bush and are moving away from the GOP."

In October, Mike Huckabee told the Values Voters summit, “I come today as one not who comes to you, but as one who comes from you. You are my roots.” Nonetheless, Romney won the straw poll after the meeting.

Now that Huckabee is surging and real voting is about to begin, Republicans will give us some answers about what kind of President they want after George Bush's pious pronouncements and disastrous performance. "Cultural conservatives" may be in for some surprises.

1 comment:

mw said...

As Ryan Sager documents in his book "The Elephant in the Room" (my review here) the Fusionist Social/Fiscal Conservative alliance has been and will continue to be critical to GOP presidential electoral success. Sager labels these constituencies as Evangelicals and Libertarians, but whatever you want to call them, the GOP cannot elect a President unless both constituencies agree on supporting a candidate.

I have seen a number of pundits and bloggers opine that the "Social Conservatives", "Cultural Conservatives", "Religious Right", "Evangelicals", are the problem with the GOP, and need to be somehow marginalized by the party. This thesis flies in the face of history, and is a prescription for permanent Republican minority status, and possibly the end of the party. The key to Republican success is not marginalizing the evangelicals, but rather finding a candidate that can be supported by both evangelicals and libertarians (again I am using Sager's labels).

There are clearly tensions, conflicting goals and different values motivating these factions. There are also many special interests/factions that make up the Democratic party are also often an odds. I don't seem to see equally broad (and equally inaccurate) pronouncements that a specific Democratic candidate de-emphasizing one constituency in the Democratic party is a requirement for the Democratic Party to succeed.

A Republican candidate that embraces the values voter as well as the libertarian / fiscal conservative voter has worked before and can work again.