Barack Obama, that spry Prometheus of the Religious Politicking Heavens, graciously offers observers of Faith and Values outreach something to write (and even think) about nearly every day.
He commandeers pulpits and makes inspiring speeches. He schmoozes with fence- straddling Evangelical and Catholic clergy. Without any prompting, he offers to play out George W. Bush’s third term by expanding his program of faith-based initiatives.
But what about John McCain? When it comes to politics and religion demonstrably less writing and thought have been devoted to him. In what follows I will present what I see as The Wonky Consensus regarding the Maverick’s F and V outreach. In order to balance things out, I will then discuss The Counter-Intuitive Wisdom.
The Wonky Consensus: John McCain is in big trouble. For starters he has neither the ability nor the desire to engage in the types of God Talk that Evangelicals expect from a candidate. Greatly exacerbating the problem is a campaign apparatus that seems to lack coherent leadership, let alone vision and expertise, for engaging in complex cross-country, multi-denominational, religious outreach.
It emerges from all of this that he is not only losing religious voters, but Enthusiastic Religious Voters whose pilgrimage to the election booth marks the last of a thousand sacrifices they make on a candidate’s behalf. Obama, for his part, does have ERVs in the form of Progressive Evangelicals who are busily converting small, but crucial, percentages of their co-religionists to the Democratic Gospel.
Having fumbled away his ability to exploit Obama’s Wright/Pfleger associations by catastrophically hitching his wagon to Hagee/Parsley, McCain is now backed into a corner. He is forced to find a running mate with major street cred’ among conservative Evangelicals and Catholics.
The Counter-Intuitive Wisdom: While Obama’s gold-tongued homilies mesmerize the punditry, a stealthy campaign of social conservative outreach is starting to take shape. On abortion, on (state) amendments pertaining to gay marriage, and on the question of United States Supreme Court appointees McCain offers the policy product lines that conservative Evangelicals and Catholic consumers crave.
Even better: Florida and California have anti-gay marriage initiatives on the line and where there are anti-gay marriage initiatives there are ERVs clutching bullhorns and working the phone banks for the GOP.
Best of all: Two stories in the Associated Press and Washington Times point to Conservative Evangelicals breaking the huddle and shouting “McCain on (November) 4!” (Though these articles are referring to the Senator gaining support among the most conservative faction of Evangelical America, not all of Evangelical America).
Last, there exists the possibility that Obama’s aggressive religious outreach may be alienating small, but potentially significant constituencies. Look at the exit polls from the Democratic primaries and you will see that the Senator from Illinois went to town among the No Religion People and believers who were neither Jews nor Christians. If they become concerned about Obama futzing with Church/State boundaries they might conceivably help undermine the wonky consensus.
For more information about religion and the candidates check out Faith 2008 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
July 9, 2008; 9:58 AM ET
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