Evangelicals, Palin and Politics

With the 2008 election just around the corner Evangelicals are wrestling with many issues, but the very fact that we are wrestling with issues and thinking seriously about candidates is a sign of growing complexity among Evangelical voters. This week at Le Blog we offer a short bit of commentary from two Liberal Evangelical thinkers, Robin Rogers and Peter Goodwin Heltzel. Read, Reflect, and VOTE!

Palin presents a softer, more explicitly Christian version of Ronald Regean’s America. Her message appeals to the base of older socially conservative Christians, but based on our research it misses a critical shift among younger evangelicals and may weaken the Republican Party’s ability to move forward into a post cold war world. Young evangelicals have expanded their social concerns beyond the issues of traditional family and opposition to abortion that Palin embodies. The younger generation is moving from a populist politics to a cosmopolitan one that engages a broader set of issues through new social networking strategies at both grass roots and elite levels. The culture warrior ideal of the cowboy politics of Reagan and Bush has lost its allure.

Having come of age in a time when the cold war has been replaced by terrorism and Iraq, young evangelicals see real life consequences when they hear their elders use violent metaphors. They are passionately concerned with the environment, AIDS, sex trafficking and world hunger. The slogan “drill baby drill” contradicts the concerns over climate change, also known among evangelicals as creation care, of Richard Cizik, the Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. More of the same old warrior politics won’t stem the tide of young evangelicals leaving the Republican Party. In just seven years affiliation with the Republican Party among young evangelicals has dropped from 55 percent to 40 percent. Younger evangelicals are disillusioned with partisan politics and the War in Iraq. Palin’s politics is a soft warrior politics, but beneath her softer presentation still remains the warrior politics of an age that has passed.

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