A group of Democrats and Republicans, including former Senators such as Jack Danforth, Gary Hart, and Bob Graham, as well as Christine Todd Whitman, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, gathered at the University of Oklahoma today for a forum urging presidential candidates to work to “establish a government of national unity”:
Today, we come together with hope and determination, with a determination to stop politics as usual which seeks to divide us for political gain. We come together to resurrect that kind of bipartisan statesmanship that united us as Americans to win the Cold War. We come together to appeal to all presidential candidates to tell us how they plan to bring us together. Hear our plea! Bring us together!
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is having none of it and sees it as an effort to drive so-called “values voters” out of the political process:
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), says in their zeal to find common ground, the moderates want to jettison social issues from both party platforms and focuses. The FRC leader says the group of moderates “obviously did not get the message from Iowa,” where former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee surged ahead because of “his unequivocal stand on core issues.”
“I think we’ve seen in the wake of Iowa and in what’s happening across the country that those issues are very near and dear to people,” Perkins observes. “Those are issues that motivate people; they vote based on those issues. [And] those issues are important to Americans, not just evangelicals, but value voters make up a wide section of Americans who are concerned about the moral direction of our country.”
Polls show that most Americans – including most Republicans and most Christians – don’t share Perkins’ abortion-and-gays political priorities. But he’s got a point about the power of those issues to motivate a good chunk of the Republican base. Mike Huckabee just won Iowa where “over 80 percent of [his] supporters self-identified as born-again Christian or evangelical.”
Or as Perkins explained following Huckabee’s win last week, the GOP’s right-wing base is motivated by wedge issues and will rally around “one of their own” if given the opportunity:
[E]vangelicals, dispirited by Republican indifference if not outright hostility to their concerns, cast their ballots for candidates who line up with them on their top priority issues (for example, all of the top five finishers contend that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be corrected).
Iowa evangelicals’ voting pattern says, “If that is the way we are viewed by the other members of the conservative coalition, we are going with one of our own whom we can trust on our issues.” The road ahead will be filled with challenges, but one thing is clear: the values voter turnout has reshaped this presidential campaign in a very good way.
In other words, Perkins seems to be saying, “values voters” aren’t even interested in “unity” with the rest of the conservative movement. That’s quite a change from what he was telling reporters at the “Values Voter Summit” in October, when he was indirectly dissing Huckabee by repeating Romney’s “three legged stool” formulation that any Republican would need the support of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign policy conservatives to win the White House.