Christian conservatives come to terms with the general election

Yes, Christian conservatives believe in marriage — even marriages of convenience.  According to Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer, leading Christian activists have made the decision to actively support John McCain, as they eye the alternative:

At a meeting Tuesday in Denver, about 100 conservative Christian leaders from around the country agreed to unite behind the candidacy of John McCain, a politician they have long distrusted, marking the latest in a string of movement that bodes well for McCain’s general election prospects among the Republican base. ….

The group included leaders like Phyllis Schlafly, the long-time leader of Eagle Forum; Steve Strang, the publisher of Charisma magazine; Phil Burress, a prominent Ohio marriage and anti-pornography activist; David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders and Donald Hodel, a former secretary of the Interior, who previously served on the board of Focus on the Family. Jim Dobson, the head of Focus and an outspoken critic of McCain, did not attend. The McCain campaign was also not directly represented at the meeting.A second person who attended the event, but asked not to be named, said that the group was motivated principally by a desire to defeat Barack Obama. “None of these people want to meet their maker knowing that they didn’t do everything they could to keep Barack Obama from being president,” the participant said. “You’ve got these two people running for president. One of them is going to become president. That’s the perspective. That that’s the whole discussion.”

The reality of the binary political system has caught up with the evangelical base.  No one expects them to love the choice in front of them, but it is encouraging that they recognize the need to make the choice.  As Sherer’s source notes, either Obama or McCain will occupy the White House in 2009, and the truth is that there will be stark differences in how this country will proceed between those two possibilities.

The real question will be whether this means an enthusiastic effort from the evangelical faction, or a damning-by-faint-praise action.  That may depend on McCain’s choice of VP.  If he selects someone with a strong background on social issues, such as a Sarah Palin or a Mike Huckabee, it could get very enthusiastic.  Mitt Romney may not swing the needle much either direction.

Can even an enthusiastic effort from activists like Phyllis Schlafly and Tony Perkins help John McCain win over disaffected evangelicals?  I’d say it would be a big boost to McCain, but it also comes with its own set of ties, and reasonably so, to ensure that they have a voice in his administration.  The adage goes that he who wants to partake of the banquet must first set the table, but the host has his own obligations to make sure everyone gets a seat.