Church, State, and the Presidential Campaign of 2008
Daniel, Wallace L., Holladay, Meredith, Journal of Church and State
While history provides useful keys to the present, this year's presidential campaign offers much that is new. In contrast to the recent past, the January primaries brought huge crowds into the political arena. A large proportion of those crowds, especially in Iowa, were young people, attracted by the promise and hope of a fresh start in politics, which several of the candidates claim to offer. Change became the rallying cry of leaders in the early primaries, both in Iowa and New Hampshire, change and a new beginning, rather than experience and connections to the past. The political institutions and organizations that had previously worked so well appeared anachronistic and out of touch, as candidates in both parties appealed for the votes of independents, whose emergence in large numbers has had a major impact in the primaries. As Barack Obama told his audience in New Hampshire, "There's something going on out here. Something's stirring in the wind."
Excitement about the election ran through nearly all the voters. Heavy snows and freezing temperatures in Iowa and New Hampshire failed to dampen this excitement, as voters in large numbers came out to hear candidates in both political parties define their visions of America and elaborate their views on the challenges facing the country. Iraq, the economy, foreign policy, health care, the environment, and immigration pressed to tne forefront of voters' attention, as well as expressed their anxieties about the future. That such issues have emerged so powerfully suggests a rejection of much that defined the recent past. Americans have grown tired and frustrated with the war in Iraq; they are embarrassed by the global collapse of respect for America; they are fed up with the hypocrisy and the plastic mannerisms of government leaders obsessed with power; and they are hungry for a pragmatic, much less ideological, approach to the problems the country confronts. Several commentators nave pointed out that the intense concern with such issues serves as evidence that cynicism is irrelevant to what is happening and that hunger for a new land of leadership is being expressed.1
The theme that stands out strongly in the election process so far is a rejection of dogmatic approaches. Voters are expressing a desire for leadership capable of dealing with practical proolems and offering practical solutions to the difficulties plaguing the country. They are not interested in the ideological categories that have traditionally defined the way we approach politics, including the attempts to identify candidates as "conservative" or "liberal." The positions of many of the candidates speak across these boundaries, despite the futile efforts of pundits such as Rush Limbaugh to apply these labels. The candidates defy traditional political categories, evidence that what is taking place is something "new, not just in American politics, but in society as a whole . . . ."2
In their public appearances, Republican presidential candidates often invokea the name of former President Ronald Reagan, seeking to ally their ideas with his and identifying themselves withms leadership qualities. The candidate, journalist Tonn M. Broder has written, that eventually emerges from the Republican field will certainly have to possess the political skills that Reagan had in appealing to a culturally and politically diverse population. All the Republican leading contenders have cited their earlier personal association with Reagan. Moreover, present conditions in the country share several similarities with the times that brought Reagan to the presidency in 1980: the popularity of the sitting president had reached a very low point; a stagnant national economy seemed unable to move forward; the electorate exhibited a hunger for change. Such conditions gave advantages to a candidate blessed with excellent communication Stalls and who, though committed to a core set of principles, had flexible, …
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Publication information: Article title: Church, State, and the Presidential Campaign of 2008. Contributors: Daniel, Wallace L. - Author, Holladay, Meredith - Author. Journal title: Journal of Church and State. Volume: 50. Issue: 1 Publication date: Winter 2008. Page number: 5+. © 1999 J.M. Dawson Studies in Church and State. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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