Religion and the 2008 election: A conversation with Fred Barnes, Michael Medved and Paul Kengor
Currently, here at Grove City College, the Center for Vision and Values is hosting our annual conference. Titled, "Church and State: 2008 - A history of church-state relations and and a look at where the values voter will turn in 2008," the schedule is filled with scholarly papers regarding church-state relations with special emphasis on how these issues impact politics and policy.
Earlier this evening, I attended a panel discussion that was billed as an interview of the Beltway Boys (Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke) with Center Director, Paul Kengor as host. Unfortunately, Mort Kondracke could not attend due to some health concerns. Filling in ably was conservative talk show host, Michael Medved, who earlier in the day broadcast live from the atrium of our academic building, not far from my office.
In fact, it was Medved who provided some of the more newsworthy comments of the evening. For instance, he disclosed the rumor that Barack Obama is looking at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a running mate. Mayor Bloomberg has switched his party affiliation to Independent from Republican (which was a switch from an earlier Democratic affiliation). This "fusion ticket" might be quite appealing to the middle. Medved also predicted that Joe Lieberman, while a great friend of John McCain, would not take the Veep spot, even if offered.
Much of the conversation focused on how the religious vote might impact the election. Each candidate was examined in this regard. Specifically, Hillary Clinton is well known to occupy an Evangelical left position on most issues (which we have covered here in the past), McCain has Episcopal roots but has attended a Baptist church for quite awhile up to the present. Regarding social issues, all panelists agreed that McCain would chose conservative judges favorable to social and religious conservatives. This fact will help consolidate religious conservatives behind McCain. However, much conversation focused on Barack Obama's political problems with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Both Barnes and Medved believe that this issue will dog Obama into the general election should he be the Democratic nominee. Listening to a cursory review of Wright's actions and positions, I believe they are right. Obama has said his Christianity has been directly influenced by Rev. Wright. Obama is not unaware of his statements and activities. For instance, as Medved noted, Wright has lauded Louis Farrakhan and even traveled with him to meet with Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi when Gadhafi was engaged in terrorism. This is the mentor and church Obama chose to join just 4 years after the Libyan trip and then remained for 20 years, calling Rev. Wright his spiritual advisor. Medved predicted an Obama candidacy could move the Jewish vote toward the Republicans for the first time in decades.
For political junkies and novices alike, it was a intriguing evening provided by three prominent social conservatives.