During the last two weeks, I heard an amazing range of speeches from both Democrats and Republicans. After the Democratic Convention, it was hard for me to imagine anything surpassing the showmanship and technical excellence of that gathering. Privileged to attend both conventions, I was able to observe the stark contrast of both style and content of the events. To my surprise the low tech, from-the-heart approach of Sarah Palin and John McCain may create a David-and-Goliath style comeback for the GOP. The Republican National Convention in Minneapolis was an historic moment. It’s historicity, however, is not just based on the gender of its vice president. The amazing shift in the GOP’s campaign focus and theme also strikes me as historic.
In retrospect it is easy to see that choosing an unknown Alaskan governor as his running mate was a stroke of genius by the 72-year old war hero. The genius lies in the energy that Sarah Palin has brought to the conservative ticket. For months, Tony Perkins (President of Family Research Council) and other leading evangelicals have expressed a fundamental concern that the enthusiasm factor for social conservatives has been missing thoroughout this election cycle.
The problem with the evangelical base has been political disillusionment. After the Ted Haggard, Folley, and Abramoff debacles, it is easy for all of us to question the sincerity of national leadership. These recent examples of conservative hypocrisy, teamed with Senator McCain’s early denunciation of widely known, evangelical pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley made a huge number of evangelicals, both young and old, hesitant to enthusiastically support McCain.
The Palin selection, along with the Saddleback Church Compassion Forum, has instantly restored a huge amount of enthusiasm. In addition, it gave the Senator an opportunity to reassert his claims as a maverick and an agent of change. Despite Democratic attempts to paint McCain as George Bush III, he has never been a “company man.” It was just 12 months ago that leading fiscal and social conservatives were lifting up a politically ominous chorus that declared that McCain was too “moderate.” Palin’s selection gave his detractors a reason to unite around his radical “new vision” for his party.
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.