Before I get into this fascinating story at U.S. News, let me make the following disclaimer: The information that follows comes from disgruntled former employees and therefore should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt. Still, it does resonate with my own perceptions of McCain’s attitude toward Christian conservatives. Ever since the glee with which McCain delivered his famous “agents of intolerance” speech in 2000, it has seemed to me that McCain has at least some degree of contempt towards the so-called “religious right.”
Well, according to his former religion outreach coordinators, I just might be right:
Two former aides hired to spearhead religious outreach for presidential candidate John McCain say that they were virtually ignored by the campaign and that McCain’s top campaign strategists are intent on winning votes of religious voters without having to develop serious ties to faith communities. The aides, who were fired in early April after roughly three months on the job, said the campaign staff declined to return scores of their phone calls and E-mail messages, denied them access to leaders of the McCain campaign, and pressed them to collect church directories—a controversial tactic—as the centerpiece of a strategy to woo “values” voters.
“In the end, you came away with the strong sense that they had contempt for the faith-based community,” says Marlene Elwell, one of those fired staffers. Elwell, a prominent Christian-right activist, was hired by McCain in December 2006 to be national director of his “Americans of Faith” coalition. “The way we were being treated it was as if we had leprosy.”
The entire article is fascinating. Read it and make your own judgments.
As an aside, I have often noted a different view of Christian conservatives from those who have spent most of their time inside the beltway. Washington D.C. is a liberal town with a very small evangelical population. Thus, most journalists, activists, and polticians experience religious conservatives not as fellow members of the community but instead almost exclusively as actvists. John McCain comes from (well) outside the Bible Belt and has spent a long time in Washington. I have little doubt that most of his interaction with Christians is political, not cultural or spiritual.
You see a different attitude from politicians who either come from strong faith communities themselves (like Governor Romney) or who have spent much of their career in those areas of the country where most religious conservatives live and work. They tend to see us more as we are: as a community (full of flawed and imperfect individuals, to be sure) that makes a tremendous contribution to our nation through charity, service, and sacrifice.
To know us in our natural habitat (as opposed to the artificial world of beltway political activism) is to (usually) love us.