Midterm Election 2006: Pundit Watch
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 12:04:07 AM EST
Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates (author info) Back in October, I predicted that after the election, some pundits would wrongly predict the demise of the Christian Right. That was an easy call, but I wasn't expecting one of the analysts drinking the Kool Aid of inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party punditry would be the usually astute Jonathan Alter. Alter drank deep....not only declaring that the election left the "theocons dispirited" and the "Neocons...discredited," but also that the vote signaled "the end of the conserative tide that began rising 40 years ago." According to Alter, the "Conservative Era is over." Mark J. Rozell, an astute observer of the Christian Right, had a better take in an article titled: "What Christian Right?" .
First, the Christian right is here to stay. In a decade of studying and writing about it, I have spoken to many reporters, and when they don’t want to know why the movement is on the verge of extinction they want to know why it is succeeding in its plan to take over the GOP or the nation. Both story lines are exaggerations.

Surveys show that the core constituency of the movement has remained rather steady since the late 1970s, even as its policy fortunes rise or fall with changes in government leadership and public opinion.

Second, analyses of the Christian right should be focused less on national figures and organizations and more on grassroots activism, above all in the South. News of the Christian right has for years gravitated to the big-name personalities who are media savvy, controversial, or both. Yet the real impact of the movement lies with its activist base, not with the decline of the national Christian Coalition or Ralph Reed’s evolution from movement to party leader.

Of course, Rozell wrote this in 2003. Impressive. Not much has changed. According to Rozell:

FOX exit polls in 2002 found that 16 percent of the electorate identified themselves as members of the “conservative Christian political movement,” a result compatible with exit polling data ever since such a question has been posed to voters. The strength of the movement is disproportionately concentrated in the states of the old Confederacy.

The demise of the Moral Majority was the end not of a large social movement but merely of one visible organization that was quickly replaced by another. No more do the current troubles of the national Christian Coalition signal the end to social conservative politics in the United States.

And we saw in September that a new Christian Right coalition was formed to replace the Christian Coalition.

Same old, same old. The Christian Right and the broader voter pool of White Christian evangelicals voted pretty much the same as they did in 2004, and 2002, and 2000. There were some differences, and they were small yet significant. And for some, they were predictable. Polling in October showed Christian Right disatisfaction with the Republican Party. "Evangelicals and the GOP: An Update Strongly Republican Group Not Immune to Party's Troubles" that "evangelicals, like other voters, have been affected by the broader wave of voter disillusionment with President Bush and the Republican Party. Evangelicals remain the party's most supportive group, but at levels significantly diminished from where they were in the 2002 and 2004 elections." Good call. But it is complicated.

Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center claimed in The Real Message of the Midterms" that:

[T]here are few signs that the Republican base deserted the party. Christian conservatives, and conservatives generally, voted as Republican as they did in '02. Nor did white evangelical Protestants defect to the Democrats in any substantial number, as a number of post-election news stories have suggested. True, somewhat fewer white evangelical Protestants voted for Republican Congressional candidates than in 2004, when Bush was at the top of the ticket, but white evangelical protestant backing of G.O.P. candidates was just as great in 2006 as it was four years ago, when the Republicans won the popular vote by a sizable margin.

Well, maybe, but Steven Waldman on BeliefNet wrote "Evangelicals Sour on Politics," where he claimed there was a shift:

Keep in mind, this is not “religious right” voters who shifted. It’s moderate and liberal evangelicals who were concerned about the war and corruption. They’re also conservative on gay marriage and abortion but were more worried about these other issues.

So for me, the bottom line is that there was indeed a meaningful shift among churchgoing Christians toward the Democrats and that there is a real dissatisfaction among many moderate evangelicals with the Republican Party. But because it was triggered by two issues – Iraq and corruption – that cant be counted on in 2008, the Democrats will have to take some fairly dramatic steps to solidify these temporary gains.

What I find interesting is the evidence that there is a block of White Protestant evangelical voters who are swing voters, and they can be teased out by looking at the shift in the "God Gap" from election to election. Ideally, in the chart below, the 2000 figures would be the House Congressional vote, but I just couldn't find them in time for this blog (and I looked!). Between 2002 and 2004 there was a + 4% shift in the God Gap. Between 2004 and 2006 there was a - 7% shift in the God Gap. Some analysts dismiss these numbers as too small to matter, but I disagree, especially given the importance of voting shifts in specific states that help swing national elections.

Some Interesting God Gap Shifts



2000
Republican:
Bush

2000
Democrat:
Gore
2002
Republican:
Congress
2002
Democrat:
Congress
2004
Republican:
Congress
2004
Democrat:
Congress
2006
Republican:
Congress
2006
Democrat:
Congress
White Protestant Evangelicals

68%

30%

68%

23%

74%

25%

70%

28%
                 
God Gap:
Gap=38%
Gap=45%
Gap=49%
Gap=42%
 
 
Shift= + 7%
Shift= + 4%
Shift= - 7%
 

In a follow up survey, BeliefNet found that there were several reasons for Christian evangelical disatisfaction in 2006 with Republican leadership:

One major reason was Iraq. More evangelicals (22.5 percent) said the war was the most important issue, of greater gravity even than abortion (16 percent) and homosexuality (10.7 percent). And even among this conservative group, 74.7 percent said they did not support "President Bush’s approach to Iraq."

