The God Gap, Revisited

For the past few years we’ve been subjected to Amy Sullivan’s admonitions about the Democratic Party’s “God Gap” and how liberals need to learn to talk about religion as glibly as conservatives do.

Well, look who’s got a God problem now. Kathleen Parker writes in today’s Washington Post

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

“Intelligentsia” being party elites, at the heart of which are “professional conservatives [who] are lifelong Washingtonians who live comfortably as organization heads, lobbyists and publicists,” per David Brooks. This group is neither more nor less Christian than any other random segment of America, and if put on the spot to talk publicly about religion I doubt they’d be any more successful than was Howard Dean.

Parker gets better —

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows.

Is she saying that evangelicals are “lowbrows”? And how do we spell “elitist”? K-A-T-H-L-E-E-N P-A-R-K-E-R?

In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

Here’s the deal, ‘pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

That’s last one’s going to infuriate movement conservatives more than dissing God.

Ronald Reagan found a way to speak to white evangelical voters that touched their deeply ingrained and tangled narratives about religion, patriotism and race at a time when Bible Belt culture was being exported nationwide via Christian television programming. The Republican Party and a new generation of evangelical media stars like Pat Robertson forged a mutually beneficial alliance that was less about God than it was about money and secular power. And it worked for them for a while, at least in large parts of the country (although not the Northeast).

George Bush caught on to the same trick and was able to keep the alliance going. But the times do change, and most of the nation figured out what a clown Bush is. I also think the Terri Shiavo episode clarified the religion matter, so to speak, for a lot of people.

Social-Christian conservatives might argue that it’s their party, too, and maybe it was the neocons who really screwed the pooch. Or the small-government, deregulation uber alles conservatives who wore out their welcome. And I say there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Pass the popcorn. And tell Amy Sullivan to find a new issue.

21 thoughts on “The God Gap, Revisited

  1. I found the Parker article insightful. While I didn’t liket he Howard Dean comment, I must be honest with myself and agree that secularism might not be such a bad thing. Maybe Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he spoke of the wall between church and state. While I see Parker going more and more to the left- that does not necessarily mean she’s always wrong. Her ideas need to be evaluated on their own merit.

  2. All I know is I need to buy more popcorn. This is only just beginning and it looks like it’s going to have some really fun parts.

  3. And how do we spell “elitist”? K-A-T-H-L-E-E-N P-A-R-K-E-R?

    A favorite recent discovery on the history of the “elites” charge and the GOP:

    The idea that there is a powerful ‘new class’ of tertiary educated cultural elites which pursues a radical, left-wing agenda whilst profiting from public monies, has been a feature of right-wing thought since the early 1970s…

    Neo-conservatism in the United States was an intellectual movement centred around the likes of Daniel Bell, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Seymour Martin Lipset, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Peter Berger. Many were former liberals and socialists who had travelled the road to anti-communist conservatism during the 1950s and ’60s…

    Although the precise definition of the new class varied from writer to writer, the following excerpts from Irving Kristol provide a sense of the argument:

    There are people ‘out there’ who find it convenient to believe the worst about business because they have certain adverse intentions toward the business community to begin with. They dislike business for what it is, not for what they mistakenly think it is. In other words, they are members of what we have called ‘the new class’.

    This new class is not easily defined, but may be vaguely described. It consists of a goodly proportion of those college educated people whose skills and vocations proliferate in a ‘post-industrial society’… We are talking about scientists, teachers and educational administrators, journalists and others in the communication industries, psychologists, social workers, those lawyers and doctors who make their career in the expanding public sector, city planners and the staffs of the larger foundations and upper levels of the government bureaucracy, and so on. It is by now a quite numerous class; it is an indispensable class for our type of society; it is a disproportionately powerful class; it is also an ambitious and frustrated class.

    Business thus had much to fear from this powerful new class, according to Kristol, as:

    … they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call ‘the welfare state’ toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfil many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.

    According to the neo-conservatives, the new class has its origins in the radicalism of the ’60s. The radicals hoped to bring about a revolution in US society, but the decade ended, as Norman Podhoretz writes, ‘not with a revolution but with the election of Richard Nixon’. The new class resulted from the confounded expectations of the student radicals who subsequently changed tactics and pursued their revolutionary ends with renewed vigour, ‘this time working within the system’.

    Ironically, the roots of the neo-conservative manifestation of new class discourse are located in the debates within the Fourth International around the time of the Second World War. It was in and around US socialist politics of the 1930s and ’40s that many neo-conservatives began their intellectual life. And it was the break with Trotskyism and the Fourth International which began the journey right-ward for a number of intellectuals.

