The conservative Right matures

Tue, 03/13/2007 - 4:07pm
By: The Citizen


Conservative Evangelical Christian voters have come a long way in a short time. From their nearly unanimous condemnation of Bill Clinton for his extramarital affairs, a growing number of these “pro-family” voters appear ready to accept several Republican presidential candidates who do not share their ideal of marriage and faith.

Among those seriously under consideration by these church-going folks is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been married three times and who had an affair with the woman now his wife when he was married to wife number two.

The second wife, Donna Hanover, once recorded a political commercial for Giuliani, touting his virtues as a husband. She called him “honest and very kind” and “this is the kind of man I wanted to be the father of my children” and “Rudy is such a great Dad.” It’s on YouTube. In recent days we’ve learned from his son Andrew that he and his father are estranged, but that they’re working on it. Andrew says he got his values from his mother.

Another of the thrice-married is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, last week, trod the Damascus Road to Colorado Springs. On the syndicated radio program of psychologist James Dobson, Gingrich confessed that he had an extramarital affair with the woman to whom he is now married while he was married to his second wife. Gingrich acknowledged not living up to his own standards, or God’s.

A third Republican presidential candidate is Sen. John McCain, who has been married twice. He is disliked by many social conservatives more for his support of “campaign finance reform,” which they regard as an attempt to limit their speech, his work on immigration with Ted Kennedy and past remarks that some evangelical leaders are “agents of intolerance.”

Mitt Romney has the right social conservative views, fairly recently bringing them into conformity with their own, but to some conservative evangelicals he has the “wrong” religion.

Romney, a Mormon, is the poster boy for family values: one wife, handsome children, and no apparent personal skeletons in his closet, but some, not all, evangelicals can’t get over the Mormon belief that Jesus once visited America. They also reject the “Book of Mormon,” which they believe tells “another gospel.”

That substantial numbers of conservative evangelical voters are even considering these candidates as presidential prospects is a sign of their political maturation and of their more pragmatic view of what can be expected from politics and politicians.

It is also evidence that many of them are awakening to at least two other realities — (1) they are not electing a church deacon; and (2) government has limited power to rebuild a crumbling social construct.

The Census Bureau recently noted that only 23.7 percent of the U.S. population fit the ‘50s stereotype of heterosexual married couples with children. Even in the “golden age” of the ‘50s, the figure was just under 50 percent.

Until this election cycle, most social conservatives supported candidates and policies based on the married with children “ideal” family model. It may be the ideal, but it is no longer widely practiced, including by many conservative evangelicals.

Researchers have found many conservative Christians live in states where divorce rates are highest. These states overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriage. Too bad they don’t do a better job supporting opposite-sex marriage in which they claim to believe.

No politician can “fix” broken heterosexual marriages. If they could, some of those mentioned above would have fixed their own. The crumbling “traditional” family is the result of many social and cultural factors. The solution, like the fault, lies neither with government, nor with politicians.

While “character issues” can overlap with other concerns when considering for whom to vote, conservative evangelicals are beginning to see them as less important than who can meet the multiple challenges faced by the nation.

Put it this way: if you are about to have major surgery and your only choice was a church-going doctor with a high mortality rate, or an agnostic with a high success record, which would it be?

I’d choose the agnostic.

Conservative evangelicals have grown up. But they still can’t stand Hillary Clinton, though she’s only been married once and is a Methodist. Jimmy Carter, also once married, only lusted in his heart. It makes one nostalgic for the “good old days.”

[Email Cal Thomas at] ©2007 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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Submitted by medra42 on Sun, 03/18/2007 - 8:59am.

Who cares what percentage of what is where and how? Popular never means correct.

As for the "maturity" of the conservative right, the point of the article was missed by all the statistics wonks. It is that the conservative right has routinely presented an image of incorruptability in personal life, either by ignoring or supressing certain scandals, along with legislation designed to enforce moral imperatives upon the populace. But, as more and more citizens disassociate with this attitude, and as some conservatives find the idea of legislating morality problematic, the conservative right has no choice but to accept their faults, and throttle back their attempts at fascism.

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Submitted by christi on Wed, 03/14/2007 - 9:01am.

Oh, we dumb, immature, behind-the-times conservatives. The only reason we support the likes of Giuliani is because there is no one better running yet. What, do you expect us not to vote at all and let the likes of Hillary or Obama get elected? At least a conservative baby killer is better than a liberal one. We'll take what we can get.

Submitted by donloper on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 11:21pm.

What I'm hearing in this article is that when people do what you think they should it's "mature" and when they do something you don't agree with they need to "grow up."

I guess I'm the same way in that I consider accurate reporting of statistics to be mature behavior for a journalist. To say that "only 23.7 percent of the U.S. population fit the ‘50s stereotype of heterosexual married couples with children" is misleading because it gives the impression that married couples with children are in the minority. In fact, the 2000 census shows that 52% of households are made up of married couples. Another 26% are made up of people living alone. 12% are single mothers, 4% are single fathers, and 6% are people living together who are not married, and that doesn't necessarily imply they are a family, they could be roommates with no sexual relationship.

Seems to me a lot of Americans can still relate to Romney's family situation. As for why they are even considering Giuliani and McCain, I'd say wait and see. Most evangelicals don't even know who Romney is...yet.

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Submitted by Basmati on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 11:48pm.

Don, you're putting me in the disgusting position of having to back up the excreable Cal Thomas.

Cancer-on-America Cal was talking "apples" when he said that 23.7 percent of the US population consists of households made up of a hetero couple with children.

You, on the other hand, were talking "oranges" when you noted that 52% of all hetero households were married. You left out the children part.

In any event, you both left out the 2005 update to the 2000 census: Married couples have dropped from 52% to 49%, and unmarried couples have risen from 6% to 9% in just 5 short years.

Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 4:17pm.

Cal Thomas (Reader's Digest version)

Taliban conservatives are willing to overlook flaws in "electable" candidates (Reagan's divorce, Dubya's cocaine addiction) in order to look at the 'big picture', i.e. getting a president elected who will nominate activist judges who will create a "Christianist" America by judicial fiat that they could never hope to accomplish via the traditional American representative democracy route.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 5:29pm.

Yes, they don't care about the candidates character. But they must rant and rave about it to get some votes.

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