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Frank Rich: 'The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off'

In his NYT column, Frank Rich offers up the sad state of affairs of the bible-beating movement. While the professional “Christian” set has ratcheted up the rhetoric, its leaders see their influence on politics and public interest in their issues swirl down the bowl, and in some cases, see it going six feet under.

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth – Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed – are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy.

The numbers are simply against people like the new fundie poster child for the telegenic age, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council made the media rounds to tell Steele to know his place after the RNC head said abortion was a matter of choice and that gay couples deserved some type of (lame) legal recognition. Steele is merely (weakly) echoing the direction the country is going:

Polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with ending Bush restrictions on stem-cell research (a Washington Post/ABC News survey in January); that 55 percent endorse either gay civil unions or same-sex marriage (Newsweek, December 2008); and that 75 percent believe openly gay Americans should serve in the military (Post/ABC, July 2008).

The fact of the matter is, as Rich points out, the GOP has shown little morality in its political leaders — and a bumper crop of hypocrisy. In fact, Barack Obama, his relationship with his wife and children represents family values far more than the pious, self-serving pols and religious figures in the social conservative movement.

As the former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently wrote, the new president is an “apparently devoted husband and father” whose worst vice is “an occasional cigarette.”

Frum was contrasting Obama to his own party’s star attraction, Rush Limbaugh, whose “history of drug dependency” and “tangled marital history” make him “a walking stereotype of self-indulgence.” Indeed, the two top candidates for leader of the post-Bush G.O.P, Rush and Newt, have six marriages between them. The party that once declared war on unmarried welfare moms, homosexual “recruiters” and Bill Clinton’s private life has been rebranded by Mark Foley, Larry Craig, David Vitter and the irrepressible Palins.

OMFG, slam dunk for Rich. He also muses how out of touch Tony Perkins is about the perspective of the American people in a time of economic crisis. It sounds like the FRC talking head is just doing a lot of wishful thinking these days.

Perkins is now praying that economic failure will be a stimulus for his family-values business. “As the economy goes downward,” he has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths  have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists).

You have to read the rest of Rich’s column. Too tasty.

I will say, though, for those of us out here in states that aren’t deep Blue, the going is to get tougher, not easier. The Religious Right, in its death spiral, will focus its resources on rallying its loud and still well-organized base of fringe followers to make a lot of noise to scare influence state politicians to keep progress from occurring as long as it can. Witness the fundie success with Prop 8 in a very Blue state. They are willing to bankrupt their organizations and fleece their flocks in order to preserve the comfort of institutionalized bigotry.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding