Live by the Religious Right, Die by the Religious Right?
Exactly one year ago I put up a post asking, Will Mitt Romney Fly With Evangelicals?
Goodbye, Mitt. At least for this year. I’m sure we’ll see you again in 2012. In a Super Tuesday speech, Mike Huckabee had a pretty good line. He said, “Some people are calling this a two man race… It is.” After seeing Mike Huckabee, presumably left in the dust in the weeks following an Iowan fluke, capture a broad swath of southern states, Romney realized it was all over. One also has to wonder if Mrs. Romney was getting impatient with seeing too many millions of the milk money spent on this hobby, too. After all, he’s a venture capitalist, he knows when to cut his financial losses.
The fact of the matter is, if Mitt Romney had been an evangelical protestant, he would have won the Republican nomination in a cakewalk, despite the documented history of flip-flops. He would have won it going away.
The South is different. We’ve seen a lot of regionalism reflected in the outcomes of these primaries, on both sides. The South has been looking like an entirely different country from the rest of us for a long time, but perhaps no more so than now. Evangelicals, particularly those in the South, simply will not accept a Mormon any more than they would a Catholic. In Mitt’s case, the suspicion may not be entirely unjustified. He did not run like Kennedy did in 1960. He ran as if he wanted a place at the theocratic table, and he was actually a bishop at one time.
(Just a side note to the Catholic neo-cons of the world and their supporters such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, Fr. McCloskey, etc… who believe in Rev. Neuhaus’s ECT project. As we saw with your Opus Dei candidate Sam Brownback, the evangelicals are just never going to get behind your guy. Ever. They aren’t. Understand? Especially if he’s viewed as an apostate like Brownback was. They are not going to go for a Catholic any more than they will for a Mormon, no matter how conservative he is on social issues. Drop these pretensions to a partnership.)
Which brings up the issue of the stress fracture points we are seeing in the Republican Party. It’s been a strange and fascinating campaign season on the GOP side. We have a real maverick in the case of Ron Paul, hanging in there with college kids and net support, swimming against the tide in every debate. We had Fred Thompson being talked somehow into entering the race, despite the fact that he had little desire or inclination to do so, and we had Rudy Giuliani entering the “Real Men of Genius” pantheon with his snowbird-strategy of skipping the early primaries and running for President of Florida. It will probably go down as the most stupid campaign strategy of all time.
Now that McCain is the undisputed front-runner, we see absolute panic on the part of the conservative talk show hosts as if McCain wasn’t actually a conservative. Rush Limbaugh is apoplectic. Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck are throwing conniptions, with Coulter claiming she’d rather vote for Hillary than McCain, and Sean Hannity, William Kristol, and Laura Ingraham on the verge of tears.
Never forget who this party really belongs to and what it is all about. McCain has a strong pro-life record, but does that get him any cachet as a “true conservative” at all? Does his determination to win the war? Apparently not. Despite pro-military sentiment and the importance of social issues for the voters in the evangelical South, that is not where the true GOP orthodoxy lies according to its real power brokers.. It still lies in the country clubs, executive boardrooms, libertarian think tanks, and K Street lobbying offices.
GOP orthodoxy is all about, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, and fear of brown people and unions.
Of course, there have never been enough millionaires and supply-siders to carry though on that alone in order to win elections, so a marriage of convenience was arranged with the religious right and with disaffected white southerners. Now we are seeing centrifugal forces tearing this alliance apart, and the chickens are coming home to roost.