Monday, February 11, 2008


This essay was originally published as an editorial on the Free Republic website. It was pulled after complaints by Bush GOP activists. However, the article was then re-published in several other places including the influential "Lone Star Conservative." This version of the essay was copied from that website:


From 1980 until 1992 Republicans occupied the White House. There can be little serious argument that the key voting bloc in those Presidential victories was the so-called "religious right." They were everywhere in the party from local precinct meetings to the podium of the national convention. They were the single most loyal and dependable voting bloc in the GOP. However, during the last GOP convention, leaders of the religious right were actually asked to stay out of view while so-called moderates espousing abortion, feminism, gay rights and affirmative action were allowed to make prime time network appearances. Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" fell on to the dust heap of political insignificance years ago. Founder Pat Robertson resigned from all participation in the Christian Coalition last week. What happened to the religious right? How could the most powerful voting bloc in the party come to such a state in just a few years? In my opinion, (1) they didn't learn that access does not equal influence; (2) they learned too late that fraternization can lead to assimilation; (3) they forgot that promises must be followed by performance; and (4) they forgot that principle must control politics.

Access without influence:

Access to political figures is a heady thing. Simply being in the presence of power has a narcotic effect. However, the fact that the Congressman or Senator will take five minutes to visit with you means nothing if the visit does not accomplish some useful purpose. Unfortunately, to many political access was and is frequently seen as an end rather than a means. Access means nothing if it does not result in influence. Access means you get invited to political and quasi-political social functions, the candidate or official calls you "my dear friend" or "tireless worker" in public, etc. For some people these sometimes empty symbols of recognition are the raison de etre of political effort. However, influence means that at the end of a meeting the politician forwards your agenda and defends it when necessary against your enemies. Access without influence is hypocrisy on the part of the politician and self-delusion on the part of the voter or worker.

From fraternization to assimilation:

It is a law of the universe that in every exchange one or both sides will be changed in some way by the other. The only question is who will change and to what degree? The religious right at its peak was a mile wide but in most places only an inch deep. Doctrinally weak in their own beliefs and lacking any real political education, many members of the religious right turned from wary fraternization to unthinking assimilation into the GOP mainstream. Equipped only with buzz words and biblically correct though intellectually unsupported political positions, many fell prey to better educated, more grounded "moderate" influences in the party.

The civil rights movement of the 1960's proved to be a political windfall for the Democratic party. By positioning themselves as the sole friend of America's largest untapped bloc of voters they assured themselves an unquestioningly loyal base to work from for generations. Desperate to counter this bloc, GOP strategists sought to isoloate a similar bloc of voters and found them in the under-represented sleeping giant of the American church. It was a brilliant political coup of massive proportions by GOP strategists. Millions of once conservative religious voters of both parties became part of the GOP "mainstream" within two or three election cycles. Without a clear cut political philosophy or adequate analytical tools, they became a politicians dream, a mass of easily influenced voters easily led to the left, right or center as needed to forge the necessary coalitions to gain or maintain power. And, as evidenced at the last convention, they can even to be told to sit down and shut up and still be depended upon to vote for the GOP candidate.

Looking back, the church failed to ground its people in the practical application of key doctrines and when its members were let out into the political system to change the world they were instead changed themselves.

Promises without performance:

The absolute proof of the failure of the religious right lies in its legislative record on key issues. The promises of the candidates that the religious right swept into power have not been followed by performance on the agreed upon agenda. While some good work has been done, while they frequently won the battle to elect their candidates they lost the post election legislative battles and are thus still losing the culture war.

GOP candidates waved the bloody red shirt of abortion in every election from state house to the white house for years. Judicial reform was a key issue among religious right intellectuals. But, after twelve years of Reagan-Bush, abortion was and is still legal until seconds before birth. Far from being over, the battle over abortion is being bitterly fought as we speak in the halls of Congress where a GOP majority has been quietly spiking pro-life legislation. Many cynics believe that they do this because they would rather have the issue and the votes it produces than victory. After twelve years in power, the Supreme Court's makeup did not appreciably change. Scared into submission by the vitriol of the Bork battle, only one true conservative Justice, Clarence Thomas, was nominated. And, even that victory was offset by the appointment of the strongly left leaning David Souter and the unpredictable Justice Kennedy. As we speak, even moderately conservative appointments by the second Bush administration are bound up in committee and political infighting. Pornography advanced from carefully zoned red light districts and movie houses into every home through the internet. Our national media is a sewer of perversion, far worse than before. Scenes and themes appear nightly on network television that were relegated to movie houses and premium cable channels only a decade ago. Premium cable channels show perversion that I will not describe twenty four hours a day seven days per week. And, anti-Christian bias in the culture and courts is now worse than ever. By any objective measure, the religious right won its political battles for the GOP but lost the war to implement its agenda.

Politics without Principle:

The key to the problem lies in the fact that Christian voters do not follow their issues. Trained by their churches to let the guy behind the pulpit worry about doctrine, they apply the same principle to their politicians. They can be quickly mobilized to elect a candidate but then either blindly hero worship him or worse simply lose interest. It is almost impossible to get Christian voters to criticize a candidate they helped to elect or hold him accountable for his actions. Once in office, he can abandon the agenda and they will simply look the other way. Until the religious voter learns to hold their candidates feet to the fire on key issues, regardless of short term loss of access, they will not change the political system or the culture. The pro-abortion lobby has not changed its position on key issues in thirty years. It has to date never supported a moderately pro-life candidate to help the Democratic party win a key election as pro-lifers have been asked to help so-called "moderate pro-choice" candidates time and again by the GOP. The same is true but to a much higher degree if that is possible for the gay lobby. The education lobby moves further left every election. Their extreme positions cost the Democratic party millions of voters and yet their access and influence within the party are unchallenged. The reason these hard line left wing ideologues remain powerful despite their relatively small number is simple. They take no prisoners. If their candidates stray from their positions they punish them. They are in the game for the long haul and stay focussed on their issues.

Shamefully, it must be said that in practice on the political playing field, the abortion rights lobby, the public education lobby and the gay rights lobby are far more dedicated to their cause than the Body of Christ. This has led to a new set of paradigms in GOP politics. Run right govern center. Stay in office by staying flexible. Political expediency governs the application of principle. Say what you have to to get elected but remember who on "the Hill" will punish you if you cross them. GOP candidates know that by simply learning a few Christian buzz words, getting the right high profile Christian to sit beside you at a meeting, attending a few prayer breakfasts, etc. that many gullible voters will vote for them. Later after the election, if even asked, failure to produce on their agenda can be blamed on the opposition, the courts or the bureaucracy. Cynically, the political key to the Christian vote is simply saying the right things on the stump that you can later deny privately on the hill, sometimes even before the election is over! And, the issues will be lying there waiting to be taken up again during the next election cycle.


Christian citizens must learn to participate in the political system in a way that does not compromise their key principles. They must get past the hero worshiping, elect 'em and forget 'em, style of participation and learn to track issues and measure results. They must learn to hold their candidates accountable and be ready to punish them when necessary even if it means losing access or even an election. Paradoxically in this conversation at least, Christians are not accountable in the end for results only faithfulness. They must remain faithful to their principles, support faithful politicians and refuse to support unfaithful ones. They must become every bit as dedicated to their issues as their opposition. Fortunately, gutsy, hard-ball faithfulness to the cause, as evidenced by the other side, is good politics and the only way to gain permanent influence in the political system.



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