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.
These courageous leaders are simply telling Maryland voters to come out to the polls and to promote the protection of marriage and a culture of life. In addition, pastor summits and a town hall meeting are planned in strategic urban areas. The message in these events is very simple: the evangelical church must speak as a prophetic voice to our nation, addressing the urgent social issues of our day. More specifically, the black church must come off of the “Democratic plantation” and stand up for what it really believes. This message resonates with many leaders who are part of what I have dubbed, “The New Black Church.” They are angry with the Democratic Party because they are tired of rhetoric instead of action. Values voters of every racial stripe are looking for a new breed of sincere public servants who will represent their views.
Republican candidates all over the nation should follow Michael Steele’s example. They can turn the tide of public opinion and the growing anti-GOP sentiment. Sixty million evangelical Christians are waiting for a compelling reason to come to the polls.
Let me give you a historical perspective. Two years ago, I predicted that the October Surprise for the 2004 election would be a major shift among black voters toward a family-values platform. The Washington Times was bold enough to print this prediction as an Op-Ed piece on October 29, 2004. The shift we spoke of was undoubtedly a part of the Bush and the GOP 2004 victory.
Ever since that election, Democrats and liberals have lost sleep worrying about the power of the evangelical Christian vote. They have taken aim at the faith community with two clear strategies. First, they have mobilized a group of left-leaning, “pseudo-evangelicals” to critique our moral, political movement. At least twenty books have been written to denounce evangelical Christian involvement in American politics. Secondly, the Democrats have teamed with a radical gay element to fight marriage amendment efforts around the country. They have even developed a clear five step plan to combat the moral stand of the evangelical community. (See my “Gays Use Sleight of Hand to Promote Agenda” article---10/2/06)
As a black evangelical, I’ve had to think about the unpleasant prospect of a Democratically-controlled House and Senate. If the Democrats are in power, the following problems will occur: 1) There will be no protection of traditional marriage, 2) Abortion-on-demand will be encouraged, 3) Religious freedoms will be attacked, 4) The tax-exempt status of many Christian organizations will be revoked, 5) Massive amnesty will be given to illegal aliens, 6) Border protection will not be enforced, 7) We will lose clear and consistent vigilance on the war on terror, and 8) Abandonment of the Iraq war will occur without strategic understanding. The eight consequences of Democratic leadership outlined above are startling. If Democrats act consistently with their recent philosophies and style of government, they will turn the American dream into a nightmare. This is something I and millions of others are not willing to endure.
The media might ask, “How can good Christian people continue to identify with the Republican Party that is filled with so many “sinners”? The recent Foley and Abramoff related scandals have simply pointed out to evangelicals that very flawed leaders are at our nation’s helm. The media’s gleeful attempts to point out evangelical Christian hypocrisy through these ----have simply awakened the values voters to the fact that we are still in a culture war. Therefore, given the right candidate, evangelicals will be motivated more than ever before to get involved in the political process.
I believe the October surprise in 2006 will be the return of evangelical voters to the polls.
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.