Saturday, June 12, 2004

What's Happening in the Religious Right?

They've been busy little bees recently, especially down in Texas, where they have totally taken over the local Republican Party. Steve Gilliard gives this quote from a Salon article to convey the flavor of the fervent religiosity among Texas Republicans:

The values and world vision of the movement today can be found enshrined in the 24-page party platform. It's a fearful, twilight looking-glass world, beset by enemies, where the purity of the culture, under constant siege, must be protected from threats both internal and external. The platform makes short work of the federal government, calling for the abolition of everything from the U.S. Department of Education to the Internal Revenue Service, along with most taxes. Aliens without proper identification are to be summarily deported. Illegal immigrants should not be granted drivers' licenses. Voter registration is to be made more difficult. "American English" is the official language of the state, and "the Party supports the termination of bilingual education programs in Texas." A plank titled "equality for all citizens" urges the repeal of hate crimes legislation. Another one states: "We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values." Since the Bible is the literal truth, teachers should have the right to instruct their public school students in "creation science." The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the legal system. And lest anyone forget, "America is a Christian nation."

I find this very scary stuff. Funny, too. Lest you think it's just a joke, listen to this comment from the same convention:

Gina Parker, who ran unsuccessfully for state party chairmanship on an anti-abortion, pro-gun, and pro-business platform, opened a window on the world of conservatives in Texas: "We are waging war on our own society. My boots were made for walking all over the Democrats and re-electing President George Bush."

Those of you who thought the war was in Iraq are now properly informed: the war is here, at home, and the enemies are US! And Texas will be the new Talibanstan, I fear.

But Texas isn't the only place where the religious right holds sway. In fact, they're pretty much running the whole country right now:

In the mid-1990s, following Bill Clinton's second electoral ride to the White House, the vibrancy of Religious Right organizations appeared to be on the wane. Outside the sanctuary of the fundamentalist church, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had become public caricatures of intolerance and zealotry. Pundits in the media and the liberal church deemed the movement torn, shattered, and perhaps dead.
How then, less than a decade later, has the Religious Right become a powerful sector of the Republican Party, holding veto power over most any GOP maneuver?
"The Religious Right has been institutionalized within the Republican Party," confirms Kenneth Wald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida at Gainesville. "Just look at the leaders of the GOP."
Note the top seven ranking Republicans in the U.S. Senate: Bill Frist, Tennessee; Mitch McConnell, Kentucky; Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania; Bob Bennet, Utah; Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas; Jon Kyle, Arizona; and George Allen, Virginia. Other than party affiliation, what do these senators all have in common? Each has earned a 100 percent rating on the Christian Coalition's scorecard, voting in accordance with that organization's positions on key legislation.
A similar pattern exists among the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who in part controls whether an issue will be even debated on the House floor, also receives a 100 percent on the Christian Coalition scorecard.
Yes, the Religious Right is alive and well. Over the past quarter century, it has grown from an adolescent, grassroots movement to a mature political player closely integrated into the Beltway mainstream. The results of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press illustrated the historical shift in political classification of white evangelical Protestants. In 1987 and 1988, 34 percent identified as Republican while 31 percent identified as Democrats. Currently, 43 percent view themselves as Republicans against 22 percent as Democrats.

The main agenda of the religious right is on what they call moral issues. These include abortion, gay rights, school prayer, teaching creationism in public schools and regressive tax structures. The last one seems surprising, given that Jesus was somewhat of a redistributioner of wealth. But today's religious wingnuts don't read their Bibles that way; rather, they see communism lurking in anything that would take from the rich and give to the poor. Besides, allowing for increased poverty of the lower income classes lets the religious people to work together with traditional conservatives. Never mind what Jesus would do. Jesus was a feminist and socialist, after all.

The religious right needs to have Bush re-elected. Another four years in power will give them a Supreme Court that should leave the 1990's Afghanistan in shame. All they want from Bush is the courts. Otherwise Bush can go on pleasing the corporations as usual. This was made clear in a comment by one religious right leader:

"The Republicans need to understand that we have two non-negotiables - we're pro-life and we're pro-marriage. We might not be happy to move on other issues, but we're willing to make some concessions. But not on those two things."

Must be a relief to the other Republicans, the ones who will not be picked up in the Rapture. But it's worrying to the majority of us who happen to be female, as I doubt that the definitions of 'pro-life' and 'pro-marriage' that these folks use include very many concessions to women.