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Politics and the Pulpit: An Unholy Union

Americans all over the world woke up on the morning of November the 7th and breathed a collective sigh of relief. The election is over, and the votes are in. Barack Obama has been re-elected. Whatever your political persuasion, Americans on both sides can join in on the merriment. No longer will we be slaves to the daily onslaught of polls and punditry that make performing even the most mundane tasks more difficult. Finally, the good people of Ohio and Florida can turn on their TV’s without fear of political attack ads. Who knows, maybe it will be a whole four years before we are forced to re-enter the debate on the merits of the Electoral College? I join my fellow Americans in the celebration.

There are those, however, who were not quite so relieved come that Wednesday morning. There are those who were plagued through the night by troubling thoughts, asking themselves how they got in this predicament and, more importantly, where are they going to go from here. Those people, God help them, are the politicians, strategists, and donors who spent countless hours, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars, to make President Obama a thing of the past.

Coming off of this latest defeat, there is no question that the GOP is facing a serious identity crisis. Republicans suffered huge losses in many key demographics. Gone are the days when the President was chosen by white Protestant Anglo-Saxon men, a fact that many conservatives will have to reconcile  should they want to remain a prominent fixture in American politics. Many Republicans are going to have to wake up and realize that, as it stands, their support base is shrinking, and that they only have themselves to blame.

The GOP has become the unrestrained political voice-box of a very particular brand of contemporary conservatism: a sinister blend of religious extremism and libertarian orthodoxy. While many would note the recent prominence of libertarian ideology among conservative talking heads (think the early months of the Tea Party), this is merely a result of a deeper, more widespread phenomenon. In recent decades, the GOP’s political ideology and party platform have become inextricably intertwined, replaced even, with a faith-based political narrative. The GOP has morphed into a band of political preachers, selling faith-based science, faith-based medicine, faith-based welfare, even faith-based economics.

Suddenly, rape is an unfortunate by-product of God’s mysterious plan. The science behind climate change bears no merit because the prophets were relatively silent on carbon emissions. Social Security is no longer a necessary safety net but an enabler of idleness and an insult to the Protestant work ethic. Even foreign policy, the last stronghold of the devout secularist, has been subject to religiously-inspired rhetoric. Former President Bush portrayed the War on Terror as a crusade against Islamic extremism and Mitt Romney employed the pseudo-religious myth of American Exceptionalism as the basis of his entire defense strategy.

The result of this unholy union? Compassionate conservatism without any of the compassion. Between religious radicalism and rationalized selfishness, the moderate voices of the party have been drowned out by a new breed of conservative politician, one which gives primacy to faith over reason for all things political. Indeed, the GOP is becoming increasingly irrelevant for many Americans. Ignoring this fact would not only be to their own detriment, but to the detriment of all Americans who deserve a reasonable opposition party.

– Alana Jesse


(Featured image: LicencePaternitéPas d'utilisation commercialePas de modification stormbear, Flickr, Creative Commons)

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