CNN: The Religious Right Is As Strong As Ever

CNN Religion Editor Dan Gilgoff in a piece headlined "New abortion laws show Christian Right's continued power" dealt what may be a death-blow to persistent claims The End is Near or that Death Has Come for the Religious Right.

It would be tempting to say that Gilgoff is reporting the obvious like it is news. But he is actually bucking an important, and stubborn piece of Inside-The-Beltway conventional wisdom that has distorted our political discourse, reporting, and (for those who do these things), political strategy, for many years. Gilgoff reports:

So maybe the Christian Right isn't so dead after all.
In fact, the movement that was supposed to have been eclipsed by the fiscally focused Tea Party in recent years and was said to be reeling from the loss of leaders like Jerry Falwell is showing some pretty dramatic signs of life.
In last week’s down-to-the-wire budget battle between the White House and Republican leaders, for example, it was a GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood – a longtime enemy of Christian conservatives – that emerged as a final stumbling block.
And Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says the last time his conservative Christian movement saw so many victories at the state level – where many legislatures are busy passing new abortion restrictions - was in 2004, when more than a dozen states adopted same-sex marriage bans.
At a moment when the Republican Party has reclaimed power in the House, has taken control of most state legislatures, and is set to begin the process of choosing its next presidential nominee, the Christian Right is playing an increasingly influential role in the party.

I recall during the campaign when Tea Partyists sought to portray themselves as small government fiscal conservatives, but a look at the candidates they were backing showed that they overwhelmingly Religious Righties and that their U.S. Senate candidates were some of the most extreme antiabortion candidates ever to run for high office. One of them, Rand Paul even won. Unfortunately, many Democrats either didn't notice, or pretended not to notice that the Tea Party comprised the elements we used to call the Religious Right. The frame obscured the reality and supported the Wishful Thinking wing of the consultantocracy. This continued even after the election result showed the breadth and depth of the Democratic thumping. Later, revisionist thinking emerged, asserting that "abortion reduction" was the stated goal of the president and of the Democratic Party platform, which is false. Abortion reduction via policy at all levels of government has been the principal approach of the antiabortion movement for a generation. (Short version of the story, here; long footnoted version, here.)

Gilgoff cites recent authoritative polling and expert opinion that shows that the Religious Right and the Tea Party were and are pretty much the same people.

I am glad that he also forthrightly states what many of us have been saying for a long time:

... many political experts say that religious conservatives never went anywhere - even if the news media and some quarters of the Republican Party paid them less mind in recent years.

[Crossposted from Talk to Action]

Talk To Action / By Frederick Clarkson

Posted at April 15, 2011, 11:21am

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