Monday, April 7, 2008

John McCain: The Last Man Standing

“Divided We Stand,” the bold headline in World (April 5/12: pp. 34-36), introduces an article about the religious right in presidential politics, which concludes:

"Unable to unite behind a GOP candidate, religious right leaders face a wilderness road to the White House."

Why did the religious right fall into disarray? Abraham Lincoln understood the Scriptural answer to the question: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Divided Leadership

The religious right no longer has a solid core of seasoned leaders who can bring disparate factions together. In the heyday of Ronald Reagan a few leaders stood out, such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, who could rally the religious right in presidential races. For various reasons these leaders no longer occupy center stage in presidential politics. Many other leaders have come on the scene, but they lack the political cache to unify the movement. In some respects the religious right now has too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

A Fractured Political Movement

Political movements in America fracture over time, becoming victims of their own success, such as labor, civil rights, and veterans. The religious right is no different. Sometimes movements take their success for granted and fail to work in the trenches as they once did. Also as they mature new issues and leaders emerge which may distract the movement from its founding motivations. For example, among evangelical Christians, new issues and ideas have emerged, such as those espoused by Rick Warren and others, which were not even on the drawing board at the time of the religious right’s emergence on the scene of American presidential politics.

John McCain: The Last Man Standing

Richard Nixon understood that the center of gravity of political power in America is in the center of a bell curve. That’s where most Americans are, neither far left nor far right. But Nixon also understood that the centers of gravity of power in the Democratic and Republican Parties are to the far left and far right, respectively, which prompted him to say that for a Republican to become president, he must tack hard right to get the nomination and then hard left to get back to the center and win in November.

In 2008 several Republicans competed for the support of the far right, leaving only one candidate, John McCain, competing for Republicans just slightly to the right of center. The religious right failed to unify around one candidate on the far right, thereby leaving John McCain as the last man standing.

But is all lost for the religious right? No, not at all.

John McCain, like Ronald Reagan before him, must have the overwhelming and enthusiastic support of the religious right to win in November. That support includes a broad spectrum of evangelical Christians, conservative Catholics, and Jews. Ronald Reagan, for example, combined the support of conservative Catholics in the north and evangelicals in the south along with significant, though not majority, support from Jews. As Reagan before him, McCain must sweep the south and win several northern and Rocky Mountain States.

That’s the key to the White House Door for John McCain. And for that reason the religious right is in a strong bargaining position with John McCain.

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1 comment:

sdbranum said...

A blast from the past caught my ear, when I heard Dr. Charles Dunn introduced to provide commentary for CBN News. Was this the same Dr. Dunn who was Dean of the Political Science Department at Clemson University and Deacon of the church I attended, during my college years so long ago? I soon discovered it truly was, and though I am now entering my second half century on this Earth, and showing it, he looks amazingly the same to my eyes! Bravo Dr. Dunn. For your information, I still have my (signed) copy of "The Upstream Christian in a Downstream World". You should rightfully enjoy satisfaction and pleasure in knowing you have been instrumental in changing my life, as well as many others, no doubt.
In Christ,
Steve Branum
Class of '85

Note: The link from CBN’s site is not properly set up, though I managed to get here anyway.