Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Is the Romney Surge the Last Chance for Evangelicals and the "Reagan Coalition"?

Dee at Conservatism with Heart has a good post at her blog about why she if voting for Romney today:

Why I'm Voting for Mitt Romney on Super Tuesday
[...] I will be honest and admit (as most of you are aware) that Romney was not my first choice. Yet, as I look at what is at stake in this November's election I think it is crucial that we pick the most conservative candidate for our nominee. I am a pretty loyal Republican and I like, probably 80% of our guys. Why we are somehow stuck with several candidates that are a part of the 20% is very frustrating, to say the least.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that I have had HUGE issues with McCain for many years. The fact that he is now the possible nominee for our party is just beyond dis-heartening. It is like driving a stake through the heart of Reagan Conservatism. I cannot sit by silently while what so many of us have worked for is dismantled by someone as liberal as McCain. Therefore, it is expedient to support the one conservative left in this race, Mitt Romney. [...]

Dee is a conservative Christian, and I'm seeing more and more evangelicals rallying around Romney to oppose McCain. But will there be enough, and will it be in time? The polls keep showing McCain as far ahead. But the polls can be wrong; remember when the polls predicted that Hillery would lose New Hampshire? So I think it's more important to just vote, and see what the polls say later.

One of the links on Dee's post was about Huckabee as a spoiler. On that blog (Article VI Blog), I found an article by John Schroeder that was quite interesting, about the evangelical vote, conservatism and the Republican party, and how the evangelicals are about to lose their political voice, if they don't rally around Mitt Romney NOW. Here are some excerpts (bold emphasis mine):

What Is At Stake
[...] When I was first introduced the the idea via Hugh Hewitt and Robert Novak that Evangelicals would not vote for Romney because of his faith, one thought ran through my mind: “political suicide.” Only one thing could result from such a bias and that was the Evangelical political voice being cast to the side. I wanted to protect that voice. Thus my half of this blog was born.

As is almost always true in politics, the journey has been quite different than I expected, but I truly believe that the Evangelical political voice is now at stake. If Mitt Romney loses - far from a foregone conclusion - his religion will be but one of many factors in that event, and while important, I do not think it will have been determinative.

However, as the race has narrowed down to two and the spoiler, the conservative voice in the Republican party is at stake - everybody agrees on that, and Evangelicals are the energy, motivator, and banner carrier for that voice. Conservatives lose and Evangelicals are on the bench, if they are in the stadium at all. In other words, we stand on the precipice I feared from the beginning. The current electoral calculus is such that a vote for Mitt Romney is the only way to preserve that voice.


There is much discussion in this cycle by evangelicals of feeling like they are “taken for granted” by the Republican establishment. There is some truth to that, but there are two vitally important points I want to make.

The first point is - grow up. It is politics, not church. This is not about making friends and feeling good about yourself. It is about gathering enough support, meaning people, to your particular cause, concern, or issue. That is definitionally about “using” people. Once you have secured someone’s support, you have to move on to the next someone. Is that taking you for granted? In a way, it is, but no more so than your employer that fits you in a spot on the assembly line. And if you quit your job because you think your employer takes you for granted, all you really lose is a paycheck. Best have someplace else to go before you make that move, I don’t care how “hurt” you “feel.”

A brief personal aside on this point. Through the course of things it has been my privilege to meet Mitt Romney on multiple occasions. I have had extensive and personal conversations with some of his family. Over the years, I have met presidents of this country in intimate settings, and I have met presidents and potentates of many other nations. Almost all of these people have referred to me as their “friend.” When I was young, I thought that meant we were going to start hanging out and having beers together - yeah, right. But when Mitt Romney called me his friend, I knew that if time allowed, there might not be beer involved, but we could enjoy some conviviality. Simply put, the man is as genuine in his connection to the people he meets as the circumstances can possibly allow - more so than any individual of such position, and higher, that I have ever met. I can assure you, Evangelicals could never be “taken for granted” by Mitt Romney. They might get less attention than they think they deserve, but that is their problem, not his.

The second point is a far more important one. Party politics is how you get things done in this nation. In those rare instances where independents manage to get themselves elected, they are relegated to the role “the speech everyone sits through politely” or the “class clown” a la Jesse Ventura. Accomplishing things in government requires rounding up enough of the right people - yeah, it’s social networking. Political parties are the infrastructure necessary to build that network.

Political parties thrive on loyalty. If they cannot, at least from time-to-time, take you for granted, they have to move on to people and groups that they can depend on so that they can accomplish their goals. It is a simple exchange. You give the party your dependable loyalty and in return they give you the means necessary to make your voice heard.


As things have turned out, Evangelicals have not refused, so much, to vote for Mitt Romney because he is Mormon, they have instead chosen to vote for Mike Huckabee because he is “one of us.” How much a role suspicion and bias against Mormonism has played in that somewhat more positive-appearing choice is a determination that will ultimately be up to pollsters and psychologists in the years after the election to determine. And while it may not be “bigotry” it is identity politics, and they are as suicidal as pure bigotry.

No identity group is sufficiently large to carry a presidential election. A coalition is required. What Mike Huckabee has done is peel off one section of the traditional conservative coalition, Evangelicals, and claimed it for himself. With the coalition split, neither Evangelicals or the greater conservative coalition can win.

The presidential candidate for a party leads that party. That leader is going to pay attention to and drive the agenda of the coalition that got him there. Not only are Evangelicals not part of the coalition that has gotten John McCain this far, McCain has in the past loudly and actively found Evangelicals distasteful. [...]

He goes on to describe the consequences of evangelicals leaving the coalition, the consequences for both evangelicals and the conservative movement as a whole, and Huckabee's terrible role in bringing this about. Huck is promising evangelicals something he can't deliver, and following him will lead to political suicide.

It's a well thought out article, and worth reading the whole thing, I think there is a lot of wisdom in it.

I'm not an evangelical, nor are all their concerns my own. But I do acknowledge that they have been vital in the past for holding the "Reagan Coalition" together. If enough of them pull out of that coalition now, it will collapse, and a new coalition will form without them. John McCain's candidacy is just the first sign of things to come. If you are unhappy about it, you can thank Mike Huckabee and his followers for that. If it's going to be turned around, it needs to be done soon.

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