By Patricia H. Kushlis
Running for president can be detrimental to a Republican candidate’s political health – at least this year.
Look, for instance, at a recent poll in Texas. It showed that Rick Perry’s failed bid for the US presidency simultaneously weakened his standing at home as the state’s governor. Perry’s bid for that ultimate national crown of thorns simultaneously exposed his many faults to a prime time national audience as well as depicted a display of arrogance, ignorance, memory lapses and mishaps which nearly half of his fellow Texans found embarrassing and detrimental to the state’s image.
This poor showing won’t help a possible Perry re-election bid for governor in 2014 either. So wealthy Perry backers – mostly Texans although none surnamed Bush – who chose to finance this horse’s non-victory race out the starting gate and now off the national track have just poured millions down the drain. Most of it will have enriched the coffers of the “hated” lamestream media (their words not mine) because that’s where most campaign money is spent.
The poll of likely voters supported by the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express News and other media outlets published on January 26 reported that 56% of those questioned said that Perry should not stand for reelection in 2014 (worst showing among registered voters ever). 47% said that their opinion of him had declined whereas only 9% said it had improved. 48% of those surveyed said that his run for the presidency had made Texas’ image among other Americans worse (33% said it had not changed) and a small margin 43% versus 42% said that they disapproved of his job as governor.
Meanwhile, far too much of the pettiness and vindictiveness of the Republican presidential campaign enacted and reenacted on our television screens ad nauseum since the debates began in, what seems, to have been an eternity ago, continue unabated.
Debate after debate after debate
Yes, it’s political theater. The Republican primary debates are also cheap advertising for the Party of No – just add the word absurd – and you’ve called it right. Or maybe it’s America’s brand of Kabuki Theater. Anyway, I’ve never watched anything like the displays of petulance, and often ignorance especially in foreign policy, over the many years that I have been an observer of US politics. Huntsman excepted. Do Republican leaning Americans seriously think these candidates are ready for the big time or should be given access to this country’s nuclear trigger?
Last week I attended an afternoon symposium at Rice University cosponsored by the university, the Baker Institute and the Texas Freedom Network entitled “Religion in the 2012 Elections.” The purpose of the symposium was to help an educated audience better understand the influence of religion on American voting behavior.
I doubt there were many, if any, white Evangelical Christians among the several hundred people who braved the torrential downpour to attend but if so, they would have learned that of all religious and non-religious groups surveyed by Pew, the white Evangelical Christians are the most likely to vote Republican and also the most likely to give the right wing, expansionist Israeli government their unconditional support.
The Mormons are next in line to vote for Republican candidates. No surprises then when we look at the candidates who ran or are still running for the party’s nomination: two Mormons and the rest who claim to be born again or redeemed Christians of one kind or another (yes, Newt’s conversion to Catholicism counts). The only misfit was Herman Cain – and it didn’t take the party long to decide he wasn’t their kind of candidate. Tea Party darling Michelle Bachmann, the lone female, was soon to bite the dust, too.
The least likely to vote Republican? Black Evangelicals.
These voting patterns, according to Pew polling data, have existed for more than two decades. Akron University’s John Green pointed out at the symposium that there are strong correlations between religiosity and the Republican Party and the less religiously observant and the Democrats (except for the Black Evangelicals). Mainstream Catholics, Protestants, other religions(Jews, Hindus, Muslims) and the unaffiliated, fall somewhere in between.
If you have the time, watch the video of the first panel. It’s long – this is not your average four minute YouTube train station or shopping mall flash-concert fix - but at the Baker Institute session itself, time seemed to fly by. I took some notes – but didn’t begin to capture all that was said. For those visually oriented, at least watch long enough to look at the graphs that Green used in his presentation (he was the first of the three panelists) to show the stark pattern that emerges.
Basically, there’s only a small number of swing voters that determine an American presidential election’s outcome. They’re unlikely to be Evangelicals regardless of ethnicity or race.
The good news, I guess, is that Evangelical leaders and preachers are not in lockstep – it just seems that way to those of us outsiders. But I’m not sure it’s good news that far more influence on the movement’s foot soldiers comes from wealthy religious 501(c) (3) organizations like Focus on the Family. This, according to D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, who wrote his dissertation on the religious right tracing the movement’s political origins to Pat Robertson who years ago encouraged his followers to enter the electoral fray to give political heft to issues like anti-abortion.
But wait a minute.