A Third Way for the Religious Right?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 01:00:04 PM EST
Roy Moore, the disgraced Republican ex-chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court blasts both the Republican and Democratic Parties for having "strayed from the course" in a November 23rd op-ed in The Washington Times. But it remains to be seen if he and other disgruntled religious rightists will stay the course with a Republican Party they see as corrupt and compromised -- or whether they hook-up with a party much closer to their views.
Moore, echoing conservative complaints about the White House and the previously Republican Congress, cites, among other things, "wasteful government spending;" failure to address a "drastic increase" in illegal immigration; the failure of Congress to exercise oversight over the executive branch and check "abuses of power" by the president; "the widespread rejection of moral principles by many Republicans elected to office" (meaning mostly Congressional corruption).

Here is an excerpt in which he zeroes-in on how the GOP insufficiently embodies the divisive spirit of anti-gay, and religious bigotry that make Moore's well known Christian nationalism and demagoguery so dangerous.

These instances only exacerbate the open affront to Christian principles that occurred when Mr. Bush appointed Mark Dybul, an admitted homosexual, as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. That appointment was confirmed by a Republican Senate, which had previously rejected President Clinton's nomination of an avowed homosexual as ambassador to Luxembourg. At Mr. Dybul's swearing-in ceremony, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced his parents and his male "partner," Jason. Miss Rice then referred to Jason's mother as Mr. Dybul's "mother-in-law," showing disdain for traditional marriage and an open acceptance of homosexuality.

The deafening silence of the White House regarding new Navy and Air Force regulations proposing to take away the right of Christian chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus reflect not only a misunderstanding of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but also a failure to recognize our Godly heritage. Those policies are unfortunately consistent with Mr. Bush's remarks at a Nov. 20, 2003, press conference that Christians and Muslims worship "the same God."

Bush's dalliance with moderation in appointing a gay man to an important post, and his belatedly diplomatic gesture to religious tolerance in acknowledging the historic Abrahamic religious tradtion from which Christianity, Judaism and Islam all stem, is an affront to Roy Moore. We are likely to hear more of this kind of rhetoric, as religious rightists prepare for the 2008 elections. If Moore's views are any indication, we can reasonably expect them to run as reformers against a Washington culture of corruption and the selling out of their principles.

As for Moore, in 2004, he flirted with running for president on the ticket of the overtly theocratic Constitution Party, (which is usually on the ballot in about 35 states.)  He then went on to lose the 2006 GOP primary for governor against the popular incumbent by almost 2-1.  Moore and other conservative Christians have made the threat to bolt the GOP a quadrennial exercise in leveraging power. It will be interesting to see if they finally make good on their threat this time.

If they do, the likely place to go is the Constitution Party, which is having its fall national meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on December 1st.  Among the speakers are Alan Keyes -- another perennial GOP candidate who is too far right for his party, and Jerome Corsi, author of Unfit for Command, a book that smeared Sen.  John Kerry during his run for president. The Constitution Party press release on the meeting continues:  

Recently, Corsi has worked closely with Minuteman Project founder, Jim Gilchrist, and with him co-authored Minuteman: The Battle to Secure America's Borders. In addition to working for the cause of border security and a halt to illegal immigration, Corsi has become the leader in the battle to expose the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the Bush Administration's attempt to quietly merge the United States with Canada and Mexico into a North American Union.

The Constitution Party enjoyed a rare electoral success this year when Rick Jore was elected to the Montana House of Representatives.

Constitution Party chairman James Clymer optimistically reports that the defeat of the GOP in the mid term elections is great news and that there were positive notes for his party as well.

All this presents a golden opportunity for the Constitution Party! It is critical that we seize this opportunity while it is before us, as it may pass quickly. Although at this writing the votes are still being tallied, I think it will be clear when the counting is done that the Constitution Party has made great gains this year. Candidates wearing the Constitution party name have won at least three partisan seats, the highest profile one being the Montana State House seat won by Rick Jore by a margin of 54% to 46% over the incumbent Democrat who outspent him by nearly five to one. Many others made remarkable showings in efforts that, while falling short of election, revealed a party that has become a force that the major parties must recognize as potent players.

