Following the election blowout of Judge Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore in Alabama and the defeat of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in Georgia comes Tuesday’s overwhelming victory by Florida’s moderate Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist. By a two-to-one margin, he defeated the more socially conservative state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and moved one step closer to succeeding Jeb Bush as governor.
This tells me that the once-mighty “organized” Christian-conservative voting bloc is no longer intact.
For those preparing to condemn me to hell, please note that the key word in the above statement is “organized.”
Doubtless, there will still be plenty of folks going to the polls this fall and beyond who hold strong, sincere Christian beliefs. And they will vote wholly or partially based on those beliefs.
Even so, the Crist-Gallagher contest stands as a prominent example of changes happening even now, in Florida and throughout the so-called Bible Belt.
Weeks prior to Election Day, Crist was so confident of his impending victory that he declared support for civil unions for gay couples in Florida.
Whatever one’s moral position on this touchy topic, the salient point here is that as short as a few years ago, such a declaration by a candidate in a Republican primary would have been a kiss of death. But ever since Congress, in 2005, rushed to pass through a law to keep alive brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in defiance of Florida and federal courts, the public’s mood on core social issues has shifted.
Indeed, a spokesperson for Schiavo’s family during her final days alive was beaten soundly in a Florida state Senate race on Tuesday.
This trend can be seen in public survey after survey across the nation over the past months.
This isn’t to say social conservatives and the organizations through which they speak and act — like the Christian Coalition — won’t again rise to prominence. But for now, Republican voters across America are tending toward moderation on social issues. They are instead showing more concern for things like immigration, energy costs, security and their own financial futures.
So here’s a memo to prospective Republican candidates for president in 2008: If you’re looking for an army of organized evangelicals to carry you to the White House, you’d better put on your X-ray glasses. Right now, they’re hard to see.