Who Are the Religious Right "Kingmakers" in the GOP?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 03:29:29 PM EST
Religion News Service has published a list of ten "religious conservatives" described as "kingmakers" in the GOP.  The article is interesting for at least two reasons: One is that it underscores the ongoing importance of the religious right in the Republican Party; and the other is that their list is at least as interesting for who is left out, as who is included. RNS can say that they merely "spotlighted" ten influential leaders without saying that these are necessarily the most influential, but there is also an implicit heirarchy when choices are made in this way.  For example, ten influential religious right leaders who are not on the list are Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Sun Myung Moon, Lou Sheldon,  Beverly LaHaye, Roy Moore, Frank Pavone, D. James Kennedy, Rick Scarborough, and Jerry Falwell.    

Check out the RNS list, and their reasoning, on the flip:

Broadcaster and psychologist James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family radio show attracts some 220 million listeners who tune in for his views on the merits - and failings - of various candidates.

· Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, who one observer said had "a network of home-schoolers that will do anything for him."

· Richard Land, the go-to political guru for the nation's 16 million Southern Baptists, who has been outspoken in declaring what is acceptable (Mormonism) and what is not (infidelity).

· Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, and a mother of four who set up a network of pastors and organizers in each of the state's 67 counties.

· Rod Parsley, pastor of the 14,000-member World Harvest Church in the battleground state of Ohio, who can use his network of pastors to help a candidate fine-tune his message to reach conservatives.

· Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, the most powerful Christian lobbying group in Washington whose e-mail alerts reach 200,000 people each day.

· Steve Scheffler, head of the 4,000-member Iowa Christian Alliance, the most active - and credible - religious group in the Hawkeye State.

· Tamara Scott, Iowa leader of Concerned Women for America, who has talked with nearly every GOP candidate and is willing to back a candidate who's "truly conservative," even if he's a longshot.

· Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and national radio host, whose blessing on Mitt Romney's campaign was a huge stamp of approval for the Mormon candidate.

· Don Wildmon, chairman of the influential Arlington Group and head of the American Family Association, pontificates about politics and society on the 185 radio stations that his group owns across 36 states.

Fred, why not compile your own ?

And, isn't 10 a bit slim ? Why not 20 ?

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 03:37:10 PM EST

I claim no special expertise on which religious right leaders can deliver the votes in key primary and caucus states, these days, which is what the RNS article seems to be using as their criteria.  

For now, I am content to just put this out for people to consider. I am not arguing with their list. Just making note of who they put in and who they didn't.

The religigious right is regrouping in the wake of the 06 elections; the dramatic decline of the Christian Coalition and the debacle of Ralph Reed in the Abramoff affair; as well as the aging of the founding generation of leaders. D James Kennedy has recently been in the hospital for example. I have not heard an update on his condition.

I think the RNS list is one indicator of the changes going on.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 04:31:55 PM EST

John Hagee is busy building an organizational machine to effect electoral outcomes : he's said so openly.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:06:12 AM EST

to show the importance of state groups. Maybe we should pay more attention to state leaders. I was more familiar with your list of who was left out than the actual list.

by Carlos on Fri Apr 20, 2007 at 04:59:33 PM EST
I don't know if GOP presidential candidates have been wooing Parsley, but they have been courting Hagee. There's clout and then there's perception of clout, but perception seems to be that Hagee's influential. So much so that McCain ate some crow to court Hagee, and Roy Blunt flew to Texas specifically to meet with the good pastor.

Dobson and Perkins dominated the FRC's "Voter Values Conference" last September pre-election pep rally ; there's no doubt they belong on the list.

But I wonder about the inclusion of Farris :  by that logic, why not put Pat Robertson on the list for his 150 Regent University graduates working in the Bush Administration ?  Farris may well deserve to be on the list, but he's far from the only leader on the Christian right who fields cadres of dedicated political operatives.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:19:34 AM EST

<<whose Focus on the Family radio show attracts some 220 million listeners>>

I've long been skeptical at best of the fantastical numbers of "Evangelical Christians" and "subscribers" and "listeners" fathomed up, seems to me, by the Wingers.  Particularly by those with ridiculous "media" platforms.

Anybody can quote any number of subscribers, etc. if not audited by independent sources such as the BPA for trade publication/media or SDRS or even Nielsen in order to determine advertising rates.

I'm amazed that advertising support for the likes of James Dobson even exists.

by Marcus on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 12:10:49 AM EST

Without minimizing the work religious conservatives have done to build up dedicated media networks, what basis is there for such claims of vast listenership ? Are any organizations scrutinizing such claims to try and reach empirical estimates ?

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:10:19 AM EST


I think the influence of Scarborough is being underestimated.  Scarborough is the angry face while Richard Land is the smiling face of Southern Baptist fundamentalism.

Scarborough is the most influential Dominionist organizer in Texas.  He's very popular and influential within the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.  Baptists are a sizeable group in Texas and Texas exerts disproportional influence on national politics.

Moderate, Mainstream Baptists like myself may lead the larger Baptist General Convention of Texas, but Scarborough still has a lot of fans in our churches and Land still exerts considerable influence.  

Scarborough wins by default when it comes to political influence.  Moderate Baptists are not organizing pastors to get-out-the-vote in secular political elections.  Land and Scarborough win by our conscientious adherence to the Baptist tradition of separation of church and state.

by Mainstream Baptist on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:17:37 AM EST

Scarborough is building an on-the-ground electoral network, as well as being active in the SBC, and although apparently not big in early GOP caucus and primary states, which seems to be the emphasis of the RNS article, is likely to be formidable in other areas.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 12:47:46 PM EST

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