    This is institutionalized hippie bashing on the part of… recovering Trotskyists. Interesting. It’s like they said, at the beginning of the Reagan era, “Give to my think tank or the hippies/elites will take over everything. (And by hippies/elites, we mean everyone who isn’t involved in business.)

    Jim Sleeper a few months ago did a good job of trying to paint the big picture:

    [American Enterprise Institute speaker] Sam Tanenhaus… noted that while conservatives once chafed under the soulless leftist managerialism of the New Deal, they let ex-leftist conservative guides such as James Burnham and Irving Kristol lead them on a long march through the institutions they despised to build a managerial class of their own.

    Kristol showed conservative business and political leaders that New Deal managerialism had bred a liberal “new class” of academic, think-tank, and media experts who trafficked in words more than in deeds or missions accomplished. He counseled conservatives to outdo liberals at this game in order to rescue liberal education and liberal democracy for the kind of capitalism and politics conservatives can profit from and enjoy….

    Through lavishly-funded initiatives such as those I encountered in New York City’s Manhattan Institute and on college campuses, and in vast private ventures such as Rupert Murdoch’s “journalism,” conservatives generated a parody of the liberal “new class,” an on-message machine of talkers, squawkers, power brokers, and greedheads which Slate’s Jacob Weisberg dubbed “the Con-intern…”

    So far, the conservative “new class” has excused the displacement of the liberal counterculture with a degrading over-the-counter culture; of the New Deal’s oft-lampooned make-work programs with the public non-response to Katrina; and of the dreaded “Vietnam syndrome” with the worst strategic blunders in American history. Beneath their civic chimes and patriotic bombast, the spirit of republican vigilance writhes in silent agony, forsaken by conservatism itself.

    (Sorry, that comment was almost longer than your post…)

  4. Whoops, for some reason the nested quotes didn’t work well there (it’s a bit hard to tell what I said and what I quoted).

  5. JJ — don’t worry about the length. We like long comments around here as long as the comments say something interesting, and yours does.

    I think most people will be able to figure where the quote within the quote is, so don’t be too concerned.

  6. After mulling this article over today… Kathleen Parker is correct. Founding Fathers like Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Paine had the right vision when it came to religion and gov’t. Government neutrality is the best stance when it comes to religion. I also like the second comment- I’m gonna grab some popcorn too. If this issue is earnestly addressed- it could be a watershed moment.

  7. So, why shouldn’t Obama get to keep his Blackberry?

    I was listening to Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter being interviewed on Public Radio as I drove home from teaching today and the argument he was making was that Obama should not have to give up his Blackberry as the security mavens around him are demanding. Indeed, Alter gave lots of good reasons why Obama should stay plugged in.

    In this day and age when corporate users and those developing highly secret government projects are using their Blackberries, the President should have at least the same access to personal communication. There are plenty of means to encrypt everything and Obama is an intelligent user. It was his use of the Blackberry that helped him get through this very tough election… and the Republicans didn’t break his security… But I’ll bet they tried!

    One of the reasons we liked Obama more than McCain was that McCain seemed to make it a point in his favor that he didn’t know how to use a computer or do e-mail. Hey… this is the Twenty-First Century. If the President can use a phone he can use a Blackberry.

    If the argument is that the law says all his communications have to eventually be public, then so what? Are the historians and investigators concerned that they will have to key up hundreds of thousands of short messages? That’s their problem.

    Obama has already said he’ll be the first President with a laptop computer on his desk (my guess is that it will be his beloved Apple iBook), he should also put his foot down and tell the crowd that will be sealing him away from the world for one or two terms to shove it.

    I’ll bet the heads of France, Germany or England have no trouble if they want a Blackberry around.

    Under The LobsterScope

  8. I do think we must insist on separation of church and state. The reason is, we may not all agree with the religion of the person (people) in charge. I think it is the only thing that keeps us safe from fantics and people like the Taliban that would have us all have their same religious views. I know mixing it all up is popular with some religions and churches today, but I am sure they would be singing a different hymn if someone who didn’t agree with their religion or would outlaw their religion was in power.

  9. I also think the Terri Shiavo episode clarified the religion matter, so to speak, for a lot of people.

    Amen, speak it out sister!…When Bush left Crawford, Tx at 5 a.m. to fly back to Washington so that he could sign Terry’s Law on a moments notice. I kinda got an inkling the religious right had overstepped its bounds.

    And Randall Terry with his silly hairdoo and oversized wooden cross aeound his neck, crying like a baby to save a virtual vegetable from being murdered was like in your face outta control.

  10. Funny that Kathleen Parker of all people is now looking down her nose at the ‘lowbrow’ segment of the Republican Party. She has for all these recent years been a nationally-syndicated George W. Bush apologist who defended these same people as the salt of the earth when they led the GOP to an executive/legislative/judicial majority. All of a sudden this same Republican base is a problem to be dealt with.

