David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times has one of the better articles out there dealing with the religious right’s reaction to the Foley scandal. While Kirkpatrick follows the style of the Washington Post‘s Alan Cooperman by talking to people he finds to be average evangelical voters, he comes to a completely different conclusion: the Foley Scandal will not affect the evangelical turnout come November.
He also notes that while a Pew Research Center poll showed a significant drop in GOP support from conservative Christians, the Democrats failed to pick up any of that support. (As a side note, that confusing polling data Cooperman included in his article did in fact come from Pew. It just was not in the actual report. Pew picked it out for him.)
But where the article shines most brightly is in identifying a theological reason behind the failure of the Foley Scandal to affect the vote of conservative Christians. Agree or disagree with the findings, but you have to admit that this is an excellent detail that some reporters might think is too much into the weeds of the issue.
Charles W. Dunn, dean of the school of government at Regent University, founded here by the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, said that so many conservative Christians were already in a funk about the party that “the Foley issue just opens up the potential floodgate for losses.” The tawdry accusations, Mr. Dunn said, “give life” to the charges of Republican corruption that had been merely “latent” in the minds of many voters.
But as far as culpability in the Foley case, Mr. Dunn said, House Republicans may benefit from the evangelical conception of sin. Where liberals tend to think of collective responsibility, conservative Christians focus on personal morality. “The conservative Christian audience or base has this acute moral lens through which they look at this, and it is very personal,” Mr. Dunn said. “This is Foleyâ€™s personal sin.”
To a person, those interviewed said that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois should resign if he knew of the most serious claims against Mr. Foley and failed to stop him. They said the degree of Mr. Hastertâ€™s responsibility remained to be seen. Many said the issue had not changed their view of Congress because, in their opinion, it could not sink any lower.
Kirkpatrick also includes a summary of the ideas proposed by conservative Christian “thought leaders” which is great, but I like it when reporters tell me something I don’t already know. I can get the views of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity easily on my own.