I'm a little confused, and wonder if others are too. Once again, the source of my confusion is The Rev. Jerry Falwell.
This week's Falwell Folly is a statement made at the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of conservative pastors and church leaders. He was talking about the 2008 presidential election. Here's the LA Times account:
"I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate," Falwell said, according to the recording. "She has $300 million so far. But I hope she's the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton."
Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: "If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't."
According to Falwell and Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council, the Lucifer comment was meant to be humorous. I would submit that whether he intends it that way or not, a lot of what Jerry Falwell says is humorous. But it's an uncomfortable humor, the sort one hears privately from folks discussing Hugo Chavez' speech at the UN last week. A sort of chuckle-groan.
I'd ignore this comment, as part of my spiritual discipline of not wasting brain cells considering inflammatory, quasi-religious nonsense. But he's not the only one expressing this sentiment. (Though so far he's the only one to privilege the Clinton candidacy above the as-yet-unnanounced Party of Satan on the evangelical motivator scale.)
So here's where I'm confused. There are a lot of people contemplating runs for the White House in 2008. Some of them are staunchly in favor of abortion rights, gay marriage, and universal health care. Some of them are staunchly opposed to the Iraq war, and favor at the least a timetable for withdrawal of our troops.
It would seem as if "'Values' Voters" (whatever that means) would be more motivated by one of these candidates. And Hillary Clinton isn't one of these candidates. She's been pretty moderate in the Senate, ostensibly for the purpose of representing her New York constituents, which is what she was elected to do. It's hard to imagine her moving to the left in a presidential run, since the country as a whole isn't exactly left of New York State.
So what is it about Hillary Clinton that will so motivate evangelical voters? It can't be her voting record. Her Traditional Marriage street cred is pretty good: she's against gay marriage, and has demonstrated remarkable commitment to a philandering husband. I still love Bill Clinton, but it's fair to say a lot of women would have divorced his charming derriere. She continues to support the war (if not Donald Rumsfeld), and to speak out against the withdrawal of troops. She would still like health care coverage for all Americans, but has backed way off of a comprehensive plan like the one which never got out of the starting gate in 1993.
The truth is, Hillary Clinton has disappointed those who thought that she would be a true progressive in the Senate.
So what is it about her that would, according to Jerry Falwell and some more highly respected pundits, send conservatives to the polls in droves? I guess the devil is in the details.