Last week’s State of the Union address was well-rehearsed, clear, and very cogent. Many believed it to be one of the president’s best efforts at oratory. Saturday’s Washington Times carried an article entitled, President's Union Speech Pleases Conservative Base. This article suggests that most conservatives feel as though the president’s tone and demeanor showed strength and resolve. They were comforted by the thought that the president is not going to abdicate his strong leadership role in the nation.
Unfortunately, evangelical Christians, who are one of the most loyal groups of the president’s supporters, feel just the opposite. They feel that President Bush has started to back away issues which he heroically championed just two years ago. Their concern with The State of the Union speech was not about what the president said. Their concern was focused upon what he did not say.
The Wall Street Journal ran a front page article on January 24, 2007 entitled “Bush's Conservative Base Frets.” The article suggests that the Christian right is not alone in their reservations about the president’s speech. The article points to a joint WSJ/NBC News poll which stated that the issues which most concern conservatives (after the war and terrorism are taken off the table) are moral values and poor control of immigration. The people polled were not just “wild eyed” evangelicals – they were conservatives of every stripe. In other words, the values voters of 2004 have not gone away. The war and terrorism have just temporarily eclipsed the ongoing cultural concerns of many social conservatives.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council made the following declaration: "I applaud the president's leadership. He refused to surrender his role of commander-in-chief to the new majority. However, I believe the president failed to challenge the new majority to advance core family and cultural issues, issues that many in the new majority campaigned on last year. These same issues will motivate pro-family Americans to rally around an administration that needs support."
Despite the media hype about evangelicals abandoning the GOP and the president in last November’s election, it seems that this group has remained rock solid. Perkins’ comments beg the question, “Are social issues polarizing or have they become overly politicized by political opportunists?”
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.