  11. Jeez, where do I live? Didn’t we get over this separation of church and state 200 years ago? Some days I just want to move to Canada.

  12. After yesterday’s news that Tom Daschle would be getting Health and Human Services, The Politco announced that Janet Napolitano would be named for Homeland Security.

    This is a leak, I guess, but probably accurate. HS is the one Department I wish Obama would get rid of and return to the old mix of cabinet positions, or a variation thereof, since it is such an absurd waste of money and oh so ineffective… and I say that as someone who worked there for a little while,

    Anyway, here’s a clip from The Politico:

    Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security’s myriad functions.

    Napolitano brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State’s first female attorney general. One of the nation’s most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2006.

    Transition insiders have long expected that she would be offered a Cabinet slot, although she had also been mentioned for other posts, including attorney general.

    Napolitano, 50, endorsed Obama in early January, just as the primaries were kicking off, and the female up-and-comer’s decision to back the Illinois Senator got widespread coverage.

    I guess we’ll be getting more announcements, whether leaks or officially made, today… This Administration seems to be setting itself up much more quickly than previous ones.

    And we have yet to see a Republican put up for a major post. My guess is Defense might be the one.

    Under The LobsterScope

  13. I also think the Terri Shiavo episode clarified the religion matter, so to speak, for a lot of people.

    Somehow, Jonah Goldberg didn’t think that this was bad mistake.

  14. re the conventions….
    “One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting”

    Wow! I have to think she got some evil mail over that line.

  15. So where does, Sarah, the Wasp Zelig, fit in. She certainly drew adoring thousands of (low-lifers?)

    One of her influential, early supporters gathered thousands into her fold by touting her as obviously one of god’s chosen – evidenced according to him by his awarness that something ‘mysterious’ something ‘else’ was leading him to work ‘tirelessly’ for her success.

    I rather think Sarah will fade into the Alaskan sunset – but only if enough righties make sure she’s run out of Republican town.

  16. Swami, Randall Terry is a sad, sad, sad little freakshow.

    There was a similar case in Missouri around 1990– I can’t remember the young woman’s name at the moment, but it made the national news– and Terry’s “Operation Rescue” crowd showed up to surround the hospital and harass the young woman’s parents, because they wanted their daughter taken off life support.

    My brother wrote for the Raytown Post at that time, and covered the story. He was in absolute awe of the young woman’s father. The guy was calm, reasonable and compassionate– everything Randall Terry and his minions are not. At one point, the protesters entered the hospital en masse and tried to force their way into the young woman’s room. A few nights later, it got really cold outside, and the father had hot coffee and cocoa distributed among the protesters who were out there to hatin’ on him and behaving like hyenas.

    I think for most people it would be easy to see who was the true Christian, and who was the phony.

  17. Sarah, the Wasp Zelig


    Apparently, she fits in everywhere, being all things to all people and so forth.

  18. It’s a tough task defending Amy from the blogosphere and I’ve largely given up trying.

    But I will say that Obama definitely seemed to be more authentic about religion than Kerry.

  19. New numbers -released 11-20 from CNN offer food for thought.

    “As the debate rages within GOP ranks over where to take the party, the poll might offer some guidance.

    Most Republicans — 59 percent — want the party to become more conservative, according to the poll. Another 28 percent want it to remain about the same ideologically, while only 12 percent would prefer to see the Republican Party become less conservative.

    Independents are split on whether the party should track left or right: 35 percent of independent voters say the GOP should become more conservative, and 35 percent say less conservative.”

    What this means is that following an electionwhere the middle abandoned the GOP for a Senator with ‘the most liberal voting record’, a clear majority of GOP voters want the GOP to move even further FROM the center making Republicans even LESS appealing?

  20. I’ve read K. Parker’s column for several years, sometimes she infuriates me, but sometimes she offers up a glimmer of hope that the right has some element of critical thinking. After Katrina clobbered New Orleans, she vented her anger at the Bush admin. while the psychos in the Christian camp hailed the event as a divine “cleansing” of the city.

    I can see a big split in the GOP coming, most likely a more Libertarian,Ron Paul centered party will split off and leave the remainder to divide between the country club faction and the lock’n load Jesus brigade.Think Beverly Hillbillies on crack and the Ted Knight Judge from Caddy Shack…….what a combo!

    Sadly, I also see a change coming for the Dems as the neo-cons run away from the religious nut jobs and try to weasel their way into the left and “create some realities” for the democrats.
    Remember, the neo-cons are former leftists “mugged by reality”, their reality consists of consolidating power and making money.

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