There’s a marvelous article by John Cochran this week in Congressional Quarterly (CQ Weekly; subscription needed) that captures the maturing and broadening of the evangelical public agenda. It is a refreshing consideration of the issues of evangelicals concern, in addition to pro-life and pro-family (anti-homosexual rights) matters.
The article takes a closer look at the emerging evangelical environmentalists, who are making a significant contribution in this area, but one that is different than the agenda of the secular crowd that has dominated this issue.
At a time when the evangelicals’ bargain with fiscal and movement conservatives in the Republican Party has been shaken by opposition to the Miers nomination, they are increasing their interest and activities in issues such as creation care, global poverty, and international human and religious rights, while maintaining their orthodoxy of faith and pro-business spontaneity.
CQ asks if the covenant will crack:
“The bargain that brought evangelical activists into the Republican Party was this: They would support the low-tax, small-government agenda of fiscal conservatives, who had long been the bedrock of the GOP, and fiscal conservatives would support evangelicals on the cultural and social issues that matter most to them. There’s lots of interplay between the two camps, but at its most basic, what they had in common was that the Democratic Party was not addressing their agendas, says University of Texas at Austin political historian Lewis L. Gould, author of “Grand Old Party: A History of Republicans.” That arrangement made the GOP the majority party. But nothing is forever in politics.
And that’s the big reason why the gradual shift in the debate under way among evangelicals is potentially significant, even disconcerting for politicians: Evangelicals are thinking beyond their traditional set of issues, and it’s not clear where it will lead them.”
But unless the national Democrats shift dramatically away from the left margins on a number of issues, it’s not likely a significant number of evangelicals will switch party support. It is more likely that the alliance that has produced majorities will lose its potency and the Republican Party will lose its edge.
The criticism by some conservatives of evangelical support of Miers as one-issue, soft heartedness is doing nothing to prevent this break. And the move by the evangelical middle to embrace the issues in this article may further cook the goose that laid the golden egg.