Unfortunately, in the volatile world of far right politics, some things did not go so well for the party this year. They lost several state affiliates (at least New York and Ohio) in a factional dispute over whether all Party candidates and officers must conform to the antiabortion purism of the plarty platform. Nevertheless,  the GOP will certainly be keeping a wether eye on the Constitution Party this year -- and the potential breakaway of such figures as Moore, Keyes, and Corsi.

sounds like the beginning of the quadrennial dance. Will a signficant portion of the religious right bolt the GOP? Or will they be able to leverage further concessions sufficient to keep them in the fold?

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 01:04:27 PM EST

Those in the religious right have to face this dilemma every election cycle, and given their recent disillusion with the lack of follow-through from the Republicans, it's not going to get any easier for them in the near future.

One indication that a wholesale defection from the Republican party is possible, is the way the anti-abortion ballot initiative was conducted in South Dakota.  The religious right went for broke.  They could have easily passed a law with meaningful exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother, but they refuse even a hint of compromise in their rabid anti-all-abortion stance.

Their actions, and increasingly those of Moore and Keyes, show that there may be a growing reluctance to compromise their beliefs and hold their nose while voting Reoublican.  And that might be fuelled further should a more pragmatic Republican candidate like McCain or Giuliani win the ticket for 2008.

In the end, however, I don't think you'll see mass defections from the Republican Party.  While Keyes and Moore are certainly popular figures with the extreme right, they really need to start seeing people like James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and Tony Perkins jumping ship.  These are the guys who represent the "mainstream" fundamentalists (if there is such a thing!), but they are also the people with deep connections with the Republican Party machine and I doubt the Republican leadership would be so foolish as to drive them away.  (Just look at the backtracking John McCain has been doing since his criticisms of Falwell and Bob Jones University.)

For all the disgruntled noises coming from the fundamentalist leaders in the past month, I don't expect one major defection before the 2008 election that will have any meaningful effect on the outcome.

The religious right knows that if they only voted their convictions, they would be most likely be marginalized as political players in Washington.  For all their big talk about the evils of moral relativism, Christian fundamentalists know better than most when to use it to their advantage.

by tacitus on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 06:35:05 PM EST

I doubt very seriously that Dobson, Bauer, Perkins, et al are going to jump ship as they know the money is with the Republican Party not some wild-eyed third party extremists.

I liked Ronald Regan as a president but he did enormous damage to American politics by showing the Christian right that they could have political power if they just organized well. We are still paying the price for that and it most likely will get worse before it gets better. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that this is not the first time in American history that the theocrats have tried to assume power but it just seems like such a waste of time and resources to have to still be dealing with them in the 21st century.

by FreedomfromChains on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 07:23:29 PM EST

First off, one has to ask the question as to why anyone is giving this fruitcake a platform to pontificate from. I could understand if this one on WorldNetDaily or Newsmax or some other right wing extremist rag, but the Washington Times? I certainly will consider their editorial criteria for selection in future articles I might read from them. I wish these religious nutcases would form their own political party. They would get creamed, the republicans would loose, which might cause them to actually think about getting back to conservative principles, upholding the Constitution, and understanding that the founders did purposefully put the idea and philosophy of separation of church and state into the Constitution for a reason. I like to think that part of the election loss was due to some people speaking up that they don’t want religious fanatics running our country but the truth is that probably wasn’t much of a factor. Most people still don’t know what one means when one references the neo-cons much less understand that at the heart of the Christian right is the goal to turn America into a Christian theocracy.

by FreedomfromChains on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 07:15:17 PM EST

Though this appeared in the Washington Times 23 Nov, it first appeared a day earlier in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on their op-ed page. What's interesting is that Roy ddidn't put up any of this in his run against incumbent Bob Riley in the primary--in which Riley beat Moore like a freckled stepchild. Moore then had an option to run third-party but refrained as he didn't want to burn down any bridges in the Alabama GOP, looking down the road to 2010. While Roy may or may not choose to run on the '08 Consitution Party ticket,  he will continue to flirt--as it brings in cash. And that's what Roy is all about--he's made more money since being deposed than he  made as Chief Justice, or as Governor.

by mreyn on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 08:07:58 PM EST

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