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Citizen Servatius: Killing Off Their Own Kind

Christian conservatives never seem to learn

In all of nature, there's only one animal that consistently works against its own survival, stubbornly refusing to evolve or adapt to its changing surroundings. That animal is the Christian conservative Republican. It has such a long track record of consistently killing off its own kind in statewide North Carolina politics that at least one national Democratic campaign committee is focusing its resources on them, rather than on its own voters, in the 2002 US Senate race.

It's not that these voters are stupid -- well most of them, anyway -- it's that they are so easily manipulated by anyone with a Bible and a fax machine.

Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent out the first in a series of releases to the media designed to cast doubts among conservative Republican primary voters as to whether Republican Senate Candidate Liddy Dole is a true Helms-style conservative.

It focused on Dole's flip-flops on the gun issue, a key one to conservative Republicans, and reminded them that Dole opposed concealed carry laws and supported bans on assault rifles and laws requiring trigger locks on guns during her primary run for president.

"It's the right thing to do, and I won't shy away from the tough issues, even if some in my party don't like it," the release quotes Dole as saying in May 1999. The bottom of the Democratic press release reads, "Coming Next Week: Liddy Dole's Continually Shifting Position on Abortion."

Ironically enough, "Liddy on guns" was also the theme of another campaign that opened last week -- that of Republican conservative Jim Snyder. The Lexington attorney also says that Dole isn't conservative enough. How predictable. Is Bin Laden conservative enough? How about Hitler?

Snyder, the author of A Lawyer Prays God's Will for His Clients, is clearly the kind of religious whacko these Republican primary races always draw, the sort with a past history of going out of their way to publicly document their own religious fervor. He's also the sort that the general public -- or those who don't vote in Republican primaries -- finds bizarre at best.

But publicly proclaim yourself the most Christian candidate in North Carolina, and Christian voters will pile on to vote for you in the Republican primary, never mind that Snyder has never been a member of the Christian Coalition and joined the National Rifle Association just a month ago.

Christian conservatives like Charlotte World Publisher Warren Smith have already begun bashing Dole and expressing interest in Snyder, which is the way it always starts. But since voters like Smith make up a significant percentage of voters in the Republican primary, Dole will have to make the same tough choice Republican gubernatorial candidates Robin Hayes and former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot did over the last six years.

She can handle snakes, speak in tongues and win the primary -- all the while turning off general election voters, or she can stick to her moderate guns and lose the primary without making it to a general election she could have won. Then she can sit back and watch Democratic US Senate Candidate Erskine Bowles whoop Snyder's rump by a 20-plus-point margin. Bowles will then go on to a multi-term career in a Democrat-dominated US Senate, dedicating his energies to undermining everything that conservative Christians like Smith, who supported Snyder, stand for.

If this were the first, or even the second time the political dominoes had been set up this way in statewide politics, the self-destructive fanaticism of Christian conservative voters might be understandable. But it isn't. Jesus Christ Himself couldn't win one of these primaries. He's way too nice a guy.

Vinroot lost the 1996 Republican gubernatorial primary after leading in the polls largely because of reports that he once donated less than $100 to Planned Parenthood. He learned the hard way that he'd have to pass the conservative litmus test to get out of the primary, so in 2000, he hired Jesse Helm's political strategist, Carter Wrenn, to run a nasty campaign that painted him as a Christian Boy Scout and questioned his opponent Leo Daughtry's Christian and pro-life credentials. Vinroot, the former mayor most Charlotteans had always known as a moderate, won that primary, and lost a general election he could have won had he been able to survive the primary running as, well, himself.

General election voters were so turned off by the new BiblioVinroot that they got to know in the primary that he got just 51 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg County, where he grew up.

He got beat in Republican strongholds he should have easily won, including the Triad cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, losing every age group except senior citizens. Vinroot even got fewer votes than several losing Republican Council of State candidates, many of whom were unknown to voters.

That's because Independents and moderates, including some Republican moderates, were so turned off by Vinroot that they went for Easley, a guy who said as little as possible during the election and whose personality and governing style was largely unknown on election day.

But did Christian conservatives learn from their own history? Nope. They're now gearing up once again to force-march their own soldiers across their own minefields to a slaughter that will, for perhaps the first time, be partially funded by those they claim to oppose.

Why they bother to go to the polls, I don't know.

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