Will Obama's Stem Cell Move Reawaken Cultural Conservatives?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Mar 09, 2009 1:06 PM
http://www.wired.com/images/article/full/2008/01/obama_mail_500px.jpgPutting aside the moral and ethical concerns, Barack Obama's executive order to overturn a ban on taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cells created after 2001 is also politically unwise ...

I realize this analysis will initially be mocked, inasmuch as Obama's decision is, in fact, quite popular. Regardless, there is reason to believe it will ultimately be viewed as a political miscalculation.

First, it stands to reason that Obama should be focused like a laser beam on fixing the economy. Yet, whether it is health care or embryonic stem cells (each day brings a new distraction from the economy), Obama continues to focus attention away from the economy. Of course, the issue of the day usually has something to do with advancing policies that specifically play to liberal special interests ...

The failure to focus on the economy has created much confusion regarding Obama's priorities.

Second, in 2008 Barack Obama won many young Evangelical votes by casting himself as a centrist. He also benefited from the fact that, in recent years, the culture wars have receded from the public attention. What Obama fails to understand is that cultural conservatives have only been successful when liberals were guilty of overreaching.

Whether it was the Supreme Court deciding on Roe in 1973 -- or Bill Clinton pushing gays in the military in '93 -- cultural conservatives have only flourished when pushed to defend traditional values. This, of course, is because in order for social conservative groups to be effective, the grassroots must be fired up. When pundits predict that cultural conservatives have become docile, they fail to attribute this to the lack of outrage.  As conservative icon Morton Blackwell says, "Moral outrage is the s the most powerful motivating force in politics."

In short, Obama is in danger of reawakening forces which have largely been dormant these last several years.

Should Obama continue to pick at this scab, grassroots conservatives will once again have reason to organize and activate. Keep in mind, the rubber chicken is not enough incentive to attend a Christian Coalition Meeting or a Family Research Center event.

Third, while a minority of Americans may oppose this decision, polls fail to measure the intensity of those who oppose it. Though often overlooked and under-appreciated by politicians, intensity is an extremely important factor Though often overlooked and under-appreciated by politicians, intensity is an extremely important factor because the most intense people are the ones who donate money, knock on doors, call radio shows, etc. 

Again, Obama benefited from wooing some Evangelicals, as well as from the fact that many social conservatives were angry at the GOP. This will not always be the case ...