The Republican Party has been in bed with the religious right for the better part of four decades. So, it may surprise you that it took until this year for the Republican National Committee to launch a dedicated effort to appeal to people of faith called “GOP Faith.” It’s headed by South Carolina GOP chairman Chad Connelly, who earlier this spring was named as the party’s Director of Faith Engagement. Its goal is to recruit 100,000 “pro-family conservatives” who will help mobilize the nation’s faith-based voters to “vote their values.”
With an agenda like that, it’s safe to assume that outreach will essentially be all wedge issues, all the time. Connelly largely confirmed it when he stopped by American Family Radio yesterday to have a chat with morning drive-time host Sandy Rios. People for the American Way got clips of his chit-chat here. He wrung his hands at how evangelical Christians can possibly support Democrats. Connelly wondered:
“How does a believer vote that way?”
Connelly also couldn’t understand how 22 percent of self-identified evangelical Christians supported Obama in 2012. To his mind, anyone who voted for Obama “voted completely opposite to what they say they believe.”
Let me tell you something, Chad. I was part of that 22 percent — and I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that I voted for Obama twice. You mean to tell me that if I didn’t vote for a guy who, among other things, openly stated he doesn’t care about the poor, has millions stashed away in Swiss bank accounts, may very well have lied to the SEC and gave succor to a discredited and borderline racist conspiracy theory about where Obama was born, I voted against what I say I believe? Stone, meet glass house. The Republican idea that Christians have no business voting Democratic is why I called myself “Christian Dem in NC” when I first began blogging a decade ago. It was my way of saying that I was not about to let people tell me I couldn’t vote Democratic and be a believer.
I’ve heard this kind of talk ever since my college days, when I was tricked into joining a highly abusive charismatic campus ministry in my freshman year. They tried to turn me from a liberal Democrat into a Christian Coalition Republican. I didn’t listen to that siren song, but a good number of the other blacks in there did. One of them, a girl from Charleston, South Carolina, told me she voted for Strom Thurmond in what proved to be his last Senate campaign. That’s like me, a black man from North Carolina, voting for Jesse Helms.
Connelly then openly called for pastors to preach right-wing politics from the pulpit, and thinks that both pastors and individual believers ought to be stepping up more to run for office. That’s the same formula the religious right has used since the 1970s. But there’s one problem — it’s not working anymore. A significant percentage of believers simply don’t make as big a deal about social issues as they once did. More importantly, most young voters aren’t as stirred up by culture war talk as their parents and grandparents were — as I mentioned earlier this spring, most millennials and Generation Xers who identify as religious tend to be more progressive in their leanings.
From where I’m sitting, the GOP is putting blush and makeup on the same old strategy it’s used to attract social conservatives that it has for years. Apparently, they haven’t figured out that running on wedge issues isn’t enough to get you elected anymore.
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Edited by D.H.