Is President Bush 'Keeping Faith' With Evangelicals?
- Rebekah Montgomery Contributing Writer
- 2005 4 Feb
Political candidates are notorious for promising everybody anything and everything in exchange for their vote. In many ways, the 2004 Presidential campaign was no exception. Each candidate’s promises were clearly tailored to suit specific constituencies. But what a candidate promises and what an elected official does can be two different things.
This month, President Bush had two major speeches — his inaugural speech and the State of the Union address — to present his second-term philosophy and agenda to the American people and the world. Evangelical Christians should have been listening to what he said in these speeches. And what he didn’t say.
Did President Bush waffle on moral issues waffle? Did he pledge to spend his political capital on revamping Social Security and achieving democracy in the Middle East for the sake of his legacy? Do the moral issues that brought evangelicals to the polls in record numbers have any priority in his second term?
Attracting conservative Christian voters with issues that matter was certainly on the mind of Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser. During the campaign, Rove frequently cited polling data indicating that the four million conservative Christian voters who stayed home from the polls in the 2000 presidential election almost kept President Bush out of the White House. Knowing that the Bush-Kerry race would be close, Rove was cozy with conservative Christian political leaders.
And the strategy worked. Following the 2004 Presidential election, some members of the DNC, mainline news media analysts, and a wide variety of lobby groups were quick to credit — or blame — high evangelical turnout for George W. Bush’s re-election.
Post election opinion polls backed them up: While the results vary by a few percentage points from poll to poll, all show that conservative evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Bush. Their stated reason: moral issues, i.e. his stance on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the appointment of judges.
So what is the most important piece of legislation that Bush can introduce to keep faith with the conservative evangelical Christians who elected him? This question was put to several top conservative thinkers and opinion shapers. Their answers differed, but the bottom line was the same: Bush will have to take leadership on moral issues or the Republican Party may seriously disenfranchise evangelical supporters.
When the question was posed to syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, he said: “The naming of Federal judges, more than any single piece of legislation, is the key to the president keeping faith with Evangelicals. The Supreme Court, especially, must be reshaped to be comprised of Justices who will not legislate from the bench and will read and interpret the Constitution the way the Founders wrote it and intended it.”
Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum (a national volunteer organization) agreed. “George W. Bush repeatedly said while campaigning in 2004, ‘We will not stand for judges who undermine democracy by legislating from the bench and try to remake the culture of America by court order,’" said Schlafly. “Of course, we expect him to appoint constitutionalist judges to fill vacancies. But that's not enough. He must support legislation to limit the jurisdiction of federal judges over the definition of marriage and over the acknowledgment of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Ten Commandments. We must curtail the out-of-control supremacist judges who are locked into the federal judiciary with life tenure.”
While Bush has not yet had the opportunity to appoint any new Supreme Court Justices, that day is surely coming. Several sitting Justices are approaching retirement and at least one is in ill health. To this end, concerned evangelicals need to pray that Bush will find qualified, wise men and women to sit on the bench and remind him that we’re watching.
Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, sees another issue as the one the President needs to move to the fore. “There are several important legislative issues which evangelical Christians want the president to support,” said LaRue. “I think the overwhelming passage of 11 state amendments to protect marriage sends a strong signal that Christians and others expect the president to keep his promise and lead the national effort to pass a federal amendment that protects the institution of marriage.”
While Bush said he would support a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, whether or not he will initiate such legislation is the real question. Supporting legislation and initiating it are very different and some commentators believe that the Republican Party, with its eye on the election of 2008, will try to distance itself from Bush’s pre-election stance.
Bush had two important speeches to present to the American people this month. As evangelicals, we need to let him and Congress know that we’re still paying attention.
Text of 2005 State of the Union Address
President Bush's Second Inaugural Speech
Rebekah Montgomery is the editor of Right to the Heart of Women ezine and the author of numerous books on spiritual growth. She can be contacted for comments and speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go to www.rebekahmontgomery.com
PHOTO courtesy of the White House: President George W. Bush bows his head in prayer during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005.