Now that Wasilla Bible Church member Sarah Palin has joined the McCain ticket, Barack Obama suddenly has an “Evangelical Concern” on his hands. I am not prepared to upgrade his predicament to an “Evangelical Problem.” Not yet. But Governor Palin’s emergence does put a crimp in Obama’s carefully crafted Faith and Values outreach. Here are three reasons why and one key question to think about:
“She Has Energized the Evangelical Base”: She sure has. You show me a candidate that views the Bible as the literal word of God, wants creationism taught in public schools, assiduously opposes abortion rights, and hunts Moose as if she had the words of Genesis 1:26 tattooed on her forearm, and I’ll show you a candidate that re-activates the White Conservative Evangelicals that Senator McCain virtually put to sleep.
Given that Joseph Biden has about as much street cred’ among Evangelicals as does spectacular French fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld (a.k.a., “The Kaiser”), let us conclude that the Democrats have officially lost the conservative White Evangelical vote in 2008. This is not–repeat not–fatal for Obama (see below). There are other types of Evangelicals out there, but his F and V team better kick it into gear.
Making Obama Look Like Little Lord Fauntleroy: Part of the devastation wrought by Palin’s candidacy is the sharp contrast she draws with Obama. Working-class voters, Evangelical or otherwise, are invited to compare the following: Harvard Law vs. Idaho University: San Francisco vs. Scranton: Arugula vs. Moose jerky. Need I say more?
Notice that in her philippic on Wednesday night Palin only had to mention the word “cling” to set the Red State folks off into a frenzy. Obama’s remark about working class Americans clinging to guns and religion–made off-the record, Governor Palin helpfully pointed out–will surely pay more dividends for the McCain team in coming weeks.
The McCain Team Far-Righted the Ship (And Obama Helped): Recall that as recently as three months ago even Conservative Evangelicals were glumly forecasting that the Senator from Illinois might actually win the Evangelical vote outright! With his support of Faith Based Initiatives, his Bible thumping and fondness for more religion in the Public Square, Obama was poised to neutralize traditional GOP advantages.
What went wrong? Well, for starters the McCain campaign did The One devious thing they needed to do. Second, Obama completely tanked at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. And, most importantly, Alaska’s Most Charismatic Daughter was nominated for the vice-presidency.
What About the “Fence-sitting,” “Swing” or “Progressive” Evangelicals?: Friends, this has been, and continues to be, one of the most important questions in this campaign. Let me restate something that I have mentioned at least a hundred times before: the Democrats don’t have to win the Evangelical vote. Rather, they have to siphon off about 7 to 10 percent more of it in battleground states than they did in 2004. If they do that, they “win” the Evangelical vote (and probably the White House).
John Kerry received 22% of the Evangelical ballot in his failed bid for the presidency. Up until the McCain team woke up from its death slumber, it seemed like this number was going to double in November. But Governor Palin has changed all that.
The Democrat’s “URGENT TO-DO” list now includes re-energizing the Progressive Evangelicals. If my sources are correct, they are feeling disoriented and demoralized in the aftermath of Palin’s May-I-Smack-You-Liberal-Pansies-With-This-Here-Two-By-Four speech of Wednesday night.
Esteemed Readers: I was off last week preparing for the school year, polishing off syllabi, setting up my plants and placing fresh contact paper in my students’ cubbies. Suffice it to say I picked the wrong seven-day stretch to focus on my day gig. But over the next eight weeks I will be blogging three, four, five times a week. Please check in often as my posting schedule is about to accelerate in proportion to the seasonal excitement.
For more information about religion and the candidates check out Faith 2008 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
September 8, 2008; 12:52 PM ET
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