This past week a minor scrum broke out concerning the religious bona fides of newly announced presidential candidate, Fred Thompson. Some of the questions raised included: Is he still a member in good standing of the Church of Christ where he was baptized more than a half century ago? What does his wife’s membership in the liberal, mainline United Church of Christ denomination (which is, I might add, Sen. Barack Obama’s spiritual home) suggest about the Thompson clan’s commitment to the Conservative Christian worldview? And what’s he been doing attending (sporadically) that Presbyterian church in Virginia?
There is no reason for panic over at Thompson headquarters. After all, this is nothing a good spiritual mentor couldn’t fix. Besides, just a few months ago James Dobson publicly doubted whether Thompson was even a Christian. So perhaps all this talk of what type of Christian Thompson actually represents is a victory for his wily strategists.
His wily strategists have clearly urged him to reach out to Conservative Christian power brokers–a task that Mr. Thompson has apparently taken on with gusto. A consensus seems to be emerging among many–but not all–Evangelical leaders that the Tennessee native is the most likely to carry forward their pro-life, anti-same-sex union agenda.
Southern Baptist Richard Land’s reference to Mr. Thompson as a “southern-fried Reagan” is a nifty turn of phrase. And perhaps when all is said and done, the Law and Order star may indeed snare the prize that all the Republicans presidential candidates have, oddly, set their hearts on winning: being acknowledged as the “Reaganiest” of the bunch.
But the parallels strike me as problematic. Recall that it was the “Reagan Democrats” who helped sweep the Great Communicator into office in 1980. They were disaffected voters who abandoned Jimmy Carter and crossed party lines. But were Thompson to win the Republican nomination he would not have the luxury of a feckless Democratic incumbent to excoriate in his polished theatrical cadences.
My guess is that the vast overwhelming majority of Democratic voters will vote for any Democrat in 2008–Clinton, Obama, Edwards, it’s all good! The few blue-staters who are Republican-curious would sooner support Rudy Giuliani than a candidate aligned with those who seek constitutional amendments banning abortion and Gay marriage.
Herein lies the danger for any candidate who is too closely associated with the desiderata of the Conservative Christian base (Mitt Romney is susceptible to the same peril). True, the Evangelical ballot has wonder-working power. But not enough to work electoral miracles all by itself. As the charismatic Mr. Thompson develops his campaign strategy he may want to ask: where will the Thompson Democrats come from?
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
September 10, 2007; 12:32 AM ET
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