Among those evangelicals who specifically said their opinions of Republicans had worsened, 37.6 percent cited the war as the biggest issue. The other big issue was "corruption." 18.2 percent cited that as the issue that mattered to them most, more than 3 times as many who cited abortion or homosexuality [Steven Waldman, "Evangelicals Sour on Politics," On Belief, BeliefNet,
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/203/story_20371_1.html

The votes of the swing shift White Protestant evangelical voters are up for grabs in 2008. There is no reason they might not swing back to Republicans if the Democrats fail to find a message that resonates with White Protestant evangelical voters.

 

Sources

Jonathan Alter, "Out of the Gloom, A Silver Lining," Newsweek, November 20, 2006, p. 67; http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15674305/site/newsweek/.

Chip Berlet, "The Christian Right, Mid-term Elections, & Social Movements," http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/10/2/163827/258.

Chip Berlet, "New Front in the Culture War: Gay Rights Sacrificed on the Altar of the Mid-Term Elections,", http://www.talk2action.org/story/2006/9/25/191346/717.

, "Evangelicals and the GOP: An UpdateStrongly Republican Group Not Immune to Party's Troubles," Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, October 18, 2006, http://pewresearch.org/obdeck/?ObDeckID=78.

, " The Real Message of the Midterms," Pew Research Center, November 14, 2006, http://pewresearch.org/obdeck/?ObDeckID=91.

Mark J. Rozell, "What Christian Right?" Religion in the News, Spring 2003, Vol. 6, No. 1, http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol6No1/What%20Christian%20Right.htm.

Steven Waldman, "Evangelicals Sour on Politics," On Belief, BeliefNet, http://www.beliefnet.com/story/203/story_20371_1.html


Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog




Display:
The strength of the movement is disproportionately concentrated in the states of the old Confederacy.

No matter how they dress it up in faux theology and "social issues," can we admit this is about racism, sexism, and the reluctance of the good ol' white boys to give up their privileged status and control? Is there any hope of change without labeling the problems accurately and addressing them directly?

by Psyche on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 02:40:44 PM EST

OK, It's all about race, gender, and class; and the reluctance to give up power and privilege. But there are also significant number of White women who buy into the frame.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:27:59 PM EST
Parent
Suspect the racism (and other authoritarian leanings) are enough to keep them loyal. They're still fighting the Civil War - and civil rights - and school desegregation. Strange thing, I know a kid in the North (PA) who went to a "Christian" school for a couple of years. He came out with a bizarre understanding of the Civil War and slavery and with considerable sympathy for the Confederacy. Revisionist history seems to spread along with the religion.

by Psyche on Wed Nov 29, 2006 at 12:23:02 AM EST
Parent




WWW Talk To Action


Censorship Challenge: Texas Pastor Seeks Restrictions On `Dangerous' Library Books
Back in the 1990s, some Religious Right activists in Virginia got the bright idea to begin attacking America's public libraries. The idea was to......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Suspended St. Louis County Officer Dan Page Made Rounds on Rightwing Radio Shows
St. Louis Police Officer Dan Page drew national attention when he shoved CNN's Don Lemon during a broadcast of the protests in Ferguson, and......
By Rachel Tabachnick (1 comment)
Cop Who Shoved CNN Host Don Lemon Lassoed in Another Conspiracy Rodeo
Rachel Tabachnick broke an important story this evening showing that the rant by Officer Dan Page that got him suspended from the St.Louis County......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Exile Excitement: Some Fundamentalists Seek Escape From Decadent Society
OK, now we've done it. Those of us who advocate things like separation of church and state, secular government, LGBT rights and self-determination when......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Controversy Over White Nationalist GOP Candidate Still White Hot
The 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president Michael Peroutka's current race for County Council in Maryland -- as a Republican -- it is still......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Race, Republicans and the Religious Right
The Republicans have a race problem, and by this I don't just mean that racial minorities don't much vote for them, particularly in the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Rev. William Barber on Religious/Political Inclusiveness
A few weeks ago, I posted about the extraordinary oration of Rev. William Barber at Netroots Nation. (A transcript of the speech is now......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Short Takes
Salon.com  Columnist Thomas Frank considers how snark can cut more than one way. What does it mean when being "on the left" is defined......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
David Brat as a "Libertarian Catholic" is an Oxymoron
David Brat, the Tea Party Young Turk who recently shocked the GOP establishment with his primary win over Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is reportedly,......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Kountze Cheerleaders Take on the Courts
The entire town of Kountze, Texas is in a frenzy with business banners, suv window paintings and legal action supporting their local cheerleaders. The......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
A Talk to Action Anthology on Neo-Confederacy, Nullification and Secession (Updated)
A number of posts over the past year have addressed the growing Neo-Confederate movement, the advocacy of nullification of federal laws, and even the......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Good Incentives Gone Awry: Kentucky Officials Are Adamant About Propping Up The 'Ark Park'
I've lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs since 1986, so when it comes to museums, I am spoiled. Just a short subway ride away......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
White Hot Controversy for a White Nationalist GOP Candidate
The controversy over Michael Peroutka's theocratic, white nationalist candidacy for county council, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland -- has gotten white hot after he......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Not Just Whistling 'Dixie': Peroutka Stands Up for Southern Secession - UPDATED x2!
Cross-posted from The Huffington Post. Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Council, stood up for secession and the white nationalist League......
By jhutson (1 comment)
Short Takes
Pando Daily:  Journalist Mark Ames has published a must-read story about how Reason,the flagship magazine of libertarianism, published a special issue in 1976 promoting......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)

Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (1 comment)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.