Conservative Evangelical Christian voters have come a long way in a short time. From their nearly unanimous condemnation of Bill Clinton for his extramarital affairs, a growing number of these "pro-family" voters appear ready to accept several Republican presidential candidates who do not share their ideal of marriage and faith.
Among those seriously under consideration by these church-going folks is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been married three times and who had an affair with the woman now his wife when he was married to wife number two. The second wife, Donna Hanover, once recorded a political commercial for Giuliani, touting his virtues as a husband. She called him "honest and very kind" and "this is the kind of man I wanted to be the father of my children" and "Rudy is such a great Dad." It's on YouTube. In recent days we've learned from his son Andrew that he and his father are estranged, but that they're working on it. Andrew says he got his values from his mother.
Another of the thrice married is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, last week, trod the Damascus Road to Colorado Springs. On the syndicated radio program of psychologist James Dobson, Gingrich confessed that he had an extramarital affair with the woman to whom he is now married while he was married to his second wife. Gingrich acknowledged not living up to his own standards, or God's.
A third Republican presidential candidate is Sen. John McCain, who has been married twice. He is disliked by many social conservatives more for his support of "campaign finance reform," which they regard as an attempt to limit their speech, his work on immigration with Ted Kennedy and past remarks that some evangelical leaders are "agents of intolerance."
Mitt Romney has the right social conservative views, fairly recently bringing them into conformity with their own, but to some conservative evangelicals he has the "wrong" religion. Romney, a Mormon, is the poster boy for family values: one wife, handsome children, and no apparent personal skeletons in his closet, but some, not all, evangelicals can't get over the Mormon belief that Jesus once visited America. They also reject the "Book of Mormon," which they believe tells "another gospel."
That substantial numbers of conservative evangelical voters are even considering these candidates as presidential prospects is a sign of their political maturation and of their more pragmatic view of what can be expected from politics and politicians. It is also evidence that many of them are awakening to at least two other realities - (1) they are not electing a church deacon; and (2) government has limited power to rebuild a crumbling social construct.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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