As the 2008 campaign unfolds, the candidates and their various positions reflect the great cultural divide that exists in this country today. From Ron Paul, whom to his fans represents the last best hope for defending the U.S. Constitution, to Dennis Kucinich, who would pull our troops from Iraq immediately, we have candidates who range across the broad spectrum of what passes for political philosophy in this country today.
Yet the splintering goes further than simply having various groups identify with a single candidate because of one or two issues. In some cases, groups that normally coalesce around one candidate are splintering over their choices. No group is more caught up in this than evangelical voters.
Faith has become a key issue in this campaign. However, we conservatives can no longer count on evangelicals to adhere, by and large, to conservative ideology in identifying with a candidate. Part of the reason for this is that the definition of "conservative ideology," rightly or wrongly, is currently seen as being in a state of flux. Much of that impression results from the way the drive-by media trumpet any semblance of division within Republicans and conservatives in particular, and their fond wish for conservatism as practiced by Ronald Reagan to be diluted as much as possible.
Among the current crop of Republican candidates, most of the "first-tier" candidates (i.e., Giuliani, Romney, McCain, Huckabee and Thompson) have at one time or another attempted to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. However, measured as objectively as possible, none of them is as conservative across the board as was the Gipper. Is part of redefining conservatism the acknowledgement that today's conservative is simply not as conservative as Reagan, but that's OK because times have changed? Or is that "logic" simply a feel-good mechanism to make these candidates more attractive to conservative voters? All of that remains to be seen, but indications to date are troubling for conservatives who long for the days of Reagan.
If the definition of conservatism is in fact allowed to be clouded, Republican candidates at the least should be very careful not to employ the current president's so-called "compassionate conservatism." For Republicans in general, compassionate conservatism as practiced by President Bush has been an unmitigated disaster. It could be argued that most of the president's worst policy decisions (prescription drug benefit, education bill, immigration "reform," and so on) resulted from his "compassionate" (read: Big Government conservatism) philosophy.
It would be a shame for evangelical conservatives to be splintered going into such a critical election. However, the road this campaign is taking may indeed result in that if we're not careful. We must not allow the drive-by media to influence who we support and what we believe.