Religion in Retreat: America

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Bush Administration

Steven Thomma writes for McClatchy Newspapers that Christian conservatives’ political power is in decline:

Today, their nearly three-decade-long ascendance in the Republican Party is over. Their loyalties and priorities are in flux, the organizations that gave them political muscle are in disarray, the high-profile preachers who led them to influence through the 1980s and 1990s are being replaced by a new generation that’s less interested in their agenda and their hold on politics and the 2008 Republican presidential nomination is in doubt.

“Less than four years after declarations that the Religious Right had taken over the Republican Party, these social conservatives seem almost powerless to influence its nomination process,” said W. James Antle III, an editor at the American Spectator magazine who’s written extensively about religious conservatives.

“They have the numbers. They have the capability. What they don’t have is unity or any institutional leverage.”

David D. Kirkpatrick at the New York Times and Michael Scherer at Salon report that “Christian leaders” are considering backing a third-party candidate if Rudy Giuliani is the Republican nominee. Michael Scherer writes,

The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives. James Clymer, the chairman of the U.S. Constitution Party, was also present at the meeting, according to a person familiar with the proceedings.

“The conclusion was that if there is a pro-abortion nominee they will consider working with a third party,” said the person, who spoke to Salon on the condition of anonymity. The private meeting was not a part of the official CNP schedule, which is itself a closely held secret. “Dobson came in just for this meeting,” the person said.

The decision confirms the fears of many Republican Party officials, who have worried that a Giuliani nomination would irrevocably split the GOP in advance of the 2008 general election, given Giuliani’s relatively liberal stands on gay unions and abortion, as well as his rocky marital history.

David Kirkpatrick writes,

A revolt of Christian conservative leaders could be a significant setback to the Giuliani campaign because white evangelical Protestants make up a major portion of Republican primary voters. But the threat is risky for the credibility of the Christian conservative movement as well. Some of its usual grass-roots supporters could still choose to support even a pro-choice Republican like Mr. Giuliani, either because they dislike the Democratic nominee even more or because they are worried about war, terrorism and other issues.

I’m not holding my breath until Dobson et al. bolt the Republican Party. Right-wing religionists have profited mightily through its relationship with right-wing politics, and as long as fundies can deliver enough votes to swing close elections I suspect the GOP will continue to make nice with the fundies. But the bloom is off the rose.

Eve Conant wrote recently in Newsweek:

As a movement, conservative Christians have yet to get fired up about any of the leading Republican presidential candidates. There was a brief wave of enthusiasm for Fred Thompson, but that may be ebbing. One of the nation’s most influential evangelicals, James Dobson, wrote a scathing e-mail about Thompson, obtained by the Associated Press last week, in which he objected to the candidate’s opposition to a constitutional marriage amendment and said Thompson had “no passion, no zeal.” Meanwhile, Mitt Romney suffers among some evangelicals because of bias against his Mormon faith. Front runner Rudy Giuliani leaves conservative Christians particularly cold. “If the Republicans are foolish enough to nominate the pro-choice Giuliani, that will give the Democratic Party license to hunt for evangelical votes,” says [Southern Baptist Richard] Land, who has been contacted by both the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns. “I don’t know how successful they’ll be, but at least they’ll have that license.”

Even if Giuliani is the nominee, I foresee Dobson and other Christianist leaders having a change of heart. At some point they’ll step forward and say they have been assured that Giuliani won’t betray Christian values in the White House. For his part, Rudy will have to engage in prodigious ass kissing to bring Dobson around, but I know he’s got it in him.

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9 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Swami  •  Oct 1, 2007 @10:34 am

    For his part, Rudy will have to engage in prodigious ass kissing to bring Dobson around, but I know he’s got it in him.

    AMEN !

    Never does a politician stand so tall as when he stoops to kiss some ass.

    Move over Lon Chaney..Rudy is now the man of one thousand faces. Rudy has become like the army recruiting slogan…“be all you can be”

  2. debpet  •  Oct 1, 2007 @11:43 am

    I get very frustrated when I see the term “religion” applied as though it meant only the most extreme fundamentalist politically conservative branch of Christianity. There are a great many people who have a strong and genuine faith without the dogmatic streak. People who believe in a creative power that brought forth and sustains everything that exists, but who do not believe that every detail of the creation narrative in Genesis must be taken literally. People who believe in the teachings of Christ that we should treat each other as brothers and sisters, help those in need and live righteously in all areas of our lives, but who do not think that meens using the power of government to impose a particular understanding of faith on everyone in the society, no matter what their beliefs. In fact the strict fundamentalists are a MINORITY of those who identify themselves as Christian. The fact that they receive such disproportionate attention and wield such disproportionate influence creates a distorted picture of what faith actually is, and the effect on our society is deplorable.

  3. maha  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:15 pm

    debpet — you’re new here, aren’t you?

  4. Lynne  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:19 pm

    🙂

  5. donato  •  Oct 1, 2007 @7:36 pm

    It’s sad that you can only become president if you profess some mystical belief in the occult. Safeguards were placed within our constitution to protect us from those that believe in the supernatural, not those that don’t.

  6. Carl Gordon  •  Oct 1, 2007 @9:03 pm

    This is a common result of GOP conservative martyr syndrome, or as we learned in the 3rd grade, not getting your way all the time. It’s usually acompanied by embarassing physical ailments, not unlike goat polio, as well as pointedly stupid debates about nothing (see Ann Coulter) and a ludicrous absence of common sense.

    Unlike Goat Polio, spillage and pissing is more common in adult conservatives than in kids. It is entirely possible to introduce this silly behavior into a previously uninfected herd by feeding silage, sudden changes in kind of feed, parasitism, dramatic weather changes, and advanced stages of pregnancy, or shit-kicking defenseless dead people by pinhead pundits.

    Symptoms include depression of common sense, decreased appetite for obvious onion dips, beaver fever, leaning or stumbling or moving in one direction only while lollygagging, head pulled to flank with rigid neck during oral sex, facial paralysis on one side due to oral sex, slack jaw mouth breathing, and drooling during Republican primaries. Diarrhea is present when conservative principles or so-called “family values” are instigated while lacking any discernable point or value. Embracing GOP talking points can be mistaken for rabies. Immediate treatment is critical – Recovery is more “iffy” than with Goat Polio.

    The exact manner in which both republican ideology and Goat Polio affect the average pinhead is not well understood at this time. Treatment involves administration of high doses of boot leather to the dumb ass of the victim every six minutes for three to five days, then daily for an additional seven days. Forty-thousand IU per kg of body weight of common sense is needed to cross the blood brain barrier and put sufficient amounts of grey matter into the tissue of the dope’s central nervous system. Remember that one kilogram (kg) equals 2.2 pounds.

  7. erinyes  •  Oct 1, 2007 @9:30 pm

    Rumor has it that a certain senior senator from Kentucky and another from South Carolina will soon get kicked out of the closet, more red state hijinks.That should get some fundie panties in a twist.

    Debpet (awesome pen name!), have you ever been below the Mason-Dixon? Hagee, Dobson, and Robertson have lots of friends down here.Friends in high places.

  8. trvolk  •  Oct 1, 2007 @11:35 pm

    “as long as fundies can deliver enough votes to swing close elections”

    Giuliani doesn’t need ’em if he can capture the middle and the independents. Ron Paul has shown time after time that he can work minority audiences with his libertarian values. Pair Rudy and Ron as running mates and the Republicans won’t need the fundies.

    If the fundies continue along this path, I will soon be volunteering for the Giuliani campaign.

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