Recapturing "Moral Values;" Realigning the Republican Party

I've got two, semi-connected threads in my head at the moment that I'm mulling over that have to do with how younger voters are/might influence the Republican Party.  The first has to do with what we normally think of as "moral values," and how young evangelicals might reshape the debate.

Over at Revolution in Jesusland, Zack Exley points to some very interesting data from the Pew Center on Faith and American Life:

Of all the people who say moral values are very important in deciding how to vote, less than a third (30%) are referring to the candidates' positions on issues, with by far the largest number (14%) referring to abortion. In addition, they mention gay rights (3%), that  marriage is between a man and woman (3%) and gay marriage (3%).  A few, but only a very few, mention homosexuality (1%), and stem cell research (1%).

The greatest majority (78%) of these voters mentions personal characteristics of the candidates including their honesty (28%), integrity (11%), ethical values (8%), and someone who does the right thing (8%), is trustworthy (7%), truthful (6%) or keeps his/her word (6%).

Pew Evangelicals
Evangelical Party ID

So there's that - a clear opening to recapture the meaning of "values" in our public debate.  I don't have statistics, but I'm willing to bet that this is reframing of values tends to play especially well among younger evangelicals, whose support for Bush, and the Republican Party, has dropped significantly in recent years, even as Bush has been very supportive of Christian Right culture-war issues like gay marriage, stem cells, and abortion.  

Instead, of supporting that agenda, what we've seen so far is young evangelicals supporting Mike Huckabee, a candidate who preaches something of an anti-poverty agenda, and wants us to be "good stewards of the earth," by 2 - 1 among young Republican voters.  Huckabee may have some hard-core christian conservative values, but he's also talking about faith and issues in a way that speaks to concerns beyond the culture wars.  These young, conservative evangelicals don't seem to care about culture war issues the same war their parents/elders in the church do.  Rather, they are much more interested in a different conception of faith in public life, particularly what it means in a social justice context.  So Huckabee's message resonates with them more than someone like, say, Fred Thompson.

The second strand is that this leftward movement on some issues isn't limited in scope to young evangelicals.  The 2006 American Freshman survey (pdf) revealed that there is considerable support among young conservatives for traditionally liberal positions on a number of issues, particularly the environment and health care reform (see the chart below).  

This has tended to manifest itself in two ways, I think.  First, in the support of young people for the candidacy of John McCain in New Hampshire, where 27%, a plurality of young voters chose his candidacy, and in the creation of new organizations like the Republican Youth Majority, a newish GOP youth group supporting a pro-choice, pro-environment, fiscal conservative platform.  

It's important to note that prior to Huckabee's surge in December and McCain's resurgence post-Iowa, Rudy Giuliani was consistently the favorite choice among young conservative voters (pdf).  Probably because all anyone knew about him was "9/11." Now that Huckabee has gained some traction and media attention, and is actively courting younger voters, and John McCain is perceived to be back in the race, Giuliani's support among younger voters seems to have dried up.  

So here's a thought - could the Millennial Generation conservatives move the Republican Party to the center/left?  Probably not anytime soon; with young voters choosing Democrats by a 2 - 1 margin, there are far too few of them to be all that influential right now.  But it will be interesting to see how they shape the GOP as they grow into power.  

Thoughts?  I don't have this worked out yet - not by a long shot - and this is probably an oversimplification of a number of trends among conservative youth and evangelical youth.  I'm interested in seeing/hearing people reinforce or tear down this idea.

Issue by Ideology

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It's The Mormonism

     Despite his national speech in Texas concerning religion and government, Mitt Romney has a problem. It's not a new problem, but it is one that will prevent him from becoming President. The reason it will prevent him from getting the Republican nomination is not because of his religion, but because of how he has cast his campaign around his religion. If Mr. Romney had run on leadership and business experience he could have avoided the whole Mormon issue, instead he has pandered to the Right on religious values thus bringing his religion to the forefront. By doing so he caused the same voters he was pandering to, to begin questioning his religion. And from the poll numbers and the rise of Mike Huckabee they didn't like what they saw.

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Gore not compatible with Evangelicals?

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane, Bilerico Project& My Left Wing

click to enlarge

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The causes of political shifts in the evangelical movement

Last week, Faith in Public Life and Third Way released a study, Come, Let us Reason Together (PDF).  The study has been the subject of a fairly intense back-and-forth debate with pastordan at Street Prophets, mostly about the partisan implications of the study, and what we (as progressives, or as Democrats, take your pick) should do about it.

One of the most interesting findings of the report are that evangelicals can be decomposed, politically, into three groups: progressive (about one-fifth of evangelicals), moderate (one-third), and conservative/traditionalist (one-half).  Despite these ideological monikers, the group is every bit as conservative in voting behaviors as we've otherwise heard: 88% of conservative evangelicals, 64% of centrists, and 48% of progressive evangelicals voted for Bush.  By contrast, 43% of self-described moderates, and 14% of self-described liberals, voted for Bush in 2004, according to CNN's 2004 exit polls.  It's not their voting habits, but their positions on cultural and economic issues which make some evangelicals "progressive" and "moderate", according to Third Way.

Now, this may or may not be a political opportunity for Democrats.  The 2006 exit poll results, in which 74% of evangelicals voted for Congressional Republicans (compared to 78% support for Bush in 2004) certainly don't suggest as much: in a Democratic wave election, evangelicals are still heavily pro-Republican.  But the evangelical world is changing slowly, and it's at least theoretically possible that there may be some long-term potential in this group.

The cause of that slow change interests me much more than the effects of the change, revealed in voting patterns and poll responses.  Why are evangelicals suddenly beginning to speak out against the war, for the environment, and for the poor?  What is going on, in the Sunday sermons and the small group ministries of evangelical churches, which is producing this shift?

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The Stop Abortion, Allow War And Torture Party

    I recently read an op-ed piece in the NY Times from James Dobson, a conservative Christian Televangelists. While I have grave issues with televangelists period, the statements made in his piece further reinforces my already low opinion. Being a Christian, it is always hard for me to criticize another, but in the case of these guys something must be done about the hypocrisy that they exhibit.

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