We are in big trouble. Whether you consider the historical cycle of presidential elections; the results of the 2006 election; the mood of the country; or the unfavorable ratings of the President, the odds are that conservatives will have our heads handed to us on a silver platter in 2008. Unless our movement gets its act together quickly and gets on the same page, one thing is for sure-- we are in big trouble.
No Perfect Candidate
Many conservatives are frustrated by the field of candidates running for president--and understandably so. There is no perfect candidate in 2008. There is no Ronald Reagan. Even the best of conservative candidates (announced and unannounced) have political warts. We have hawks with liberal views on social issues, recent conservative converts with questionable policy histories, and social conservatives with histories of personal moral failure and others just not able to mount a viable campaign or raise money. Whether the problems are policy, personal or political in nature, all the 2008 choices have considerable weaknesses. Folks, welcome to the fallen world in which we live. As Francis Schaeffer used to say, "Things are not as they ought to be..." Actually, there was one perfect candidate-but we crucified Him 2000 years ago.
As principled citizens how should we now respond? Whine and complain? Protest and not vote? Let a liberal win and hope to come back in four years? None of these options are the highest or most principled expressions of our citizenship. As social conservatives, we should always wrestle with how to reconcile the tension between principle and pragmatism. If we support only what appear to be front runner candidates, we will sell our souls to be political insiders. If we support only the purist long shot candidates, we risk foolishly forfeiting any realistic opportunity to affect public policy through political change.
Most of all of the great culture war issues of our day can be directly traced to bad decisions by the United States Supreme Court. Consider this: duly elected legislative branches of government are not ultimately responsible for abortion on demand, legalizing same sex marriage, protecting pornography as free speech, removing faith symbols from the public square, and undermining private property rights. Instead, these moral and social ills are the responsibility of unelected, unaccountable members of the federal judiciary who refuse to recognize their limited and restrained role as jurists and insist upon acting as social change agents.
Changing of the Guard
Between age and ailing health, most legal observers believe we are all but certain to see two, maybe three, US Supreme Court justices resign between 2009 and 2012. Since most of these justices are liberals, the 5-4 majority our opponents have enjoyed could be either dismantled or reaffirmed for the next couple of decades. In the final analysis, the 2008 election presents us with the most significant window of opportunity to change the direction of the court (and hence the culture war) that will occur over the next 15-25 years.
There are really only two equally important questions conservatives should ask about the upcoming presidential election: 1) Which candidate is most likely to pick the best judges AND 2) Which candidate is most likely to win both the primary and general elections. Every other issue is just window dressing. If we all stick together, work hard to reach a consensus and use these questions to think about the election, we might have a chance to elect a conservative who could produce historical pro-life and pro-family victories in battles many of us have been fighting all of our lives. But, if we all act independently and support our favorite sounding, best looking, or even "most conservative" candidate, well, then--did I mention? We are in big trouble.