Saturday’s are usually very uneventful days in politics except for this one particular Saturday. Tonight at 5pm Pacific/8 pm Eastern, Pastor Rick Warren will be hosting the first joint forum between Senator’s McCain and Obama on the issue of religion & public policy. This election completely changes the paradigm that existed in 2004 – where President Bush was able to frame the election for values voters in a very “them vs. us” way.
In this election, we’ve got two candidates who have largely been able to capture certain elements of evangelical vote. Pew Research polling reports that 25% of voters in America consider themselves “evangelical”, but that said, they are not necessarily Republican. Moreso, many have moved away from the divisiveness that ensued from the 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006 elections, where religion and particular “hot-button issues” such as abortion, prayer in public spaces, and gay rights to a more broad agenda dealing with human rights, illiteracy, poverty and AIDS.
So what does this shift mean? The Evangelical vote is up for grabs – and more so in this election with these candidates than ever before.
On the right we have Senator John McCain, a lifelong Episcopalian until his very recent joining of the Baptist denomination. He totes his pro-life stances, but worries the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party given his stances in the past on abortion, gay rights and lack of visible, tangable displays of faith that are so commonly seen with President Bush.
On the left we have Senator Barak Obama, who despite the Middle Eastern derivation of his name and upbringing, has consistently been a part (for better or worse) of the rich history and faith of the American black church community. He has been able to use that experience to serve as a foundation for pillar of his campaign that deals with race, religion, local and global humanitarian issues and tolerance – all areas where Senator John Kerry had virtually ZERO presence.
So this forum will be interesting tonight. Do some background on Rick Warren. Even though I don’t do mega-churches or cult-personality followings, his model of evangelical leadership is the largest and fastest growing in the nation, and in this election, will probably be the most politically potent – especially given that Senator McCain and Obama are both “unconventional” candidates for their own parties.
More to report tomorrow…