Will the True Christian Conservative Please Stand Up?
By: Nathan Tabor
According to the Pew Center, about 25% of Americans are following news of the presidential races “very closely.” Of course, if I were to base any assumptions about the public’s attention solely on the volume (high) and tone (breathless!!) of the media’s coverage, I’d assume just the opposite.
Despite the 24/7 reporting on all things campaign-related, and the increasingly forgettable debates, this simple fact remains: this is all much ado about nothing. Polls are all very well, but once the public starts paying attention, it becomes an entirely different ballgame; just ask Howard Dean.
And yet, while much of this “pre-season” coverage ought to be taken with a grain of salt, this much can be gleaned from the headlines and the talking heads: the Republican Party does appear to be in a tight spot.
While the Democrats have an entire top tier of candidates who effectively embody their party’s platform, none of the candidates running as Republican candidates are a perfect fit with the platform of the GOP. At present, no single candidate completely embodies the Christian social ethic and the conservative governing principles that have been the mainstay of the party and the movement for the past 30 years.
The Republican Party often reminds me of a large and quarrelsome, but (for the most part) healthy family. The search for the next Reagan conservative is, in many ways, the search for the next “head of the family.”
One of the older sons wants to protect the country but is the most liberal member of the family. Another son professes to respect the family’s traditions but his respect, some say, is a recent development. A third son is respected within and without the family for his courageous military service, but has spent most of his political career annoying the cousins and allying with the neighbors.
As Sam Brownback embraces John McCain and Paul Weyrich declares his support for Mitt Romney, I can only conclude that thus far, Christian conservatives are split on whom to support. And based on the polling results, the Fred vs. Rudy vs. Mitt vs. McCain vs. Huckabee horserace has only just begun.
The primary campaign is likely to get ugly, and it would be a mistake to think that the Republican convention will close the book on this intra-party dispute. No matter which candidate the party coalesces around in 2008, there will not be a perfect fit between platform, base and candidate.
There have been gloomy predictions of a Republican loss in ’08, and the GOP may indeed find itself in the political wilderness for the next 4-8 years. On the other hand, nothing is inevitable in politics. There is a sure and certain way to avoid such a fate; nominate a candidate who combines the Christian ethos with the conservative principles that will ensure our country’s rejuvenation.