This blog explores and examines the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
The New Evangelical Agenda
The day after the election, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said, "I think this was an evangelical disaster."
Not really. But it was a disaster for the religious right, which had again tied its faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party -- which did lose the election. But Nov. 6 was an even deeper disaster for the religious right's leaders, because they will no longer be able to control or easily co-opt the meaning of the term "evangelical."
During this election, much of the media continued to use the word as a political term -- as a key constituency of the Republican conservative base. But what the media really means when they use term "evangelical" is "conservative white evangelical." All other kinds of evangelicals are just never counted.
Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America -- which has been occurring for quite some time -- it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word "evangelical" is being transformed.
Evangelical can no longer be accurately used to mean "white evangelical."
Of the 71 percent (Pew, CNN) of America's Hispanics who voted for President Barack Obama, the vast majority are either Catholic or Evangelical/Pentecostal. Obama lost the white Catholic vote, but he won "the Catholic vote" because of Hispanic Catholics. Similarly, Obama lost the white evangelical vote, but he won the majority of Hispanics who call themselves evangelical or pentecostal. Likewise, Obama won 93 percent of the African American vote, the majority of whom are members of black churches whose theology is quite evangelical. And 73 percent of the Asian American vote went for Obama, whose churchgoing members are also mostly evangelical.
Mitt Romney got about the same percentage of white voters that George Herbert Walker did (about59 percent v. 60 percent for Bush), which resulted in 426 electoral votes for Bush, but only 206 for Romney.
So what does all that tell us? Very simply, the majority of the white evangelicals went for Gov. Mitt Romney, and the majority of the non-white evangelicals voted for President Barack Obama. Obamaalso won 60 percent of younger voters (ages 18-29) and that likely means younger white evangelicals voted for the president at a higher rate than their parents.