Newt Gingrich won 46 percent of the evangelical vote in South Carolina.
Evangelicals have long celebrated their status faith, family and values voters.
What explains this?
When Rick Perry, a devout conservative Christian, withdrew from the race, throwing his support to Gingrich, he said, “Newt is not perfect, but who amongst us is? There is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption.”
Translation: “He may be a cad and a rogue, but he can win.”
When the chips are down, it seems faith, family and values go out the window.
By contrast, a group of prominent social conservatives voted earlier this month voted to support Rick Santorum, though he was trailing in the South Carolina and Florida polls.
Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, said that, on the issue of family values and character, “there is concern over that,” in regards to Gingrich. Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention, remarked that though “evangelical men might forgive him, far fewer evangelical women will be able to override their discomfort with his infidelity.” When the decision was made to support Santorum, they weren’t just talking the talk. They were walking the walk.
For those who haven’t been following Gingrich’s personal life, here is a capsule version: He married his first wife, Jacqueline, at 19 and had two daughters. His wife developed uterine cancer. He began having an affair with Marianne, who became his second wife, and when Jacqueline was in the hospital having a tumor removed he visited her to ask for a divorce. He then married Marianne. While they were married, he carried on a six-year affair with his current wife, Callista. During this period he was one of the House leaders pressing for the impeachment of President Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. After Marianne developed Multiple Sclerosis, he asked, according to her account, if they could stay married while he continued his affair. When she said no, he called her on the phone to tell her he wanted a divorce. Two days later, he gave a speech on family values called “The Demise of the American Culture.” During his conversion to Catholicism, he asked the Catholic Diocese of Atlanta for an annulment of his second marriage and it was granted. “We were married 19 years and now he wants to say it didn’t exist,” Marianne said in an interview.
“There’s no question at times of my life I was partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich has said in his defense.
That seems to have satisfied many of his faith and family values supporters.
“I caused a lot of pain,” Gingrich said recently. “The country was worth the pain….There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There’s certainly times when I’ve fallen short of God’s standards.”
But no more. He recently signed a pledge to “uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse.”
This will presumably be easier now that he is, as he reminds us, a 68-year-old grandfather and married to a woman 23 years younger.
Gingrich has close to a 60 percent unfavorable rating in nationwide polls and 57 percent of both white evangelicals and Republicans say an elected official who commits adultery should resign. Yet the evangelical vote, in part, boosted him in South Carolina and is keeping him at the top of polls in Florida.
Evangelical positions in this election have raised a lot of questions, for me, including:
If one believes in forgiveness and redemption, how can Rick Perry brag about his Texas executions? What about the Texas prisoners on Death Row, some who may have legitimate cases for a new trial and may not be guilty? Is there no forgiveness or chance for redemption for them?
Gingrich said at the South Carolina debate that asking about his personal life is “despicable.” If you agree with this candidate, why is it okay to advocate denying gay men and lesbians the right to marry if one’s private life should be private? Why is it more acceptable to cheat on multiple wives and treat them badly, than to be faithfully and lovingly married to one partner of the same sex?
Why is it all right to abandon your own values, ethics and morals to vote for someone who has not adhered to those same values?
Why is it wrong for the media to report on the private lives of candidates you support (Gingrich) but fine to do the same for candidates you do not support (Clinton)?
Interestingly, many people I have talked to, Republican moderates, liberals, independents and atheists, prefer Rick Santorum as a candidate despite the fact that he is much more conservative than Newt Gingrich?
What explains this?
Sally Quinn | Jan 26, 2012 3:40 PM