Three organizations in conjunction with The Family Research Council helped conduct the second annual, values voter conference called “The Washington Briefing” in mid October of this year. The events seems to have heightened the media’s interest in the conservative Christian, while setting the stage for an even greater influence of evangelical Christian voters on the political process. The Washington Briefing was a catalytic event that caused many different political suitors to think that they had a real chance to get a piece of the evangelical voting pie.
Before the event, there had been a general sense of malaise among conservatives. Many conservative incumbents in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are retiring from politics. Behind closed doors many conservative leaders have privately confessed that they do not expect to have a friendly House, Senate, or President after the 2008 election. Enter: The Washington Briefing. An unprecedented group of over 300 media representatives from around the world came to listen, record, film, and report their assessment of the event and the movement’s vitality. The reason the press had such interest in the event was that it was designed to attract the “navy seals” of the Christian right.
The Washington Briefing was set up to accomplish two goals. First, it sought to inform and inspire grass roots leaders on topics, policies, and initiatives of interest to them. The second objective was to give presidential candidates an opportunity to address this influential group of leaders. All the major presidential candidates from both parties were invited. Only Republican candidates showed up.
One of the highlights of the event was the straw poll that was conducted. Candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were the leaders. After analyzing the results, the conference leadership took an unexpected approach - they called for a national day of prayer on Thanksgiving. This prayer vigil was targeted at reviving a sense of morality and faith in our nation. The leaders of the conference also believed that special prayer would help shift things in the presidential race as well.
After the conference, there were a great number of conservative pundits who claimed that the leadership of the conference and the religious right had some how failed the nation by not anointing a consensus candidate. It was projected by some that the leaders who gathered in Washington had thrown away the hard work of nearly 40 years of political involvement. This assertion was made even though there were five pro-life, pro-family candidates still in the race at that time. In the minds of these pundits the failure to endorse only one person was both unwise and cowardly.
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.