Another headline was that Senator Brownback endorsed John McCain. Mr. Brownback is a conservative Catholic and among the most outspoken pro-life public officials in America. He’s committed to the full range of social conservative values. His support of Mr. McCain, who is also pro-life, speaks to his principled belief that Mr. McCain also would create a conservative Supreme Court. The National Right to Life Committee endorsed Fred Thompson for the same reasons.
Paul Weyrich’s endorsement of Mitt Romney was also a big headline. Mr. Weyrich, the founder of the Moral Majority, is one of the most admired and effective conservative leaders in the nation. While most of his work is behind-the-scenes, everyone in national politics knows that Mr. Weyrich is a tireless fighter for the conservative cause. His willingness to step forward and publicly endorse Mr. Romney when there are other committed conservatives in the race is an act of principle.
The final headline is that Don Wildmon, the head of the American Family Association, endorsed Mike Huckabee for president. Mr. Huckabee, whose rise to become a top-tier candidate has been the real Cinderella story in this campaign, has been perfect on every social issue for all his years of elected office. Mr. Wildmon is a devout evangelical who cares deeply about abortion, marriage, and family values. He is a powerhouse in Christian conservative politics. Mr. Huckabee has a real shot, but his odds are not as good as some of the other candidates. If his campaign falls short, he may be an attractive running mate to the eventual nominee.
So the story here is not a fractured coalition or evangelical leaders who have “sold-out.” Although that’s what many in the press would like you to think.
Instead, the true story is that men, acting in accordance with their principles, can come to different conclusions. It shows how a principled Yale Law School graduate can come to one conclusion, while a principled public servant in the Senate can come to another, while two major conservative leaders can come to two other conclusions. And, they did it all at the same time.
These leaders are all men of principle. Each stuck with his principles, and did what he thought was right. And each respects the others’ decisions.
Now that’s quite a story. It’s the kind of story that should lead to a productive public discussion of how people can share many of the same principles yet can come to different conclusions. What also should be discussed is how their decisions will affect other people who have yet to make one. It means this race is still wide-open. It also means social conservatives matter.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the movement’s death have been greatly exaggerated.