The Dallas Morning News follows up on the recent “One Day Crusade” in Lufkin, Texas held by Rick Scarborough, Alan Keyes, and Gordon Klingenschmitt to organize “Patriot Pastors” and register “Values Voters” through the 2008 election. The question asked by the article is whether “traditional-value voters” will be a driving force in 2008, in the way religious-right leaders claimed them to have been in 2004.
Rudy Giuliani, anathema to these activists for his positions on social wedge issues, remains at the top of polls of Republican primary voters, and, as a 2006 Center for American Values in Public Life survey showed, abortion and gay marriage were never the determining factors for the vast majority of Evangelical voters, much less voters in general. And as the Morning News notes, some conservative Christian activists are even broadening their agendas to issues that fall outside their traditional place in the right-wing coalition.
Mr. Scarborough and fellow Christian leaders Richard Land of the Southern Baptists and James Dobson of Focus on the Family insist that abortion and gay marriage must remain staples of the political culture war.
But surveys indicate that younger evangelicals are not as moved by the old “wedge issues” of homosexuality and government-sanctioned prayer.
A group of young, wealthy conservative Christians called Legacy is hosting presidential candidates for off-the-record sessions. Members want to expand the values debate to include the environment, international human rights and the AIDS epidemic.
And polling by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center finds two other issues are also top-line concerns of religious conservatives: terrorism and immigration.
But Scarborough, who is planning to hold 69 more of these “crusades” before Election Day, is confident:
“Once we get close to the actual elections, you’re going to find that primaries are driven by values voters,” said Mr. Scarborough. “It still is the largest voting bloc out there, and I think they’re going to come alive.”
It’s certainly Scarborough’s goal: Without the appearance of a voting bloc unified around their pet issues, activists like Scarborough can’t expect to continue to hold such sway within the Republican Party.
Before the Lufkin rally, a couple of dozen East Texas pastors gathered for dinner in a room adjacent to the large hall, where the crowd was gathering.
He said unless Christian conservatives are motivated, much will be lost. Then he held up a Bible and offered a verse of his own from what he called the “RSV – the Rick Scarborough Version.”
“He who hath the most votes,” he said, “wins.”