October 10, 2007
Evangelical Disenchantment With Politicians
by Mike McManus
Fifty pro-family leaders of America gathered in Salt Lake City two weeks
ago to discuss what their response would be if both the Democrats and
Republicans nominated a President supportive of abortion.
"After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be
summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties
nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity
of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor party
candidate," wrote Dr. James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family radio show
is heard by 220 million people in a New York Times column.
"Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result
was almost unanimous. The other issue discussed at length concerned the
advisability of creating a third party if Democrats and Republicans do
indeed abandon the sanctity of human life and other traditional family
values. Though there was some support for the proposal, no consensus
emerged," he asserted.
He was speaking personally, not for his organization or the Salt Lake
group. However, what he said was so shocking that Fox's Sean Hannity, a
conservative, challenged Dobson Tuesday night: if Republicans nominated
Rudolph Giuliani, and a third-party challenge was mounted, the result
"would be a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton... the
partial-birth-supporting Hillary; that's national health care Hillary;
that's Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hillary. Are you prepared to accept that
Dobson recalled that in 1988 he told a crowd of 400,000 people at the
Washington Monument. "I pledge hereby never for the rest of my life to
vote for anyone who would kill innocent babies."
Hannity noted that all four candidates leading the Republican race in
the polls - Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain, said
they would appoint people to the Supreme Court such as conservatives
Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, while Clinton can be
expected to appoint liberals like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Dobson expressed doubt that Giuliani could be trusted, given his
pro-abortion position, his opposition to a constitutional amendment
limiting marriage to a man and a woman, and his "personal moral
background" of two divorces and three marriages, though he is a
What about former Sen. Fred Thompson, who has always been pro-life?
Dobson wrote a memo, saying "Isn't Fred Thompson the candidate that is
opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes
there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S....won't
talk about what he believes, can't speak his way out of a paper bag on
the campaign trail? He has no passion, no zeal, no apparent `want to,'
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."
What about Sen. McCain who is pro-life? He was the primary sponsor of
the McCain-Feingold law limiting campaign contributions that also
prohibited organizations publishing ads mentioning a federal candidate
within 60 days of an election. Groups as diverse as the National Rifle
Association and the California Democratic Party argued that limited
their First Amendment rights to free speech. (Wisconsin Right to Life's
ads were later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.) McCain also opposes a
federal Marriage Amendment.
And Mitt Romney who is leading in Iowa Polls? He supports a Marriage
Amendment and says he is passionately pro-life. However, when he ran
for Massachusetts governor, he supported gay civil unions and was
pro-abortion. While he now says he was wrong earlier, some evangelicals
are concerned about his flip-flops.
Evangelical skepticism is based on sad experience. They feel courted
before an election, but ignored afterwards. George Bush campaigned in
2000 as a passionate supporter of vouchers, or school choice. Once
elected, he abandoned the idea to join with Sen. Ted Kennedy in "No
Child Left Behind."
Thus the issues troubling evangelical leaders go far beyond abortion to
include marriage, personal morality, freedom of speech, school choice,
competence and flip-flopping on issues.
Minor candidates, such as Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee support
Evangelical values, but are only single digits in polls.
Some Evangelical leaders say they will await a "Value Voters Summit"
sponsored by the Family Research Council next weekend. All candidates
were invited. No Democrat accepted, though all Republicans did so. A
straw poll will be taken of the 2,000 attendees.
FRC President Tony Perkins, who attended the Salt Lake meeting, is
optimistic that one or two candidates "will emerge with a strong
consensus of support from social conservatives."
Could that propel them past Giuliani, derailing his candidacy?
Possibly - but if only one emerges triumphant.
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