So Much For That Bloc

It’s already looking as though this presidential campaign is going to be chock full of nuance and complexity, the kind of stuff that horse race junkies will debate and theorize years after the President of the United States has been elected into office.

But as the primary season begins to really heat up, it’s time to start at least attempting to field those questions now as we try to navigate the political landscape.  The big question for the GOP, I think, is how big of a role will the Religious Right play this time around?

There’s no question that the Religious Right were major players in recent elections, with the 2004 contest arguably (NOTE: ARGUABLY, not DEFINITIVELY) depicting the pinnacle of their influence.  While Bush campaigned on being a uniter in his first bid for the presidency, he was all but flagrantly campaigning as a divider in his second bid.

You were either with God, or you were against him.  And boy oh boy did he have one hell of an army of evangelicals and values voters to back him up on this one.

It is this massively mobilized political force that some believe at least in part resulted in John McCain backing off of George Bush through his presidency in the hopes that he would inherit the entire Bush political machine.  Where the Maverick Straight Talk Express ™ had definite cause for grievance against Bush, he instead chose to be… well… a lap dog, and this hand at least a few folks scratching their heads.

But now Bush sits at below thirty percent approval ratings in most national polls, and the ability of his political machine to win anyone an election at this point is seriously in question.  This includes the Religious Right.

Not like Americans have all of a sudden found Secularism.  No, if anything, the Religious Right has been pushing as hard as ever, from trying to reinject religious dogma into the public school system through “Intelligent Design” to near continuous attempts to ban gay marriage in state constitutional amendments, one would be a fool to think that we’ve heard the last of the Religious Right.

But in the forum of presidential politics?  We may be on the verge of seeing at least a hiatus.

In the case of John McCain, at one time critical of the influence the Religious Right held over American politics, he made a concerted switch to embracing the Christian bloc as he made ready to run for president in the current contest.  However, it would seem the Religious Right would reject his attempt to gain their support.

This lack of support seemed to go beyond McCain, however.  Despite some impressive political gymnastics, Rudy Giuliani has thus far been insufficient at separating himself from his socially liberal past, to the chagrin of the values voters, while Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon, has had his own problems.

My grandmother’s a Mormon, and I’ve attended Mormon services more than a few times.  I’m not a Christian, and therefore wasn’t particularly moved during those services, however, having participated in Mormon observances first hand I can also say that followers of the Latter Day Saints aren’t necessarily members of some freakish cult.

Other Christians, though, don’t seem to share my opinion.  Mormonism in today’s political sphere suffers from the same thing that many religions suffer from and that is the inaccurate attributions from outsiders based upon radically fundamental practices that are typically shunned by the mainstream, for instance, polygamy.

In all the times I attended Mormon church, I’ve never met a single person who had more than one spouse, nor even wanted more than one.

In truth, Mormons are much like any other Christian denomination, they simply follow an addition book many others don’t recognize.  But this doesn’t stop them from not having a full seat at the table of the Religious Right.  No other bit of evidence could be quite as strong as the controversy that has swirled around Mitt Romney.

While GOP candidates Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback are much more in tuned with the Religious Right, the powerful religious voting bloc also knows how to back a winning horse.  While Huckabee and Brownback are at least lucky enough to not be seen quite so low as virtual no names Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo (the latter only even known because some of the things that come out of his mouth are bewilderingly screwed up), neither has been able to show much movement in the polls, and therefore not worthy, so to speak, to inherit the momentum the Religious Right potentially provides.

But in the offing, there was a candidate who at first glance might be able to enter the fray as the new champion of the Religious Right.  At a time when many GOP voters were displeased with their field of candidates, Fred Thompson looked like the answer.  Former lobbyist, actor, and Senator, Fred was billed as the next Reagan, and a true conservative.

But this image was tested during his “testing the water” phase when early speaking engagements utterly failed to impress.  At stake was his communications creds.  While many thought that being an actor would make him well equipped to deliver powerful and captivating speeches, the reality of the situation fell far short.

