“We ran the most efficient, most technologically superior voter effort that the faith community has ever seen.”
– Ralph Reed
Ralph Reed put a cap on Election Day by assuring white Christian Evangelicals that he – and they – are still relevant, or, as he put it, reassured them of the enduring influence of “values voters.”
While I think the Religious Right is far from dead – they’ve been counted out so many times already I’ve lost track – I do not think people like Ralph Reed are relevant.
Reed isn’t a preacher. He isn’t a champion of anything (including, especially, religion) except Ralph Reed. Ralph Reed is in it, as he has always been, for Ralph Reed.
But religion is relevant, with or without Ralph Reed. It always will be, I’m afraid.
Do not get me wrong. I am a very religious person. It is just that I do not think religion has any place in politics. America is not a Greek polis. It is not a little Christian paradise on the edge of “heathen” Native America.
This is a modern liberal democracy, based on precepts of diversity and plurality of opinion and belief.
That is why we have a secular government. There is plenty of room in the landscape for the religious. They just can’t run the government. Not while any heed at all is paid to the Constitution, which, after all, is based not on the Bible but on the secular principles of the European Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment, by being secular and not denominational, was a win for everybody and for every denomination. Look at the history of religious wars before and compare them to the religious wars that followed. You can see the Enlightenment was a resounding success for the Western World.
It was not even a contest.
Tuesday’s election was also a victory for secularism over religion, a victory of moderation over extremism, and most importantly, a victory for the Constitution over the Bible and diversity over white evangelical privilege. It was that victory that triggered the violent riot of racist white Christian students at Ole Miss.
Heathens like me should take comfort from liberalism’s innate tolerance. All religious minorities should.
This election was a tale of two cities. Evangelicals and faithful Catholics turned out in large numbers and voted overwhelmingly for religious liberty, the sanctity of life and marriage, and limited government. But younger voters and minorities turned out in even larger numbers in 2008 and delivered Obama to victory.
This is true. More young people voted in 2012 than voted in 2008. And these young people – and women – did deliver victory for Obama. But so did the votes of blacks, Latinos, and Asians. It was not just one category of voter that defeated Romney; it was that pluralism that is the strength of liberal democracy and the bane of theocracy.
If the Republican Party wants to be competitive in national elections, it will have to nominate candidates who can appeal to young voters, women, Hispanics and other minorities. Otherwise, they will likely see more elections similar to the 2012 outcome. The good news for the GOP is many of those voters are conservative and are people of faith.
But here Reed is wrong. Dead wrong. The problem for the GOP is not a dearth of likeable candidates. The problem for the GOP is an unlikeable platform. You can’t appeal to young voters, women and other minorities with repression. Unless the Republican Party sheds its religiously oppressive platform, it had better get used to repeats of 2012. America has changed. The Republican Party has not.
The problem for the Republicans is that they became not less conservative, but more conservative. They did exactly the wrong thing. And they have paid for it. They will continue to pay for it for as long as they continue to draw the wrong conclusions about America being a liberal nation.
But while we are a liberal nation, religious extremism is here to stay. The modern world and all its manifestations from technology and science, is a threat to the tenets of a belief system that do not stand up to close scrutiny.
Believers must either moderate their belief to incorporate what science teaches us about the universe, or they must reject it. It is no wonder that atheism is the fastest growing “religion” out there when the fruits of conservative intransigence just make the right respond by being more intransigent yet.
Moderate Christians seem to be drifting away from organized religion or, if they are the type that feel threatened by the modern world, turn to fundamentalism. I expect this polarizing trend to continue; it has been responsible, I believe, for the polarization of American politics. It is only since the Religious Right began to exert control over the Republican Party that the GOP has turned away from socially liberal policy positions, like access to birth control, and science and education.
Yet Reed makes much of the Evangelical vote in 2012:
A national post-election survey commissioned by the Faith and Freedom Coalition last night found that the evangelical vote increased in 2012 to a record 27% of the electorate and that white evangelicals voted roughly 78% for Mitt Romney to 21% for Barack Obama. This was the highest share of the vote in modern political history for evangelicals. Romney’s performance among evangelicals represented a net swing of 10% over John McCain’s performance in 2008.
But Dan Gilgoff , CNN’s Religion Editor, writes on CNN’s Belief Blog that,
In swing state Ohio, exit polls showed that Obama got 30% support among white evangelicals. While that’s hardly a victory, it’s better than the 27% support Obama got among those voters four years ago.
So perhaps more Evangelicals voted than ever before, and maybe more of them voted for Romney than had for McCain, but – and this is a very important but – more of them voted for Obama in 2012 than did in 2008, showing an erosion of support among even Evangelicals for the Republican Party’s extremist agenda.
Fortunately, their increasing shrillness seems to be in inverse proportion to their numbers, so that as they dwindle in actual influence, they become more hysterical. You have only to look at the headlines from the Southern Poverty Law Center to see the truth of this:
“Welcome to a truly white minority world,” wrote one commenter on Stormfront, the world’s largest white supremacist Web forum, which is run by a former Alabama Klan leader. “The future is now. There is no denying this. The sun has set on humanity’s greatest era: 1500-2000. … [T]he only way to survive this war of annihilation is separatism. … [W]e have to choose regions or states.”
“We have truly fallen under God’s judgment,” wrote another. “You will never see another white man occupy the White House again.” Responded a third: “If you can immigrate to Europe you start making plans. … America will become largely a non-white population that is poverty stricken and all those government programs will soon disappear. It will happen. No more Medicare and no more social security.”
This is the force Ralph Reed is tied into, the voice of white privilege lost. He cannot claim the support of religious blacks; they remained true to Obama. This will always be more about race than any Republican will admit.
This voice will never get younger votes. Younger, seemingly hipper, fitness-crazed but still crazy candidates like Paul Ryan won’t turn back the clock; they will only provide icons for an ever shrinking portion of the population that rejects, and has always rejected, the basic precepts of the Constitution that America is for all people, not only white male Christians.