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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Religious Right Struggles to Remain Relevant

The religious right seems to be having a little trouble accepting the fact that they aren't quite the political force they thought they were. High profile losses, like Rick Santorum's, were due in large part to a failure of the 'values voter' crowd to vote in full robot clone mode. Many of them defected or decided they had something more important to do on election day -- those leaves aren't gonna to rake themselves.

Some groups, like Operation Rescue, took it real hard:

Morrison Slithers into Kansas AG's Office on Backs of Dead Babies


“Kansas has opted to continue the practice of looking the other way when innocent young girls are taken to abortion clinics by their rapists, who are looking to destroy the evidence of their crimes,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “It has also voted to ignore violations of Kansas law that bans post viability abortions. That vote has bloodied the hands of the Kansans who cast those votes."

And, from Associated Press, on the election in general:

"America has voted and the bloody results have placed the most vulnerable among us, the pre-born, in the crosshairs for continued extermination," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

Insulting voters isn't really the best way to earn friends, Troy -- just sayin'.

Others have a better grasp of reality.


Conservative Christian leader James Dobson accused the Republican Party of abandoning values voters in the midterm elections — and paying the price by losing control of Congress. "What did they do with their power?" Dobson said in a statement. "Very little that values voters care about."


"They consistently ignored the constituency that put them in power until it was late in the game, and then frantically tried to catch up at the last minute," said Dobson, who argued that religious conservatives ensured GOP wins in 2004.

The weird thing is that Dobson's absolutely right. What did the religious right get for pulling it out of the dumper for the GOP last go round? A lot of talk during the election and no action other than a few doomed last minute votes in the summer of '06. 'Values voters' put Republicans first and Republicans treated them as an afterthought. Sure, this has been the way it's worked since Reagan thought it would be a good idea to get in bed with Falwell, but sooner or later the pigeons are going to wise up. It took a couple of decades, but they finally caught on.

Dobson's scolding seemed a little hypocritical, though. If the voters he claims to speak for got wise, Dobson didn't.

LA Times:

As discontent with the Republican Party threatens to dampen the turnout of conservative voters in November, evangelical leaders are launching a massive registration drive that could help counter the malaise and mobilize new religious voters in battleground states.

The program, coordinated by the Colorado-based group Focus on the Family and its influential founder, James C. Dobson, would use a variety of methods — including information inserted in church publications and booths placed outside worship services — to recruit millions of new voters in 2006 and beyond.

The effort builds on the aggressive courtship of evangelical voters in 2004 by President Bush's reelection campaign, even as the Internal Revenue Service has announced renewed scrutiny of nonprofit organizations, including churches, that engage in political activities.

So I guess Dobson's complaining about the GOP is just sour grapes -- he's not so much leading as following from the front. Before the election, he was whoring for the GOP and now he wants to be the voice of the disenfranchised.

Republicans and the religious right are pretty much stuck with each other now -- too many bridges have been burned in demonizing dems to find allies there. Reuters quotes Carrie Gordon Earll, spokesperson for Focus on the Family, as saying, "We are going to stay the course and stay focused on the defense of marriage, the defense of life (anti-abortion) and the defense of religious liberties." With the dems still a hotbed of pro-choicers, feminists, the gay-friendly, and civil libertarians, it's hard to see them finding many allies there, anyway.

I'm still saying there may be a split in the right in '08, with the religious right running a third party candidate (or a Bible-thumping republican failing to get the nomination and running independent), while the party tries to get voters back with a fiscal conservative or a moderate. As things stand now, the argument between the religious right and a party with other priorities remains unresolved.


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