Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

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Notes From The Dark Side…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:27 am, October 20th 2008     —    2 Comments »

The doom-and-gloom predictions for the election are piling up.  Not my taste – I’m in this to the end and we are winning until we actually lose.  As Geraghty points out the polls are swinging, and at this point in ’04 we thought it was in the bag for. . . Kerry?!  This thing is not over.

Nonetheless, in a post at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher looks at Christopher Buckley’s recent resignation from NR seeing disaster.  But the most interesting thing he has to say is this:

 It was not religious conservatives who caused the GOP to abandon all pretense of fiscal discipline. It was not religious conservatives who brought us the war in Iraq. It was not religious conservatives who brought us Jack Abramoff (though Ralph Reed had something to do with it). Mind you, religious conservatives rarely if ever stood up to any of this, but to say that the “kooks” brought about the collapse of the GOP is simply wrong. It was the Establishment that did it. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz — these guys are not religious kooks. Neither is George W. Bush. And though he presents himself as a churchman, let no one be under the impression that Tom DeLay did what he did for the glory of the Lord. I am certain that in the wake of the coming disaster for the GOP, there will be an attempt to scapegoat the religious right, so that the Republican Establishment — especially the national security and economic establishment — can escape its own reckoning. We religious conservatives have to accept our share of the blame for what’s happened, but we cannot let ourselves get scapegoated. The things we wanted most of all — Supreme Court justices favorable to the things we believe in — turn out to be the only undeniable triumphs of the Bush years, from a conservative point of view.

Again, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and even if this election is the disaster that Dreher seems to think it is going to be, all those issues he raises are not the heart of the problem.  There was only one candidate that might have been able to hold the coalition together – Mitt Romney – and it was Evangelical conservatives in their blind, label-following view, that trotted off after a loser like Huckabee and blew it up.

A bit later in the piece, Dreher says this:

There is a conservative Establishment — a political establishment, yes, but also a think-tank establishment and an opinion-leader establishment — that has become ossified in its thinking and, over time, more interested in policing its heretics . . .

Now, when you stack that up against Joel Belz’s deeply bigoted writing, and Mike Huckabee’s “innocent question” to the NYTimes, you have to think you are looking at the definitional case of the “pot calling the kettle black.”

Furthermore, let’s assume, for just a minute, that all those issues he raises are the heart of the problem.   Had the religious right been less myopic and more about the business of governance – had they been in the middle of those things instead of clutching tightly to their few social issues and otherwise not seeming to want to get their hands dirty – then maybe they could have prevented or mitigated the damage done by them. As Dreher points out, “Mind you, religious conservatives rarely if ever stood up to any of this . . . .”

If religious conservatives want to be taken seriously in politics, then it is time for them to do politics seriously.  This gadabout, “politics is really beneath us,” stuff has just got to stop.  And claiming to speak for them by brushing aside that very “I am above you” attitude as insignificant and pointing the finger at the other guy is not a way to do politics seriously.

Oh sure, Dreher says, “We religious conservatives have to accept our share of the blame for what’s happened . . . ,”  which is where he should have ended.  In this individual religious conservative’s experience, the “conservative political establishment” has been more than willing to work with me, as long as I was willing to work with them.

I think it was Jesus that said something about planks, specks, and eyes.  I think religious conservatives might want to keep that little parable in mind before they go making sure they do not get any more blame than “they deserve.”

Lowell adds:  I agree fully with what John has said, and I’ll add my own expression of disgust over Dreher’s insistence on treating religious conservatives as a discrete, insular voter bloc within conservatism (and within the GOP, to a lesser extent).  I never thought I’d see the day when religious voters are flinging recriminations at “those other guys in the movement.”  In politics, there is no leadership in emphasizing differences within your own alliance. 

Besides, as John notes, Dreher is far too forgiving of his own group:  “religious conservatives rarely if ever stood up to any of this.”  Well, isn’t that a stinging indictment?  For a group that wants to have such power within the conservative movement, it simply will not do to blame everyone else for errors, when your group did nothing significant to stop those errors! 

It seems Mr. Dreher wants to have it both ways: To remain “pure” and free from responsibility for a conservative/GOP debacle, but also to stand by and do nothing to prevent the debacle.  These are not people I want in my foxhole with me.


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