In recent years, conventional wisdom said that Democrats needed to get religion. As the Republicans steamrolled progressivism with cultural “wedge” issues and well-thumped Bibles, many fingers wagged at the Democrats. They just weren’t religious enough, pundits said. It was no longer good enough for a politician to kiss babies and promise to cut taxes. These days, some said, you have to kiss babies, promise to cut taxes, and witness for Jesus to be politically viable.
After Tuesday — um, maybe not.
A day after the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections, Woodbury County Republican Chairman Steve Salem had harsh words for his own party, lambasting the influence of the conservative Christian right wing.
Salem said he coined a new phase: “You’ve heard of IslamaFascists — I think we now have Christian fascists. What is the definition of a fascist? Not only do they want to beat you, but they want to destroy you in the process.”
Salem said “if things keep going the way things are going locally and statewide, it is going to be more and more difficult for Republicans to recruit candidates. We have elements of the party who are moral absolutists, who take the approach that if you don’t take my position every step of the way, not only will I not support you, but I will destroy you.” …
… Salem said he’s going public with his views in order to ultimately help the party.
Said Salem, “I think that the Republican Party needs to do a huge self-analysis and determine if we are going to learn from our mistakes or if we are going to repeat the same mistakes, which, if we do, we are going to continue to lose elections. … Personally, I don’t know how we could have done much worse in this election cycle. That should be a wake-up call to this party.”
You can’t blame Mr. Salem for being a bit tense. Last Tuesday Democrats gained control of both Iowa statehouses and kept the governorship as well. It’s been four decades since Dems so totally dominated Iowa state government.
(On the other hand, Georgia grew redder. I would really like to see a state-by-state breakdown of statehouse races, to see which state governments swung into Dem territory and which stayed Republican. Sidney Blumenthal wrote last week that the Republicans are in danger of becoming a southern-based regional party, and I’d like to see if that pattern really is forming.)
According to CNN — although white evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Republicans, Catholics, Jews, “other,” and “none” voted for more Democrats than Republicans. I infer from the tables that evangelicals of color must have voted for more Democrats than Republicans also.
Nationwide, the demographic groups still more loyal to Republicans than Dems are white men, people who make more than $100,000 a year, self-identified “conservatives,” people who claim to attend church at least once a week, married people — very narrowly — and white evangelicals. But that’s about it. Kind of a narrow base, I’d say.
And what’s worse for Republicans — James Dobson and some other prominent Christianists of the Right are blasting the GOP. The Associated Press reports —
Conservative Christian leader James Dobson accused the Republican Party of abandoning values voters in the midterm elections – and paying the price by losing control of Congress. “What did they do with their power?” Dobson said in a statement. “Very little that values voters care about.”
Finger-pointing abounded in the days after Democrats seized control of Congress after 12 years in the minority. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, issued a statement railing against the Republicans for letting their majorities slip away.
“They consistently ignored the constituency that put them in power until it was late in the game, and then frantically tried to catch up at the last minute,” said Dobson, who argued that religious conservatives ensured GOP wins in 2004. …
… “Without the support of that specific constituency, John Kerry would be president and the Republicans would have fallen into a black hole in ’04,” Dobson said. “In fact, that is where they are headed if they continue to abandon their pro-moral, pro-family and pro-life base. The big tent will turn into a three-ring circus.”
If white evangelicals abandon the GOP — Republicans are screwed.
I’m still suffering brain fuzz from staying up too late Tuesday night, but I’m trying to pull together thoughts on politics and religion going forward. If anyone has any observations on this topic, please add them to the comments.