With the new Barna report finding that born again voters are not supporting Republicans as they once did, a book like Randy Balmer’s God in the White House becomes all the more pertinent. On top of this observation I also want to say that an element of this reconfiguration of the political scene is the emerging movement. Things are changing friends. Those who predict are usually wrong; I’ll avoid predicting. But things are changing.
Before I get to Balmer, here is a paragraph from that Barna report:
In 1992, born again voters sided with Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush over Democratic challenger Bill Clinton by a 39% to 35% margin. In the 1996 election, born again voters again sided with the Republican candidate (Bob Dole) rather than the incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton by a 49% to 43% margin. In the 2000 election, the born again constituency gave Republican nominee George W. Bush a resounding 57% to 42% margin over Democratic challenger Al Gore. In 2004, the born again segment again sided with George W. Bush, giving him a lopsided 62% to 38% preference over Democratic hopeful John Kerry.
What about today? Barna: “The new Barna study shows that if the election were to be held today, 40% of all born again adults who are likely to vote in November would choose the Democratic candidate and just 29% would choose the Republican candidate.” 25% are undecided on this so the numbers could change … still something is shifting.
Why? What do you think are the major issues? (I’ll wait to give my views, if they are needed; I’m sure some of you think the same way I do on this one.)
Now to Balmer’s survey of Clinton and Bush.
Clinton walked forward at a Baptist church in 1955 because, as he puts it, “I was a sinner and wanted Jesus to save me” (134). Four years later his grandparents support of integrated education was affirmed by Billy Graham in a crusade. Billy’s support “had a profound impact on me” (134). For months afterwards he sent some of his allowance to Billy Graham. After his election to the Presidency, Clinton regularly attended church (usually Foundry Street United Methodist). Clinton’s relations with women gave the Republicans and conservative evangelicals fodder for criticism. Clinton maintained relationships with ministers throughout his Presidency, including Bill Hybels from Willow Creek and Tony Campolo and Gordon MacDonald, and Clinton welcomed blunt talk. Not all evangelicals were happy with those associated with Clinton and neither were they happy when the impeachments failed.
Bush. 5-to-4 Bush v. Gore decision. Bush was on the road to nowhere at 40 — so a cousin said of Bush’s younger years. In 1984 Bush was born again but it was a year later, at Kennebunkport, that Billy Graham got through to George W. Bush and he began to conquer his alcoholism. In his Presidential campaign, in Iowa, he said Jesus was his favorite philosopher. Balmer thinks the American public warmed to Bush’s story of conversion and redemption. Balmer thinks the sincerity of one’s faith matters most.
The (in)famous remarks of Robertson and Falwell; Bush followed those comments about the “axis of evil” and the focus on bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Balmer lays side by side Bush’s accusations against Saddam with the practice of torture by the US military (and I don’t believe enough of us care to think about this practice of torture).
Balmer brings up John Kerry … his Catholic faith; against abortion personally but not constitutionally.