Whenever Republicans win elections, the media is fond of attributing the victories to the influence of “values voters” – the Religious Right activists who make up a significant portion of the party’s political base. On the flip side, whenever the GOP loses elections, we start seeing all sorts of articles about the decline in the Religious Right’s influence and predictions of their forthcoming extinction.
And inevitably, those sorts of articles are followed some time later by new articles discovering that the Religious Right has not, in fact, disappeared and are extremely motivated heading into the next election.
Angry over health care reform and the abortion fight it reinvigorated, worried about the expansion of gay rights and frustrated by President Obama’s criticisms of Israel, religious conservatives are eager to play a key role in the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections.
But many are also not sold on the Republican Party, and analysts are wondering whether some of them will sit out November’s elections – something religious conservatives have done in the past when neither party appealed to their interests.
“There certainly seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that the Christian right is more energized this year,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council in Washington. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily a windfall for the Republicans.”
Mr. Perkins said conservative Christians – as well as Orthodox Jews and abortion opponents – are unhappy with Mr. Obama and looking for change; yet sizing up candidates who can deliver is another matter.
“The Republicans could be that change,” Mr. Perkins said. “But in a lot of ways, they are not there yet.”
Gary L. Bauer, president of the pro-life group American Values, predicts a simmering intensity among values voters. He said “hyphenated conservatives” who accepted Mr. Obama in the last election cycle are dumbfounded by the president’s hard tack left and repulsed by runaway spending.
“It’s almost like we’re witnessing a complete mirror image of 2008, when all the passion was among young voters, minorities and first-time voters,” said Mr. Bauer. “Now that energy is with conservatives and older voters. … There’s tremendous intensity out there.”
Mr. Bauer, a former presidential candidate who served in the Reagan administration, said values voters consider Mr. Obama an apologist and not a defender of the United States, and dislike “his questioning whether we’re even a Judeo-Christian nation” … “That same week he issued the order to close Guantanamo [Bay prison]. We learned then that he cared more about the rights of jihadists than he did about the rights of unborn babies,” Mr. Bauer said.
Abortion is also at the forefront of concerns for the Colorado-based Focus on the Family.
Tom Minnery, senior vice president for Focus’ Citizen Link, said his group hasn’t endorsed candidates for the fall but plans to be involved.
“We’re very, very concerned about the largest expansion in abortion since Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Minnery said. “And we are going to let our members know who voted for what.”
Wow. You mean major right-wing groups like FRC, Gary Bauer, and Focus on the Family don’t like President Obama or the Democrats and are dedicated to doing all they can to vote them out of office? Who ever would have guessed that?
But you really have to wonder about this assessment that the Religious Right is going to throw in with “outsider” candidates like Rand Paul:
With both parties stumbling, many values voters are supporting “outsider” candidates, such as “tea party” favorite Rand Paul, who won the May 18 GOP primary in Kentucky to run for the U.S. Senate this fall.
Mr. Paul won the primary over a candidate who had been backed by the Republican Party establishment in Kentucky and Washington – and he did it with the help of outsiders such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and conservative religious broadcaster James Dobson.
First of all, how many Rand Paul-like candidates are there? And secondly, Sarah Palin and James Dobson are considered “outsiders”? Really? Dobson has been among the most influential Religious Right leaders for decades and Sarah Palin was, the last time I checked, the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate in the most recent election.