Spirits were subdued a year ago at the Values Voters Summit, an annual gathering of religious conservatives in Washington. Those soldiers in the culture wars over abortion, same-sex marriage and religion in the public square met amid obituaries for their movement's influence.
What a difference a year makes -- or so the religious right would have us believe.
Last year, Sen. John McCain finished last in a Republican presidential poll held in conjunction with the summit. This year's summiteers were newly enthusiastic about McCain because of his selection of their kindred spirit, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Some of the faithful hope that the 2008 election will be a referendum on "values" -- as defined by them.
We hope they're wrong. A raft of issues will confront the next president: the faltering economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, a resurgent Russia, gaps in health insurance, energy policy and climate change. Especially after this week's turmoil in the financial markets, it's bizarre to suggest that this election should turn on abortion, same-sex marriage or the relationship between church and state. Though these remain important issues, the electorate would be the loser if they play as significant a role this year as they have in recent presidential races.