Oh, but I jest at the expense of Ted Cruz. Surely it’s not his fault that he couldn’t be troubled to learn the rules of the Senate when he became a senator.
This is a guy who doesn’t know how the Senate works when he himself is a senator, yet he wants us to trust him with the infinitely more complex job of being the president.
It’s not that he is necessarily wrong about the potential role of Evangelicals. He told David Brody of CBN’s The Brody File what every Evangelical since 1964 has wanted to hear:
“I think evangelicals, Christians, people of faith are going to play the decisive role in the republican primary. And I think we’re going to play the decisive role in the general election in 2016.”
Speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, Cruz did what Cruz does best and danced around the facts, and ignored his own dismal attendance record – which he has brushed off as a non-issue – while criticizing the commitment of others:
David Brody, ” The evangelical vote…crucial. Not just in Iowa but all over the country. Here’s my question for you. If you can win a good majority of evangelicals, then what happens to your candidacy?”
Senator Ted Cruz,” I think evangelicals, Christians, people of faith are going to play the decisive role in the republican primary. And I think we’re going to play the decisive role in the general election in 2016. If you look at the last couple of elections, 2008 and 2012, sadly millions of Christians stayed home. Millions of Christians didn’t come out and vote. Is it any wonder we have the government we have today if people of faith don’t vote our values. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to energize and bring Christians back to the polls to vote and defend our values.”
There is no doubt that the Religious Right has had an influence during the Republican primaries. But you also notice, lately, that these people don’t get nominated. Establishment Republicans have had enough clout both in 2008 and 2012 to keep slavering fanatics from heading the ticket.
Even so, there is precedent. Evangelicals got Jimmy Carter elected in 1976. At that point, only twenty-six percent of White Evangelical Protestants were calling themselves Republicans. The late 1970s saw the rise of the antigay the Christian Voice (CV) in 1978, Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (1979), and in the same year, Concerned Women for America (CWA).
Of course, Carter wasn’t the zealot they wanted and they moved on.
It was Ronald Reagan, campaigning nationally in 1980, who gave the lunatic-fringers an outlet when he continued with the anti-evolution narrative he had developed during his time as governor of California (1967-1975), and pronounced that “great flaws” existed in evolutionary theory and that public schools should therefore teach the “biblical story of creation” as well.
You could say sanity fled the GOP then and hasn’t been seen since.
Speaking in Dallas on August 21, 1980, Reagan himself said “Religious America is awakening.” According to PBS that speech was the “first National Affairs Briefing of the Religious Roundtable, a caucus founded to involve evangelicals in mainstream politics.” As PBS puts it, “The event has been described as nothing less than “the marriage ceremony between Southern Baptists and the Republican Party.”
Religious and secular conservatives realized the advantage of joining political forces to confront what they saw as pressing social issues. With Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelicals in attendance, Reagan addressed the crowd of 15,000 Christian conservatives.” He said, “I endorse you.”
And they’ve been endorsing Republican candidates for president ever since. George W. Bush was the ultimate outcome of this infusion of extremist religion into politics (and we saw how that worked out.
Cruz just hopes to be the latest. And certainly, with a self-proclaimed prophet-daddy, he would seem to have the inside track.
The question for the rest of us is, are there any potential Republican options in 2016 who are not slavering fanatics? The only noticeable difference is that some – like Rand Paul and Jeb Bush – pretend to be more or less sane, while adhering to the same extremist tack as their fellow hopefuls.
While precedent exists, it seems Cruz is engaging in wishful thinking. If the establishment cannot find a counter-poise to Religious Right zealotry in 2016, more socially liberal conservatives are unlikely to vote for people like Ted Cruz.
Cruz can claim “evangelicals, Christians, people of faith” are of like mind, if not identical, but the Religious Right separated itself from mainline Protestantism a long time ago, as Rick Santorum noticed in 2008 when he said that those mainline Protestants weren’t even really Christians.
All these Republican candidates are likely to find out, whether they are willing to admit it or not, that they don’t speak for Christianity, as was pointed out to hate group leader Tony Perkins on CBS last week.
It is that incident and not Cruz’s prediction – moderate Christians speaking up in such numbers that even Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer felt the need to rebuke Perkins – that ought to be seen as a harbinger of 2016.
2016 may be the Year the mainstream media is surprised to discover there are actual Christians out there – and they don’t vote Republican.
And let’s face it: Ted Cruz really shouldn’t be the one to point fingers at Evangelicals not voting when he himself – as Politico points out – can’t be bothered to show up and vote when he gets paid to do so.
If Cruz were less arrogant, he’d hide himself away now, and spare himself a lot of pain and embarrassment later, rather than pointing fingers at others.