It’s a puzzle: the Christian Coalition is fighting off extinction, but the Religious Right seems as powerful as ever. “Christian Coalition losing clout” headlined the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot on February 19, the day of the pivotal South Carolina Republican presidential primary.
The furor over George W. Bush’s campaign speech at Bob Jones University is full of ironies. Candidates have visited the campus in search of Republican votes ever since 1980 with no discernible repercussions—until now.
John McCain was the most innovative and exciting campaigner of the presidential primary season. His positive treatment from the media led one of his aides to observe that the media had been his political base. But now McCain is out of the presidential race, in part because, as Phyllis Schlafly of the conservative Eagle Forum said, “People don’t want to elect an angry candidate.”
Just a few years ago the Religious Right was talking about making itself more appealing and effective in mainstream politics. The head of the Christian Coalition at the time, Ralph Reed, declared that the Religious Right needed to tone down its rhetoric, overcome its tradition of racial bigotry, and reach out to Jews, Catholics and ethnic minorities.
The four front-runners for the presidency are following what has become a political pattern: candor when there are no votes to be lost, extreme caution when votes are at risk. This pattern of choosing expediency over courage is in plain view in the current debate over a Confederate flag and a Cuban child. The two issues have an obvious solution—send them back where they belong.
As the congressional debate on campaign finances was being launched, Representative Thomas Davis (R., Va.) was already speculating on how a ban on so-called soft money, if enacted, could be circumvented.
Barack Obama promised to practice a different kind of politics, a politics that would stick to the issues. Yet his campaign has produced an ad that shows an old photo of McCain, wearing an out-of-style suit and large glasses, in an effort to convey the message that McCain is an old, out-of-touch man, someone who doesn’t even know how to use the Internet or even send an e-mail message.