The Religious Right is counter-programming Rick Warren's meeting with McCain and Obama:
Huckabee, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, a young adult movement, plan to hold a news conference Friday calling on Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to spend more time talking about issues that matter to evangelical voters.
The press conference will be followed by a day of fasting and prayer on the national mall organized by The Call. Engle said thousands of evangelicals from across the country are expected to attend.
The event will take place Aug. 16, the same day McCain and Obama will make their first joint general election campaign appearance. The presidential contenders will share the stage for a few minutes at a forum at Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., the 20,000-strong mega-church of Rick Warren. Warren is a pastor and the best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life.
Obviously, they're mad that someone else on the beat is getting the attention and they're not, especially someone who isn't obsessed with anal sex and controlling women's bodies. More after the jump.
While I doubt Engle is right that "thousands" of evangelicals will show up, he is pretty honest about why he and other wingnuts even care about wedge issues:
Engle admits that the press conference and rally on the mall are designed to counter the Warren candidate interviews, which he predicted would be more politically correct and focus more on "what the church is for rather than what it is against."
Engle, a vehement opponent of abortion rights, said the goal of the rally on the mall is to "drive the issue of abortion like a wedge into the soul of the nation."
We're usually the ones saying that LGBT rights and abortion are being used by the Religious Right cynically as wedge issues, so it's good to know that they at least agree with that sentiment.
So they're feeling left out of this election cycle, and I really don't blame them. The Republicans are usually the ones talking about abortion and gays, and McCain can't even figure out the issues about which he's supposedly an expert, much less the issues that he never cared about from the beginning.
Obama's not going to talk about abortion unless pushed, and I don't think we really want to hear more from him on that issue. Just promise fair judges and that's about the extent of his participation in that issue. On gay rights, it isn't that complicated, he's covered his bases on those legislative issues that were lain out, and they don't appeal to more than 5% of the electorate. So it's not going to come up like energy policy or the tax code will.
I don't think this is part of a bigger movement of evangelicals away from traditional wedge issues, as this meeting is being billed. Evangelicals never cared about gays and abortion as much as the media thought they did, and the movement towards the left on the LGBT issues is part of a larger movement of pretty much everyone becoming more accepting.
But, Warren has more access to these political candidates and the leaders of the Religious Right have always used their access to people in power to fundraise from their people, and Huck, Perkins, and Engle are all on the ball enough to see that they're losing pretty much their only claim to power.
I doubt there's much chance that Obama would agree to a debate orchestrated by one of their own (like Dobson or Perkins), but the point is to put pressure on McCain to start campaigning on abortion and gays instead of Iraq, hand-outs to oil companies, and idiotic celebrity commercials. And then maybe, for another two years, we'll get the same narrative about how these people were able to rally voters, even though they lost, to McCain's side. And they can pretend like they have sway and that people actually voted in droves to stop same-sex marriage and abortion.
In fact, they pretty much say that straight up:
Evangelical leaders are urging McCain, a lifelong opponent of abortion rights, to commit to pushing a constitutional amendment on gay marriage. Social conservative leaders also want him to take a firm position on banning federal funding for stem-cell research.
"I don't trust John McCain," Engle said.
It doesn't matter, though, since their gravy train is coming to a stop soon. It's happening because of a massive wave of forces beyond their control, so it's kinda fun to see them try to hold on to their power by their fingernails.
Either way, I'm looking forward to the several dozen people who show up for this meeting. Thousands? Seriously?