GOP Not Sufficiently Evangelical?

J.C. Watts argues in an article for the Las Vegas Review Journal:

In 2006, 66 percent of the evangelical community did not vote. In 2004, 52 percent of evangelicals did not vote. In 2000, 75 percent did not vote.

I haven’t seen any stats on 2008 yet, but I’m not confident that McCain attracted a large segment of that vote, for whatever reason. He certainly stood for their values and principles more strongly than Obama, but couldn’t seem to close the sale.

When you consider there are approximately 66 million evangelicals — some place it as high as 90-100 million — GOP candidates win when this demographic votes.

Watts hardly gets to the crux of the problem. As I’ve reviewed, McCain selected Sarah Palin in order to secure the evangelical vote. His strategy worked to a large degree, but it carried the cost of alienating many independents, women, and nonsectarian Republicans. If selecting hard-core evangelical Palin isn’t enough to secure the evangelical vote, that proves only that nothing short of an outright theocrat could do so, but such a candidate would further alienate everyone else. The GOP can win on faith-based politics in the South, but the issue is a clear loser in other regions, such as Colorado.

But the category of “evangelical” is also difficult to pin down. I don’t know what sources Watts has in mind, but some fraction of every demographic doesn’t vote. Also, evangelicals do not all necessarily vote the same. For example, around a third of evangelicals think abortion should remain legal. So, by appealing to some evangelicals on faith-based politics, the GOP risks losing even some evangelicals, particularly those who recognize that keeping religion out of politics also means keeping politics out of religion.

If the GOP takes Watts’s advice and becomes more religious, the party will lose even worse, particularly on the coasts and in the Interior West.

3 thoughts on “GOP Not Sufficiently Evangelical?”

  1. A “fair bit” does not imply a majority. I have no doubt that Palin attracted many rural nonsectarian voters.

    However, a poll conducted a few days before the election showed Obama with a Colorado lead among independents 58 to 27 percent.

    Any more questions?

  2. The Las Vegas Review Journal has just printed my LTE responding to Watts:

    GOP recipe

    J.C. Watts is prescribing the exact wrong formula for the Republican Party’s problems (Review-Journal, Nov. 9).

    I’m an independent voter who supports strong national defense, fiscal responsibility and individual rights (including Second Amendment rights). But I did not vote Republican in 2008 precisely because of their alliance with the Religious Right.

    Americans still want small government. In my home “swing” state of Colorado, voters rejected three tax increases to provide more social programs “for the children.” But they also resoundingly rejected the anti-abortion Amendment 48 (which would declare a fertilized egg a legal “person”) and defeated pro-life conservative Republicans Marilyn Musgrave and Bob Schaffer.

    If Republicans reaffirmed the principles of limited government and separation of church and state, then I’d be happy to support them again. But if they stay in bed with the Religious Right, they will continue to alienate many independent voters and lose elections. And deservedly so.


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