Losing the evangelicals?

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 18, 2004 6:28PM (EDT)

Evangelical Christians -- who accounted for an estimated quarter of voters in the 2000 election - skew for George W. Bush, without a doubt. But even if a small percentage stays home in November, that's bad news for Bush. Getting evangelicals to the polls in November is why Bush is talking up the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage again.

But a Reuters story today suggests that like millions of other Americans, evangelical voters will make their decisions in November based on more than the issue of gay marriage. They, too, are feeling alienated, let down, and misled about the disaster in Iraq. And, like many of their fellow Americans, what's happening in Iraq may prevent them from turning out for Bush in November. They most likely won't turn to John Kerry. But they may just stay home.

This prospect makes Republican fear-mongering over controversial issues like gay marriage all the more likely. But will the trick work? A New York Times story over the weekend suggested it may not. There may be opposition to gay marriage among religious voters, but people in the pews don't seem to be galvanized by it. As a befuddled Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, told the Times: "I don't see any traction. The calls aren't coming in and I am not sure why."

Maybe it's because many voters, evangelical or otherwise, get that America has bigger problems right now than who's getting married at City Hall, even if Bush tries to convince them otherwise.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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