Michelle Cottle in The New Republic:
…the right’s dominance of the values debate has been aided by the left’s policy of disengagement (not to mention Democratic pols’ distaste for, as a certain 2004 presidential candidate sniffed, “wear[ing] my religion on my sleeve”), the connection between evangelical religion and conservative politics in this country has deep and tangled roots. For reasons as much theological as political, white evangelicals (which is what people invariably mean when they talk about American evangelicalism) turned against systemic attempts to combat poverty and other societal ills long before anyone had ever heard of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or Ronald Reagan. More specifically, the right’s fixation on personal piety, while arguably unbiblically narrow, nonetheless draws its resonance from a powerful combination of factors–evangelicalism’s emphasis on personal redemption, the political realities of how to galvanize and sustain a mass movement, and the basic human fascination with sex–that aren’t as easily applied to issues like tax policy and Social Security reform. As a result, although American evangelicals personally may be broadening their policy interests, the community’s political activism, particularly on the domestic front, is unlikely to budge much beyond the same old “core issues” involving sex and school prayer. So, while it’s tempting for those unnerved by the right’s politicking to latch onto the idea that the moral high ground can be reclaimed–that poverty and pollution can be turned into the defining values issues of 2008–Democrats would be wise not to bet their political future on any divine, or even divinely inspired, intervention.