There is still, apparently, no united political position among many evangelical Christian voters related to a presidential candidate this fall. According to this article, some leaders are backing McCain because they feel that, on the key issues they support, they “have no choice.” They’ve made it sound like there was “no clear consensus candidate” among evangelicals in the primaries. But the fact that they now feel that they must settle for less than what they could have had is due, at least in part, to their dithering during the primaries.
There was a clear cut choice for evangelical Christian voters in the primaries. His name is Mike Huckabee. On the issues that this group identified as their “core,” Huckabee was the most solid choice. The fact that many of these “leaders” chose to support other candidates based more on their economic conservativism than their social conservativism is baffling. I think it also calls into question their overall “leadership” among the evangelical Christian right. Among the 90 “leaders” who gathered in Denver, there were no real “heavyweights.” James Dobson, arguably one of the most influential leaders among the Christian political right, isn’t on board with McCain. And some of the more influential evangelicals, like Rick Warren, have taken a somewhat apolitical stance. There isn’t anyone, among the others from the Denver gathering, who have that kind of influence.
The problem is that, for a long time, the expectation has been that a candidate who isn’t an evangelical Christian would still be able to understand, and support, the core issues of that constituency. I just don’t think that is possible. The opportunity to have someone in a position of influence who did, indeed, have a clear and concise understanding of those issues, and the people who support them, has come and gone. And I think the evangelical position has been weakened, particularly by those who supported Romney. It makes it appear that Christians are more interested in money than in their own core values.
Warren’s position may be the most practical, at least as far as the agenda of the Christian right is concerned. By throwing their virtually unconditional support behind a single candidate in the past, evangelicals have been taken for granted and marginalized by Republicans who are almost guaranteed of their support. There is no real pressure on candidates to perform once elected, so the core issues of evangelicals get shoved to the back burner. Every now and then, politicians toss a bone or two out to keep the restlessness down. And when the other party comes back in power, an inevitable situation, they do not feel obligated to do anything, since they feel that they get no support from that constituency anyway. By keeping lines of communication open to both campaigns, Warren is opening the door to at least some progress for the Christian right even if there is a Democrat in the White House come January.