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"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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What To Do About Evangelicals?

Posted by: John Schroeder at 07:35 am, November 27th 2012     —    2 Comments »

Evangelical political leader Ralph Reed took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal yesterday to plead for the political life of Evangelicals.

Republicans have now lost four of the six presidential elections since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. A season of soul-searching will be healthy, and it is needed to retool and rebrand the party.

Yet despite the stinging defeat and a post-electoral narrative that suggests otherwise, Republicans need not abandon their principles. They must resist the temptation to form a circular firing squad, especially one with evangelicals and their social-conservative allies in the middle.


Conservative evangelicals are arguably the largest single constituency in the electorate. According to a postelection survey by Public Opinion Strategies, self-identified conservative evangelicals made up 27% of voters in 2012, voting 80% for Mitt Romney compared with 19% for Barack Obama. This represented a net swing of 14 points toward the GOP ticket since 2008 and made up 48% of the entire Romney vote. Mr. Romney, a lifelong Mormon, actually received more evangelical votes than George W. Bush did in 2004.

Reed has a point here, but then again, he is missing and ignoring some important ones as well.  The real problem I have with the piece is that Reed gets into identity politics of all sorts – religious, racial and otherwise.  He is combating an argument that has been put forth by the libs that the GOP and Evangelicals by extension are a rich white man’s club.  Having that argument by those rules is playing into the hands of the libs and Dems.

There are two fundamental ways to look at things.  One way, the Democrat way, is that the nation is a coalition of different identity groups struggling over which group gets the biggest slice of the pie.  The other way, the Republican way, is that the nation is a land of opportunity in which anyone can succeed, regardless of identity, if they are willing to work hard and be decent people of good character.

Instapundit points to a James Taranto piece in which Taranto points out just how far Dems are willing to go with identity politics.  It is a losing game.

One way of holding together such a disparate coalition is by delivering prosperity, so that everyone can feel he’s doing well. Failing that, another way is by identifying a common adversary–such as the “white male.” During Obama’s first term, the demonization of the “white male” was common among left-liberal commentators, especially MSNBC types. The Post has now lent its considerably more mainstream institutional voice to this form of bigotry.


The danger for the country is that a racially polarized electorate will produce a hostile, balkanized culture. In 2008 Obama held out the hope of a postracial America. His re-election raises the possibility of a most-racial America.

As the Dems push this discussion, look for the data we analyzed yesterday to be brought to the fore to support the Dem argument.

Evangelicals need to be bigger than this, we do not need to sink into it.  We have done so for the last two cycles and look where it has gotten us.  Much of the blame for this belongs with Evangelical leadership that has branded Evangelicalism as a marketing concept rather than embrace it as a religious movement.  Much of the blame for this belongs to pastors that value affiliation over character and seek to build a congregation, but not a Christian.

The place where Republicans need to hold their core is precisely the one that Taranto names:

The reason for the absence of a “Whites” category is that white identity politics is all but nonexistent in America today.

Until the last two cycles the same could really be said for Evangelicals.  Until the last two cycles Evangelicals cared about the issues, not the identity.  Now Reed must distinguish between Evangelicals and social conservatives, proving the point that Taranto made:

The trouble with a diverse coalition based on ethnic or racial identity is that solidarity within each group can easily produce conflicts among the groups.

And hence we, at a minimum, lose elections.  All the debate about “authenticity” and who is an is not a Christian is this sort of label fight in spades.  And now they are trying to draw us into it on an even larger scale with questions of race.

What do we do about Evangelicals?  Nothing.  Evangelicals need to quit worrying about who is and is not an Evangelical.


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