The Kingmaker’s New Subject
Pat Robertson's support for Giuliani surprised many. It should not have.
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Robertson's public endorsement of Giuliani last week surprised many. It should not have. His predisposition has always been to influence Republican politics from the inside. He has doubtlessly received assurances from Giuliani on the appointment of conservative judges and is calculating he can maintain influence within a Giuliani administration. But Robertson's endorsement of a pro-choice candidate has exposed deep political fault lines within religious conservatism. Add to this Paul Weyrich's endorsement of Mitt Romney, and Sam Brownback's support for McCain, and religious conservatives are fragmented as never before.
One effect has been to deprive former Arkansas governor (and former pastor) Mike Huckabee of support. He is the natural candidate of religious conservatives—strongly pro-life, pro-family, but also with a populist economic message. Huckabee is a candidate with Bill Clinton-like political skills, and he has fared well in straw polls. But religious-right leaders have calculated that Huckabee is not electable. Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani particularly irked him. "Our Web site went nuts with people saying they will never give money to Robertson again," Huckabee told me. "There is a disconnect," he said, "between past generational leaders in Christian conservatism and their own followers."
The use of the word "past" is purposeful and accurate. Leaders such as Robertson mainly exercise broad influence in the imagination of liberals. Evangelicals, particularly younger evangelicals, are undergoing a shift in attitudes. Many have little interest in the self-destructive purity of the prophet or the raw pragmatism of the kingmaker. They remain culturally conservative, but uncomfortable with a harshly judgmental tone in their politics. They find the model of the religious right too narrow and are increasingly motivated by a broader range of social concerns, from disease in Africa, to the environment, to racial reconciliation. And they want to be a witness to these values instead of a tool in the power games of others.
A recent article in The New York Times Magazine termed this trend "the evangelical crackup." But perhaps it is just maturity and a renewed appreciation of the way social change has taken place in the past. "The Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next," argued C. S. Lewis. "The apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished slave trade, all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world, that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."
The rest of this great Newsweek article by Michael Gerson
Huckabee is the Candidate for Change; not just for the Rupublican Party, but also, the Christian Conservative Movement, and the Nation
The Kingmaker’s New Subject