Evangelicals find themselves in an unaccustomed role this marathon election season. Since evangelicals came out of fundamentalist isolation and hit the political scene in 1976, mobilizing behind the first "born again" presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, through the era of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, evangelicals have been riding high. We hit our peak in 2004 when, by most accounts, we had become the decisive voting bloc.
Not anymore, apparently. Many commentators are now saying evangelicals, whom they still mistakenly assume are all Republicans, are headed for a political crack-up. New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote our eulogy last fall: "Inauguration Day 2009 is at the very least Armageddon for the reigning ayatollahs of the American right."
Really? How did we go from being the most powerful voting bloc in America to utter collapse in four short years?
The answer is, we haven't. The press is merely up to its old tricks. When I worked in the Nixon White House, the press heralded me as the President's brilliant young political strategist. After having built me up, the press tore me apart, calling me the "White House hatchet man" and "evil genius." The press loves to promote peopleit's good copyand then tear them downalso good copy. They take credit for slaying monsters they helped create. We see this vicious cycle with so many public figures today.
Yes, there's a transition going on within the evangelical ranks. Aging leaders are fading, new leaders are emerging. But polls show that evangelicals are as strongly pro-life as ever, and continue to support traditional values. We are mightily concerned, as all Americans should be, with preventing terrorism. And new issues are emerging, ...1