Every couple of years, a story surfaces in the media about Religious Right leaders and their latest whine-fest. The script goes like this: They’re not happy because they still haven’t gotten everything they want.
Mind you, this is a movement that has the Republican Party more or less in a headlock. Over the years, its leaders have systematically driven every moderate from the party’s national leadership. No serious Republican presidential contender can hope for success without coming to some accommodation with the Religious Right. Movement activists are an influential, if not controlling, force in many state branches of the GOP.
Yet its leaders still are not happy.
The latest version of the Religious Right mope-a-thon comes courtesy of The Washington Post, which on Sunday ran a story headlined “Some evangelicals in Republican Party are feeling left out, see no standard-bearer.”
The story quoted longtime Religious Right activist Gary Bauer, who carped, “Values voters have been treated as the stepchildren of the family, while the party has wanted to get on with so-called more electorally popular ideas. The Republican base will not tolerate another candidate foisted upon us as a guy who can win.”
The fact is, Bauer and his gang have had several standard-bearers lately: Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Herman Cain, to name just a few.
Of course, there is a drawback to these candidates (or would-be candidates) – chiefly, they are all extremists who make many American voters recoil.
Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t a lack of candidates. Maybe it’s the ideas the Religious Right insist that these candidates espouse.
The Religious Right is a movement predicated on the belief that clerics who cling to a literal interpretation of ancient writings deemed holy and infallible by some people (who, naturally, cannot agree among themselves what these books say) can best make moral decisions for a nation of 318 million people of every conceivable religious and philosophical point of view.
Most Americans aren’t interested in living in a Christian fundamentalist/Middle Ages Catholic theocracy. Thus, it’s not surprising that the movement hasn’t been able to find a “standard-bearer” to make its idea palatable to Americans. The most gifted politician in the world wouldn’t be able to perfume a political concept – theocratic government – that is festering with rot from within and that has shown itself, repeatedly throughout history, to be incompatible with democracy, freedom and fundamental human rights.
I suspect what’s really bothering Bauer and his ilk is the almost-certain knowledge that their extreme agenda is losing support. Most Americans are growing more tolerant of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. They are not interested in having their children learn fundamentalist dogma in place of science in public school. They don’t yearn for the days of clerical censorship. They are weary of Puritan busybodies who want to meddle in our personal decisions regarding sex. They don’t want to go back to the sexist days of the 1950s. They don’t seek a government that has a favorite religion and treats the members of all others like second-class citizens.
Total domination of the state at all levels by intolerant, exclusionary, narrow-minded and reactionary fundamentalism has always been the standard of the Religious Right. Its leaders and activists have made no secret of this. They are zealots who long to use their warped definition of the Bible as device to control others.
It’s a pretty lousy standard, when you think of it. Sure, someone like Huckabee (who, let’s be honest here, is dangerously close to becoming a far-right version of Harold Stassen) is willing to run under it. Is it any wonder that candidates who are serious about winning on the national stage are reluctant to grab it?
The irony is, successfully GOP candidates, such as President George W. Bush, still end up giving much to the Religious Right. Bush used regulatory changes and executive orders to funnel tax money to right-wing evangelical groups through the “faith-based” initiative. He instructed the U.S. Justice Department to take stands in court that were not favorable to church-state separation. Perhaps most importantly, he appointed men and women with extreme views to the federal judiciary.
But that’s never enough for the zealots of the Religious Right – because what they want is a different type of America entirely. Instead of a secular constitution that grants freedom of belief to all resting on the separation of church and state, they want a merger of their religion and government in a theocratic state.
Let them keep complaining. Someday, if we’re lucky, there will no longer be enough of them to build up even a half-audible whine.