Senator McCain‘s Vice Presidential selection of Alaskan Governer Sarah Palin really has the talking heads, pundits and bloggers going at it today. The focus has been on various issues such as her experience and ability to win over Clinton women.
With all the talking and speculating going on there is one fact we can all agree on: no one really knows enough about Governor Palin to make any conclusive, rational observations. We can only speculate and out of this discourse look for and allow the facts about who she is and what she has done in public life surface.
One area that is receiving little attention on the national news and cable talk shows is her association with the Religious Right. National pundits and talking heads, from their coastal beachheads, usually miss certain currents and facts related to faith that the mass of the nation can be acutely aware. I think this issue is just such the case. Here’s why:
David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) says “I am told that when conservative leaders heard the news this morning at a meeting at the Council for National Policy, one attendee told me that there is ‘nothing but elation. People are giddy. They are energized and they now believe that in fact this campaign has the ability to win this election.’”
Mat Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel, says, “Absolutely brilliant choice. John McCain could not have chosen a better vice-presidential nominee than Gov. Palin. She is attractive, articulate, conservative, pro-family, pro-life, and pro-marriage. John McCain hit this one out of the ballpark.”
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council says, “Senator McCain made an outstanding pick from the choices that were on the table. Sarah Palin clearly addresses the issues so many conservatives are concerned about. It balances out the ticket.”
And prior to the public announcement, on Monday, August 11, CBSNews.com asked Dr. Rev. Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention who McCain should pick and he said, “Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she’s a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child… She’s strongly pro-life. She’s a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she’s a woman… I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells…”
Now that’s a lot of bell ringing within the Religious Right.
O, I must also note that Gov. Palin is listed as an invitee to this year’s “Values Summit” of Religious Right faithful.
Governor Palin seems like a remarkable person. She appears to be firmly planted in nourishing and experiencing life within a strong and good family and this is a substantial foundation to admire and applaud for this writer.
My point is that it seems likely that Governor Palin’s choice had as much to do with consolidating and intensifying the support from the Religious Right base as it did anything else. Quite Roveian, right? Yep. Energize and intensify the base. Make it whistle and push it to the polls on Election day. Then shave off swing voters until you are over the top.
Senator McCain really has no where to turn but to the old strategies of Republican electoral politics. He’s retreating to this base of voters out of default, there’s no where else to go even if the Religious Right is waning in power as more and more Evangelicals embrace the larger plate of values such as poverty and climate change and look to the Democratic Party for economic policies that support stronger families. The better known leaders of the Religious Right are gone or sidelined as well. It’s not your grandfather’s Religious Right, that’s for sure. But, its all McCain has.
The real play; the real battlefield will be with those millions of Evangelicals and Catholics who are swing voters, who are honestly considering both tickets and have yet to make a choice. Can Governor Palin help bring these voters to the Republican side? That remains to be seen. It won’t be a set of swing voters the Republicans have to themselves this election cycle. The Democrats are there, too, having conversations, reaching out, sharing their message and story and, by many accounts, making the inroads needed for Election Day.
Here’s the big question: Can the candidate of the Religious Right win Clinton voters? Now, that’s an interesting challenge. With total disclosure, I was there, with Senator Clinton, during the primaries. And I don’t think a Religious Right candidate can win these voters. The Religious Right kind of speaks only to itself these days and they are too polarizing and play with too narrow a set of issues.
It’s important for people to know Governor Palin, including the adherence to and support from the Religious Right that is emerging in various statements and narratives during this first day of being the Republican Vice Presidential nominee.
It seems impossible to discuss Governor Palin’s ability to attract Clinton voters or any voters without full knowledge of her ties to the Religious Right.