If the Ralph Reed-inspired Faith and Freedom Coalition event this past weekend taught me anything, it was that there is a discrete formula being used by speechwriters to address the emerging “teavangelical” social conservative base, being orchestrated by Reed. The self-conscious effort to meld the tea partiers to the evangelical base was on explicit display at the conference, and Reed made clear he sees this highly motivated minority as a game changer in 2012 turnout. I don’t think he’s wrong. If the libertarian tea partiers can be melded to the Christian evangelical cohort, Reed would have achieved something along the lines of the “fusionism“ of earlier conservative leaders who brought together anti-communist crusaders and more subdued Wall Street Republicans.
Another thing is clear: The messaging people behind all of the major GOP candidates who are wooing this critical base are all reading off the same script. Bachmann, Hunsman, Pawlenti, Romney, Santorum, Cain, Palin — those who appeared at the event, and those who didn’t — all give the same speech, with the only notable differences being in style and delivery. Here is the not-so-secret talking points memo.
1) Best to open by framing the national debt and deficit as moral issues. Not just economic issues, but moral ones. Decry the debt. Curse the spenders. Bedevil the big government spending and socialistic bailouts. Fear America’s transformation into a cradle to grave European welfare state. Talk about taxes as a form of theft: Give us our money back! The government steals from us and then spends even more, which it does not have.
2) Move on to abortion and gay marriage. For all of the crises facing our nation (rhetorical pivot from moral crisis of debt, etc.) nothing is more important (say it twice: nothing!) than defending the rights of unborn fetuses and the “institution” of heterosexual marriage. The secular progressives, led by Barack Obama, are bent on destroying the fundamental cornerstones of our Judeo-Christian society, undermining the founding fathers’ vision of a society that protects life (and liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.).
3) We are waging a battle for life and liberty every bit as important as what happened in 1776. (Pivot from citing the Declaration of Independence on the right to life, liberty, etc. etc.) Cite founding fathers as much as possible, ideally in parallel with quotations from Ronald Reagan. Best to cite Reagan quoting founding fathers. There is a good reference to RR quoting Sam Adams, already in use by several GOP contenders.
4) Stand with Israel. The connection between evangelicals and the Jewish state may or may not be rooted in revelations about the End Times, or in a desire to emulate an explicitly religious state, but whatever the justification — Israel must be seen as America’s greatest, strongest, most reliable ally in the entire world. They can, literally, do no wrong, and the Obama administration is the most anti-Israel president in history. There can be no negotiation with terrorists (from which Israel and America both face existential threats) and no negotiation over borders which were determined as a result of hostile invasion by Arab enemies decades ago.
5) Close with scriptural citation, or Ronald Reagan quotation, or both.
This is not a tongue-in-cheek offering; every one of the candidates at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference followed this formulation, and you are sure to hear it from the others going forward.