Some “Values Voters” Remain Skeptical

As the House GOP runs through its last-minute “values agenda“—a series of votes timed for use in midterm campaigns on issues lifted from the Right such as same-sex marriage, flag burning, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—at least one prominent Religious Right leader is blanching at the blatant pandering of his congressional allies.

Ken Connor is the former president of the Family Research Council and now leads his own Center for a Just Society. He writes:

We are glad these subjects are finally being debated. Nevertheless, few of these issues have been on the radar screen for the last year-and-a-half. Now, however, just before the election they become “priorities.” Coincidence or calculation? A cynic might argue that most Republican senators really don’t care about these subjects and that they are just doing what needs to be done to win in November. One who is not a cynic might easily come to the same conclusion.

If you are a faithful evangelical or Catholic, the Republican Party has a box they put you in—”values voter”. They know that they need a certain number of voters from this box in order to keep their jobs. And they have a game plan: pay lip service to a few subjects that animate “values voters” right before the election and maybe, just maybe, they can win. They know perfectly well that many “values voters” find it difficult to vote for Democrats, so they do the absolute minimum necessary to win us over and then largely forget us until the next campaign season. Part of this is our own fault. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be defined by one or two issues, forgetting that our Christian faith calls us to redeem all things, not just a few.

Connor is also critical of the tactics of right-wing interest groups:

Christians should be no less fed up with national organizations that try to mobilize us every-other year with overheated rhetoric and bombastic letters. Instead of calmly and rationally discussing the issues we face, we are subjected to dramatic emotional appeals that are aimed at manipulation rather than persuasion.

“Did you know that Senator Hilary Clinton wants to make prayer illegal in America? Did you know that the Democratic Party wants to force all pregnant women to have abortions? It’s true! SEND US YOUR MONEY NOW!”

Connor left FRC apparently in part because of a disagreement over the value of pursuing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that has little or no chance of passage.

It’s difficult to say how representative Connor is of the Religious Right voter base, but he concludes by warning: “We have a simple message for the Republican Party: stop ‘using’ us in an effort to secure our vote. Give us substance, not symbols—or be prepared for disappointment in November.”