There has been a lot of angst among national Republicans that a Donald Trump nomination will sap conservative base enthusiasm, suppress turnout, and hurt down ticket Republican candidates around the country.
An email sent out Wednesday—in the wake of Trump winning Indiana and becoming the presumptive Republican nominee by Alaska’s most politically active Conservative Christian group may be the first warning sign that Alaska’s socially-conservative base may be a problem for Alaska Republicans in November.
In an email to supporters, Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery sounded despondent about the current national political situation. The email, titled “Don’t Push That Button” said in part:.
Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders.
Social conservatives never expected or wanted it to come down to this.
But it has.
For many, myself included, there can be be a tendency to push the disengage button. To despair that our most cherished values and foundational truths are simply not being represented this time around.
That inclination is wrong and should be cut off from receiving any oxygen.
“For by [Christ], all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
We’ve cherished victories and suffered defeats since establishing this ministry back in 2006 and throughout each moment in time, Christ on His throne has and will continue to hold all things together.
That is our hope.
In an interview Wednesday, Minnery confirmed the email was intended to address what he sees as an increasing impulse for Conservative Christians to politically disengage as a result of Trump’s victory saying:
“I’d say most of the people that focus on our issues are concerned about Trump, even though he’s made some statements about the sanctity of life that are encouraging, but I’d say most people are discouraged” and “There are a lot of people in my universe have said they are just going to take a break this time around.”
Minnery also said he and his organization are encouraging their followers to resist such urges, stay politically engaged, and re-evaluate what he calls the “new reality” of a Trump nomination.
Interestingly, though, Minnery isn’t encouraging anyone to jump on the Trump Train until The Donald shows more support for their views:
“My take is that the worst thing we could do is just line up right behind him right away. We have, I believe, some leverage on the national level and for use not to utilize that wouldn’t be wise. He’s the Art of the Deal guy, so let’s make a deal.”
What kind of movement could help Trump solidify his support among such voters? Minnery says he’s closely monitoring how Trump says he will choose his nominee for the open Supreme Court seat and who he picks as a running mate.
If Minnery’s non-committal tone on Trump and concern about conservative enthusiasm are any indication of the thinking among Alaska’s religious right it could be a problem for Alaska Republicans.
It is easy to envision a perfect storm where low enthusiasm in the conservative base, a lack of competitive challengers for Congressman Young & Sen. Murkowski, and disenchantment with legislative Republicans’ handling of the state’s fiscal crisis could add up to lackluster Republican turnout around the state this fall.
That would seriously hamper Republican efforts to pick up enough State House seats to ward off a potential bipartisan leadership organization in the next legislature.
Such an organization is a possibility Alaska Republican Party leaders already fear so much they have already taken steps, to warn Republican state legislators that any efforts to form such an organization would bring repercussions.
For his part, new Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock says he isn’t concerned. He said while he understands the current sour feelings of religious conservatives, he ultimately expects they will still come home to the Republican Party:
“I’m not surprised that right now people who were very enthusiastic for Ted Cruz are unhappy and disappointed that he has suspended his campaign. It’s a dour day, but tomorrow’s another day. Most people will wake up and consider do we want a Democratic candidate or Republican candidate. Many people may wake up and say “hooray, what a great candidate” and a lot of other people will say “we don’t have a great candidate, but we still have to make a choice.”