The sleeping giant, called the evangelical church, is about to be awakened by true conservative candidates, who believe in both social and fiscal conservatism. These voters will rise up and keep the Senate in the hands of the Republicans and keep the House in a position of relative political parity. For this to happen, individual candidates will have to take off the gloves and differentiate themselves based on their values, philosophy, and track records. This is not running away from President Bush or national issues; it is an attempt to keep candidates from running against the straw man of “it’s time for a change” or “change for change sake.”
The classic example of this dynamic new strategy is the Michael Steele senatorial race in Maryland. Steele’s opponent has tried to paint this powerful African-American leader as an out-of-touch “Uncle Tom” because he is a black Republican. In addition, he has used all the time-worn, Bush/Republican criticisms we have heard for the last few months.
Steele’s response is that he is reaching out to the growing number of black, white and Hispanic conservatives who are Democrats by day but vote Republican on moral values. How is he doing this specifically? First of all, he has changed his campaign ads and speeches to reflect his stances on core conservative issues.
Secondly, many supportive evangelicals are supporting Steele with their own outreach campaigns. They realize that they must choose between Michael Steele and an opponent who is the embodiment of everything they don’t believe. Ben Cardin is pro-abortion, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-embryonic stem cell research, and pro-amnesty.
In response to the political dangers we perceive, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, which I lead, and the Maryland Values Coalition have created a television and radio campaign which features leading black pastors, known and loved by Marylanders. Although most of these leaders have previously identified with the Democrats on social justice issues, Steele’s character and core values resonate with them.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.