Progressive Evangelicals’ Epic Fail

The election news last week wasn’t all bad. Last Tuesday represented the total failure of a multi-year leftist effort to move Evangelical voters left.  According to the exit-poll data, not only did Evangelicals turn out for Mitt Romney at percentages that exceeded George W. Bush’s and John McCain’s share of the Evangelical vote, they also constituted a record-high share of the overall electorate. Alas, it wasn’t enough, but this turnout prevented a defeat from becoming a rout.

It’s hard to overstate the extent of the progressive failure here. Ever since the triumph of the “values voter” in 2004, the Left has engaged in a determined effort to liberalize Evangelicals. The MSM relentlessly promotes post-Evangelical dissenters (I say “post” because many of these political dissenters also dissent from key elements of Christian orthodoxy) to the point where it’s a standing joke amongst Evangelical activists — as it is with many other conservatives — that the best way to get New York Times op-ed space or a good slot on the Today show is to condemn your friends as intolerant. At the same time, the post-Evangelical dissenters do everything they can to distract Evangelicals from core moral issues and core biblical values.

Evangelicals are simultaneously assaulted and wooed: You’re a hateful bigot until the very instant you abandon the unborn, capitulate on marriage, and embrace environmental activism. Then, you’re celebrated as tolerant and even courageous.

At times, the effort was almost transparently pathetic (who knew it was more pro-life to buy a Prius than to protect unborn children?) and other times downright malicious. Throughout Mitt Romney’s candidacy, the media promoted anti-Mormon voices far out of proportion to their actual influence. As an “Evangelical for Mitt,” I can’t tell you the number of times the MSM called to ask for reaction to alleged anti-Mormon sentiment that was sometimes entirely concocted and other times blown far out of proportion to its actual influence. Surveying the years of Mitt Romney’s presidential effort, one would be hard-pressed to find politically significant anti-Mormon commentary from virtually any Evangelical of real influence.

In reality, Evangelicals were largely lukewarm to Romney for a good reason: They were skeptical of his conservative credentials. Once they understood the extent of the contrast with Barack Obama, they came out for the Mormon from Massachusetts by record percentages. In other words, our convictions are far more resistant to scorn than the Left would like, we’re far less bigoted than they hoped, and our voice for the unborn endures.

Of course, we must remain vigilant. The Left will not only redouble its scorn for Evangelicals (we’re supposedly on the “wrong side of history” after all), it will also redouble its promotion of post-Evangelical writers and thinkers. The stick will grow heavier and the carrot tastier. But I’m far more optimistic about our ability to endure than at any time since 2008.

[Ed. Note: This column originally appeared at National Review Online.]

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  • Craig

    We can pretty much count on evangelicals to vote with the GOP, regardless of their candidates, and regardless of their records. The lesson: don’t worry too much about this constituency.

  • jatheist

    I find it incredibly interesting that Mormon support for Romney was ~LESS~ than the Mormon support that W. Bush got in 2004:

    Just how unlikable in Mitt Romney? So unlikable that even WBush can get more Mormon votes than him!

  • Dan

    Good point.

    Or to put it another way: We can pretty much count on liberal evangelicals to vote with the Democrats, regardless of their candidates, and regardless of their records. The lesson: don’t worry too much about this constituency.

  • jatheist

    Dan wrote: “The lesson: don’t worry too much about this constituency.”

    Awesome!! That’s a great strategy – just look how well it worked for Romney’s team!

    I’m beginning to think the GOP isn’t ever going to regain the White House.

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