Much has been made recently of an evangelical disillusionment with the Republican party, mired in Iraq and the Mark Foley scandal. Even President Bush is said to have advocated evangelical policies only to gain the evangelical vote. It is said that evangelicals might stay home on a rapidly nearing election day, depriving the party of the votes they need to retain control of the House of Representatives, and possibly even the Senate. In the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills points out that:
It is common knowledge that the Republican White House and Congress let “K Street” lobbyists have a say in the drafting of economic legislation, and on the personnel assigned to carry it out, in matters like oil production, pharmaceutical regulation, medical insurance, and corporate taxes. It is less known that for social services, evangelical organizations were given the same right to draft bills and install the officials who implement them. Karl Rove had cultivated the extensive network of religious right organizations, and they were consulted at every step of the way as the administration set up its policies on gays, AIDS, condoms, abstinence programs, creationism, and other matters that concerned the evangelicals. All the evangelicals’ resentments under previous presidents, including Republicans like Reagan and the first Bush, were now being addressed.
Wills points to John Ashcroft, partial-birth abortion, gay marriage, faith-based initiatives, creationism, claims that the Grand Canyon was created in Noah’s flood, global warming, the 9/11 attacks as divine retribution for inadequate support for Israel’s claim to the West Bank, abortion, abstinence-only approaches to sexuality education and the international AIDS crisis, stem cell research, and the “war on terror” as being against Satan, as evidence of a powerful evangelical influence in White House policy. Wills argues that:
There is a particular danger with a war that God commands. What if God should lose? That is unthinkable to the evangelicals. They cannot accept the idea of second-guessing God, and he was the one who led them into war. Thus, in 2006, when two thirds of the American people told pollsters that the war in Iraq was a mistake, the third of those still standing behind it were mainly evangelicals (who make up about one third of the population).
Wills points to a vision of the United States, and specifically of George Bush as an instrument of the god of Abraham, quoting General William (Jerry) Boykin:
Ask yourself this: why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. Why is he there?… I tell you this morning he’s in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this. God put him there to lead not only this nation but to lead the world, in such a time as this.
But Bush has failed. And therefore he cannot be the instrument of the evangelicals’ god, for such an instrument would be invincible. So evangelicals find themselves politically without a rudder. It is a fundamental contradiction, for in Bush, Wills would seem to argue they got as much as they ever could pray for.