I used to be completely enamored of politics. I was interested in the government issues that were discussed, and intrigued by how professional politicians figured out how to win support from their colleagues and the voters, and proud to see how the system was used to pass laws meant to support the rights and freedoms upon which our country was established. But the system has moved away from me over the years.
For me America’s politics has become more and more grating as it’s become less about political issues and more about Christian fundamentalism. I learned about government and politics in a time and a place where government and politics were not seen as a means to enforce
some any religious orthodoxy through law; since the law said everyone had freedom to practice their faith, or not to practice one at all, it didn’t occur to me that religions had anything to worry about.
The veil started lifting from my eyes in the 1980 election campaign. I was a recent college graduate and news reporter trying to comprehend the strident religious rhetoric from the Rev. Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority: wasn’t it out-of-place for this preacher to be mixing religion and politics? In time I came to understand that a group interest based on religious belief was as valid as any other group interest in an election, but I was never comfortable with the sub rosa assurances from Falwell and his colleagues that their political position came with a Holy Imprimatur (“I’m God, and I approve this message.”)
Today, I see that a goodly portion of the people whom we politely refer to as social conservatives would more accurately characterized as Christian extremists who would like nothing more than to live in a semi-fundamentalist Christian theocracy, despite their declared love for the United States Constitution which expressly forbids that. Granted, they have shown some, uh, flexibility in insisting they support the original intent of the document throughout, but cherry-picking those passages that support their position on an issue while ignoring all those which don’t. But I give them credit: they played within the system, they played by the rules, and they’ve all but taken over the Republican Party.
Today I found this thoughtful video editorial at The Daily Beast: Michelle Goldberg gives some props to the religious right while gently scolding the pouters on the left who say they’ve given up on President Obama and electoral politics because they haven’t gotten everything they wanted since he was elected.
Maybe it was the Reagan Revolution; maybe it was the Goldwater Generation; but conservatives have made the very vivid point that persistence pays off–there are elements at home today in the GOP’s ever-narrowing tent that neither Reagan nor Goldwater would have ever thought would be accommodated. It’s an object lesson that the Republican fiscal conservatives, and the moderate-progressive-liberal-independent plurality of American citizens, need to take to heart.