But what did it matter?  Bush was never that great of a speaker, and even in his first presidential bid his communications team was probably popping champaigne bottles if their candidate made it through a stump speech without saying something ridiculous like, “Putting food on our families,” or “is our children learning?”

There was still hope that Fred could effectively woo the Religious Right.

But an unwillingness to hop on board a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and rumors that he and his wife had both supported pro-choice groups in the past would soon taint even that hope.

Then came a biggie; a key leader in the Religious Right’s refusal to endorse Thompson.  Dr. James Dobson had this to say about the supposed great Republican Hope:

“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote.

“He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

And now things seem to have gotten worse for the hopes that Fred Thompson might at least get some love from the Religious Right:

A coalition of Religious Right leaders have decided they will not make any group endorsement of former Senator Fred Thompson (R) for President. The informally named “Arlington Coalition” — organized in 2002 by Free Congress Foundation Chair Paul Weyrich — told The Politico that a Thompson endorsement from the group was originally “a real possibility” because they initially viewed him as their best hope to elect a social conservative. However, doubts about Thompson’s commitment to their cause and what they view as his wavering on some key social issues helped them decide they would not intervene as a group in support of Thompson. “It’s just not going to happen now … a lot of people who had intended to support him pulled back,” explained Weyrich, who was dissatisfied with Thompson’s stance on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Family Rights Council President Tony Perkins explained the coalition had not initially known of Thompson’s 1990s lobbying efforts on behalf of a pro-choice group. “Let the marketplace choose which one ends up being the best candidate … It may very well be that, in this cycle, there isn’t a coalescing,” said Gary Bauer, who said he could support any of the Republicans “except Giuliani” in a general election. Some leaders tied to the group still hold out hope Evangelical conservatives will unite behind a single primary candidate — be it Thompson or anyone else — as the only way to derail Giualiani. “When confronted with two liberal New Yorkers [Giuliani and Clinton], both pro-abortion and pro-gay rights, [Christian conservatives] are going to vote for a third-party candidate” in the general election, said John Stemberger, a Religious Right leader based in Florida.

At this point, things are looking a little grim for the presidential hopeful in regards to gaining the support of the Religious Right, and as a result, things may also look dim for the once powerful voting bloc as far as exerting influence in the presidential arena.

The true power behind the Religious Right lies not in their message, but in their energy and mobility.  But there is absolutely no way any appreciable part of that bloc will back a Democratic president, and it appears as though the group is shunning the four candidates most likely to head to the general election following the Primary contests early next year for the GOP.

With no candidate to truly excite the base, it is unlikely that religious leaders will be able to mobilize their foot soldiers to a point of exerting any kind of influence, particularly in the case of Rudy Giuliani, the likely frontrunner, who can’t even claim a loose association to the Religious Right.

The upcoming presidential election is going to be a dogfight, make no doubt about it.  What has given the Republicans the edge often times is the fact that the Democratic Party’s liberal base is often fractured, while Republicans could count on core base epicenters such as figures in the Religious Right movement to keep their constituents voting the party line.

But if they fail to engage the Religious Right, the result is that even if the Democratic vote fractures, so to will their vote.  Considering that the Religious Right is carved considerably out of old Democratic constituencies such as the Labor bloc, we could see some voters hopping the fence in the election next year.

But going back to my lead in paragraphs, to give you a picture of how complex things are, the Religious Right really only accounted for about three to four million votes…  So, yeah, it’s going to be a fun time over the next thirteen or so months.

One Response to “So Much For That Bloc”

  1. Bot says:

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often misunderstood by Evangelical preachers . . Some accuse the Church of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion . . http://mormonsarechristian.blogspot.com/ helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early (First Century) Christianity’s theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

    The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) adheres to Early Christian theology more closely than other Christian denominations. Perhaps the reason Evangelical preachers promote this mis-representation is to protect their flock (and their livlihood).

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