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George, Coburn (Zuma Press/Newscom), Evans, Wright

No retreat

Campaign 2008 | Conservative reaction to the GOP's defeat

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

In the hours before and after results were in, WORLD writers around the country spoke with a variety of leading conservative political and religious minds, asking for reaction to Barack Obama's victory but also seeking answers to this question: What should conservative Christians focus on politically over the next four years?
(Editor's Note: What follows are the full comments of these conservative political and religious leaders, expanding upon what appeared in the print edition of the magazine.)

Robert George, Princeton professor of jurisprudence, 
specialist on constitutional law 
and political philosophy

"The idea that we would retreat into churches or into insular communities and abandon our responsibilities as citizens is a daft and dangerous idea. There's no way that Christian families can insulate themselves from the culture. … There's no retreating to a corner. … Culture shapes conduct. Law shapes culture.

"Of course the central human right of our domestic politics is the question of abortion and embryo destructive research and the right to life of the unborn child. There's no turning away from that. ... The second issue is the issue of marriage and family. This must remain central and we must redouble our efforts across the country at both a state and a national level to protect the institution of marriage.

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"The best thing we can do to fight poverty in this country-not the only thing, but the best thing we can do-is rebuild the institution of marriage and the family.

"We need to encourage people to be citizen-statesmen, that is citizens-not professional politicians-who are prepared, often at great cost to themselves, to stand for public office. ... More people, who share our convictions, need to be willing to take up the burden of running for office. We need more activism. We need more love-inspired action in supporting the candidates who will stand for the sanctity of human life and the institution of marriage.

"We need to be more generous about contributing money to the pro-life and pro-marriage cause. ... The side that's prepared to give more is the side that wins."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

"I think [Republicans] have to go back to their core principles. And I think they have to try to make a better argument. I had someone ask me the other day, 'What's going to happen if Obama wins?' And I said, 'The sun will come up in the morning, and it will go down at night.'

"Let's remember that if Jimmy Carter hadn't won over Gerald Ford, we would never have had Ronald Reagan. If Bill Clinton hadn't won, we would never have had the Contract with America and the Republican ascendancy in Congress, which led to the balanced budget that Bill Clinton takes credit for. You never know what the consequences are going to be."

Larry Schweikart, professor of History, University of Dayton, Ohio

"Conservative Christians must focus on … wealth redistribution. This is fundamentally unscriptural and unbiblical. We are commanded to give on a personal, voluntary basis, not to allow Caesar to take more than what is his. This is where the 'values voters' and the 'fiscal conservatives' can work to rebuild the Reagan coalition. Wealth confiscation is fundamentally sinful, whatever the reason for doing so. But it will require some of the conservative Christians to subordinate [the issue of] abortion … to issues that can bring us together, and which can provide a power base so that, once again, a government could take action on abortion. George Bush [signing] the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was the final step of a program Ronald Reagan started in 1980-but it took 20 years to achieve, and it was not Reagan's first political priority.

"The first mistake [conservatives made] is a mundane, 'inside baseball' error. Namely, we were told for eight years of Karl Rove that 'If Republicans turn out, they can't lose.' … Well, that's not true. We need to realize that Republicans-hence, conservatives as a subgroup-are a minority, or close to it, in states they once dominated: Nevada, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, and Florida. So the first thing you have to do is figure out who 'your people' are-who can you absolutely rely on to vote with you in an election.

"Second-and John McCain is a classic example of this-a conservative can never out-give a liberal. Whatever you promise, they'll promise double and not feel guilty about providing it. Conservatives need to return to the conservative message of small government, low taxes, local control, sanctity of life, and free markets. The minute John McCain came out in favor of the bailout bill, he was political toast. This is the kind of thing that plays into the 'feels your pain' answers to pollsters. Americans did not want big banks bailed out, and it becomes impossible to talk about the virtues of the free market if you don't ever allow the big shots to feel the pain of the free market when they mess up."

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