In my November 29 column, I write about whether Sarah Palin will be the new James Dobson, who’s been the de facto leader of
evangelical-Republicans for decades.
With Dobson’s retirement from Focus coming in February, many are speculating on who will be the new evangelical face.
The strongest candidates, I think, are Sarah Palin, Gary Bauer and Mike Huckabee.
But both Bauer and Huckabee have some baggage when it comes to leading evangelicals into a new age, as I’ll explain below.
Why didn’t I include Focus CEO and president Jim Daly on my list? Daly has been a great leader of Focus, offering a kinder and gentler approach when compared to Dobson’s. That’s good for Focus, but it won’t raise his visibility to the degree needed to lead the evangelical-Republicans. Daly would also need to become more political in his statements; over the years he’s stuck mostly to talking about love, honor, forgiveness … you know, all that Bible stuff.
Dobson also had the gift of making dramatic statements that the media loved; Daly is a little more circumspect in his statements. Daly even threw Obama a bone when he praised him as a good father earlier this year at a press conference. It is hard to imagine Dobson doing such a thing publicly.
Another name I’d like to mention before launching into my critique of the top contenders is Glenn Beck, the conservative Christian Fox News talk-show host. Beck, I think, would have the ability to motivate millions of evangelicals to act, and he has shown this ability in the past. However, Beck is a Mormon, a faith many conservative evangelicals don’t even think is Christian. So that eliminates Beck.
OK, here we go with my critique of the top contenders:
I doubt that the new evangelical-Republican leader will come from the ranks of a formal Christian organization. There just doesn’t seem to be anyone from that realm dynamic enough to lead the evangelical-Republican movement.
The closest might by Bauer, president of American Values and occasional host of the “Focus on the Family” radio show. There’s a good chance he will be a rotating host of “Focus on the Family” radio if Focus fails to name a Dobson radio successor quickly.
But the problem for Bauer is that times have changed. An evangelical whose claim to fame is running an evangelical organization no longer has the crossover appeal needed to attract enough evangelicals — now a diversive and fragmented group .
So scratch Bauer.
Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist mininster who tried to become the Republican nominee for president in 2008, is another possibility. He’s funny and strongly conservative, but I doubt he can ignite a large group of people to action the way Dobson has done.
He’s also not much of a communicator. Take away his funny one-liners, and there’s not much left. He also compromises his language too often on religious-political issues, which causes the media to turn away. You are not going to lead the evangelical-Republicans without plenty of head-turning sound bites.
This returns me to Palin, and please read my Nov. 29 column for all the details on why she’s my pick.
Palin is a far better communicator than Bauer and Huckabee and –let’s face it — photographs better. If you don’t think Palin’s good looks are a factor in her popularity, I’ve got some land in Nevada to sell you.
Yes, Palin seems like the natural successor. She’s articulate, she’s outspoken, she’s pretty and she’s a conservative Christian.
But enough of my picks. Let’s hear yours. Who do you think will lead the evangelical-Republican movement after Dobson’s retirement. Please weigh in below.