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An uncomfortable truth: the unknown factor of the right-wing evangelical turnout in November

There’s a piece by Adele Stan over at Alternet, “Christian Right Honcho Ralph Reed to the Rescue? How Clueless Romney Could Still Win,” that is a sobering look at the power of the evangelical vote and its potential impact on the November election. Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed’s get-out-the-vote operation through his Faith and Freedom Coalition, has money and influence — and a commitment to unseat Barack Obama, as well as moderates and progressives downticket to forward a Dominionist agenda.

Most of the pundits have chewed on the meaty #FAIL of the Romney campaign over the last couple of weeks, but quietly, using the power of the church, Reed continues to register voters and using pulpits led by prophets of intolerance and fear-mongering, to make sure fundamentalists get out the polls.

And as her article notes, pundits love dicing poll numbers about likely voters and registered voters, but this election is really about early voting and get out the vote.

The truth is, national polls don’t amount to a hill of beans in this election. What counts is turnout and, as AlterNet reported in July, political operative and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed is putting together an impressive get-out-the-vote operation, via his organization, Faith and Freedom Coalition, which funded by right-wing billionaires. Now that the New York Times weighed in with a front-page Sunday piece by Jo Becker about Reed’s organizing, perhaps the liberal establishment will take a deep breath and reassess whether its triumphalism is warranted — or even helpful to the liberal cause.

And progressives simply do not have the quiet organizing power that right-leaning churches do.

For all of the grousing that right-wingers do about the power of labor unions in elections, there is no parallel liberal infrastructure to the network of evangelical churches that Reed has been organizing since his salad days at the Christian Coalition. Just name a labor group that meets weekly, always on the same day, and enjoys most of its members showing up for the meeting. Churches, with their homey bulletins ripe for the insertion of a purportedly non-partisan Faith and Freedom Coalition voter guide to the candidates’ positions on hot-button issues, are nearly ideal as organizational cells.

For the most part, people the unions target for voter turnout operations are their own members. But unlike the churches of the Christian right, the ideological and cultural make-up of unions is hardly homogenous: only 51 percent of white union members identify as Democrats, compared with the 65 percent of white Christian evangelicals who identified with the Republican party in 2008. (That number has since climbed to 70 percent according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.)

…Liberal pundits often make the mistake of comparing the GOTV efforts of competing Democratic and Republican campaigns, as conducted by the parties and their candidates, concluding that the Democratic efforts are far superior. At the party and candidate levels that may be true, but the Republican turnout operation exists largely outside of the party structure, through organizations such as Reed’s, and the Koch-backed Tea Party group, Americans For Prosperity. Unlike unions, whose budgets are limited by the size and scope of their membership, FFC and AFP could have access to however much money they need to get the job done.

Mitt Romney has earned the scorn of many evangelicals for his Mormon faith, but the fear of what Obama represents (or told he represents) with the help of Reed and his influential dollars and messages from their pastors that voting for Romney is the only way to stop the President from destroying the nation. And many will listen and vote because…

According to social psychologist Bob Altemeyer, the Yale-trained author of The Authoritarians, right-wing followers place an undue level of faith in their leaders. “The followers have a great desire to submit to established authority,” Altemeyer explained in an interview with John Dean. “They’re also highly conventional, and they have a lot of aggression in them, which studies show comes primarily from being fearful. One of the classic reactions to fear is to fight, and the followers will attack when their authorities tell them to.”

One thing I’m pretty sure we can agree on — the left hardly thinks or votes with one voice, both in viewpoint on issues and its view of influence over the voting base. We cannot match

Anyhoo, the piece is worth the click. Would love to hear your perspective in the comments.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding