Christian Right Expects Payback As Rove Tries To Backpedal Already
Several of us here have commented since the election on the challenge that Bush will now have in pleasing the Christian Right. And we have commented about whether or not these voters can really claim that they got Bush reelected. But the Sacramento Bee’s James Rosen does a top notch job in Sunday’s paper of showing not only that the Christian Right will make things difficult for Bush, but also that Rove may be signaling already a “use them and lose them” mentality so prevalent in Bush’s career. Rosen goes a step further and does a nice job throwing some cold water on the notion that the moral values voters were really as significant a factor this year as the early conventional wisdom made them out to be.
"Now that values voters have delivered for George Bush, he must deliver for their values," said D. James Kennedy, an influential Fort Lauderdale, Fla., broadcast evangelist whose Sunday services are watched and heard by millions of Christians around the country. "The defense of innocent unborn human life, the protection of marriage, and the nomination and confirmation of federal judges who will interpret the Constitution, not make law from the bench, must be first priorities come January."
Bush cited none of those priorities in outlining his second-term focus two days after the election. Instead, he talked about overhauling the tax code, reforming Social Security, boosting the economy, improving schools, limiting medical liability, fighting terrorism, fighting AIDS and tackling international poverty.
Asked about Christian voters in the election, Bush promised to be president for all Americans, pointedly including those who "choose not to worship."
"I will be your president regardless of your faith," he said. "No president should ever try to impose religion on our society."
Bush's ecumenical caution didn't sit well with some evangelicals. "The president could have paused to thank all those good people who poured in and gave him power again," James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, told U.S. News & World Report. "The GOP has been given four years to deliver on marriage and life and family, and if they fumble it ... (we'll) stay home next time."
Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist, devised the winning campaign strategy to identify conservative Christians who didn't vote in 2000 and persuade them to cast ballots this year. Within days of his boss's triumph, Rove appeared reluctant to give them too much credit.
"This was a broad, grass-roots-oriented victory in which the president made a compelling case to the American people, and they responded well," Rove said. "We're in the debt of the American people. Victory has many fathers, and the normal procedure after an election is that everybody claims responsibility for the victory. That's fine - that's the way it works."
The problem for Rove and Bush is that the Christian Right has been led to believe by this White House that they are the reason Bush was elected this year. When you go into churches and make appeals for election based on morality, and then walk away from actively pushing those issues, you have created a chasm of trust for the GOP that will be very difficult to overcome any time soon. As such, any attempt by Rove to walk away from actively pushing their issues will lead to fractures within the GOP.
Again, the best thing the Democrats can do while Rove deals with the Genie he has let out of the bottle is to build alliances with moderates in both parties, point out the extremism of those on the Christian Right and the GOP they now control, and then sit back and watch Rove backpedal for his life.