Bible-thumpers still a political force

Iowa's religious conservatives, a powerful force in Republican presidential politics for two decades, could be kingmakers again in 2008 — but it is unclear which candidate will win their support.

Like many social conservatives around the United States, where religion plays a major role in politics, Christian activists in Iowa have doubts about the top Republican presidential contenders and have yet to rally around a candidate.

But the crucial role played by Iowa, the state that kicks off the White House race with the first nominating contest scheduled for January 2008, makes the state's religious conservatives particularly influential.

While some analysts claim the movement's power has peaked nationally, grass-roots Christian activists still hold plenty of clout in Iowa.

"No Republican candidate can win Iowa without that base in his back pocket," said Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Christian Alliance.

Exit polls showed nearly one-third of all Iowa voters in the November 2004 presidential election identified themselves as white religious conservatives. The percentage of Republican caucus-goers who are religious conservatives likely will be much higher.

"They are still a significant factor in the party and they will play a prominent role in the caucuses, which rely heavily on mobilization and identifying constituencies you can turn out," said political analyst Peverill Squire of the University of Iowa.

SHOCK WAVES

Iowa's religious conservatives sent shock waves through U.S. politics in 1988 by helping religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, place second in the state's lead-off Republican contest.

Since then, they have moved into party leadership positions and become immersed in Iowa Republican politics.

"The Christian conservatives in Iowa have been part of the process for 20 years, we're ingrained in state politics. We're part of the Republican mainstream," said Ed Failor Jr., executive vice president of Iowans for Tax Relief.

National polls show former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leading the Republican field over Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, but recent Iowa polls give Romney an edge in the state.

Conservatives have doubts about all three, questioning Giuliani's support for abortion rights and gay rights, McCain's 2000 criticism of Robertson and Romney's Mormon religion and recent switch to opposing abortion rights.

"There is a strong perception among social conservatives that none of the top three make them very comfortable," said Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center. He supports Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback.

While Brownback and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have more consistent conservative records, they face questions about their ability to win a general election.

Conservative former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who is entering the race late, could prove appealing but few Iowans know much about him.

Hurley said conservatives might coalesce around a candidate after the Iowa straw poll in August, a major event that draws tens of thousands and helps narrow the field.

Romney also could pick up steam if he convinces conservatives his recent policy conversions are genuine and not a matter of political convenience. Keith Hunter, an Iowa Christian alliance board member and Romney supporter, said he accepted his explanation.

"We all come from somewhere. I had my own conversion in the early 1980s," Hunter said. "The pro-life movement is dedicated to winning over hearts and minds — why should we be so skeptical when we win some?"

Scheffler said religious conservatives would rather not vote in the November 2008 election than cast a ballot for a Republican candidate who did not share their values.

"They might not show up or they might not pull that lever for president," he said. "They aren't going to blindly vote for somebody just because they have Republican behind their name."

4 Responses to "Bible-thumpers still a political force"

  1. Sandra Price  June 3, 2007 at 9:30 am

    The religious right will vote for an on-going, never-ending war in Iraq if abortions are made illegal. They believe that sacrificing our troops in the name of Jesus Christ is exactly what America needs. There has always been sacrifices made for people to get into heaven.

    Their values are terrible and are exactly what got us into the wars in the Middle East. A quick look at the top best selling books will show that Atheism is on the rise. It probably wouldn’t be had the religious right stayed in their churches and out of politics.

    The Republicans sold out to Robertson and Falwell to buy their evangelical votes and now they are stuck with the commitment to prohibit abortions and gay marriages. It also introduced a level of corruption not seen in many years.

    I have no idea how this election will turn out but I can only hope the Republican religious right is not elected.

    They have turned me into a Democrat that has not been possible since I first voted in 1953.

  2. Steve Horn  June 4, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Sandy,

    Apparently I’ve mis-read the Bible. For years I’ve been searching the Christian part of the Bible (remember, Christ told us that we were to let go of the old laws and remember that one law, to love our brother as we love ourselves) for the section that tells me that, before birth life is precious BUT afterwards it has no intrinsic value, and I cannot, for the life of me, find the verse.

    Perhaps some hard core right wing type can direct me to the chapter and verse, although I have my doubts, as Strongs Concordance hasn’t even helped me in this quest, and the concordance is pretty heavy medicine.

    Truth be told (absolute truth, not some relativistic “truth” predicated on some farscical mythology) I think we need to get relegion out of the political conversation – much as we’ve taken race and gender out (yeah, right – ok – we SHOULD – OK?) – and start talking ethics, integrity, honesty, dedication to duty – those sorts of out-dated concepts.

    Peace

    Steve Horn

  3. Even Steven Monton  June 3, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    ALL religions have religious fundaMENTALists in them, not just Christianity.

    AIPAC (not the religious right) is the second most powerful lobby in the USA, second only to the AARP.
    The religious right are working hand in hand with AIPAC.
    Taking this into consideration, here are some thoughts.

    You may disagree, and lucky for you, at this moment, you still can.

    A wise quote:
    “Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day.
    Give a man the knowledge of how to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.
    Give a man religion, and he’ll starve to death praying for a fish.”

    The last line speaks volumes about relying on someone else to change our reality……..we ourselves must take action (cause) in the physical world to bring about change (effect).

    We can see the state of our country, our economy going to hell, while continuing to pray to an unseesn entity, while forsaking our responsibility to take the action needed to bring about change ourselves.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    The reason it hasn’t changed is because we have depended on others to change it for us, instead of doing our part to make a change.

    We have only prayed for change. We have not taken the action to bring about the desired change.

    You can pry for a house to be built, but until you get off your duff and start swinging a hammer, driving nails into wood, you will not have a house.

    Prayer has passified this nation. Clergy claiming to be “holy” have intentionally misled the masses, paralyzing them with “fear” of God’s wrath.

    We (as a nation) have become too content.
    We (as a nation) have become too content.

    Our complacency/passifiication coupled with our inattention, and avoidance of reality is allowing our destruction (as a nation) to continue.

    While focusing on an afterlife that cannot be proven to exist, we have forsaken our responsibility in the here and now.

    The nation has become passified….and the “rapture” is one of the reasons responsible for this passification.

    Our country is all that we and our loved ones have at this moment.

    It is being taken away from us, and given away to foreign nations, as a result of financial irresponsibility, and illegal immigration.

    The media is guilty of promoting apathy in the American mind, and breaking the spirit through confusion and frustration.

    We are responsible for our country’s decline because we have done nothing to stop this lie.

    We are responsible for our country’s decline because we have done nothing to stop this lie.

    We have the power to change our reality if we unite, understand our reality and take action to remedy the problems.

    It’s time we (as a nation) become what Geroge Washington, and the Founding Fathers hoped we would be.
    An informed, and responsible, ACTIVE citizenry.

    If there is a God, then God will not punish us for taking care of ourselves, our families, our country, and making sure we live a happy life while we’re here on earth.

    Become aware, and become active. The key word here is ACTIVE.
    The key word here is ACTIVE.

    Action, and only action will fix things.

    Apathy is our enemy.

    Ignorance is our enemy,

    Inaction is our enemy.

    Do not lose focus.

    Quit relying on national/local censored news.

    Question everything the media claims to be truth.

    Quit relying on them to tell you the truth.

    They have proven themselves unreliable.

    Stop listening to apathetic people, and quit accepting their hopelessness as the only outcome for this nation.
    It WILL be truth if you join them in their hopelessness.
    It will NOT be truth if you prove them wrong.

    In this case it is better to prove them wrong.

    If the Founding Fathers had listened to apathetic people telling them their quest was impossible, this country we would not be here right now.

    NEVER feel guilt for being an American.
    NEVER apologize for being an American.

    If the represenstatives no longer represent “We the People”, then they must be replaced by those who will, and it is up to us to see that this is the case.

  4. lackeylocal  June 4, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Even Steven Monton :

    NO better words have been ever spoken…….

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