Newt Gingrich Trying To Mobilize Religious Right

The Republicans have faced a dilemma for quite a while. The religious right has been useful for years, even if the Republican leadership considered them to be kooks. Traditionally, before Bush, Republican leaders would pander to the religious right for votes and ignore them as much as possible once in office. Bush began to push the agenda of the religious right, leading to the Republicans becoming a regional party of the deep south and Mormon belt. Newt Gingrich  has previously  followed the pre-Bush approach of ignoring the religious right but now that most of the sane people have left the party he sees no choice but to change  his tactics. US News and World Report says that Gingrich is attempting to mobilize the religious right:

At a time when many religious conservatives say the Republican Party is ignoring their issues and taking their support for granted, former House speaker and GOP idea man Newt Gingrich is turning his attention to the concerns of conservative Christians like never before.

Gingrich has launched an organization devoted to bringing conservative evangelicals and Catholics into the political process and to strengthening the frayed alliance between economic and religious conservatives. Called Renewing American Leadership, the group is led by Gingrich’s longtime communications director and includes some of the country’s top conservative Christian activists on its board.

Why the change in attitude?

“In the last few years I’ve decided that we’re in a crisis in which the secular state, if allowed, will fundamentally and radically change America against the wishes of most Americans,” Gingrich said in a phone interview on Thursday. “You’ve had such rising hostility to religious belief that I wanted to reach broadly into the country and dramatically raise public awareness of threats to religious liberty.”

The religious have  little to complain about considering how much the religious right gained under Bush, and now there is another religious Christian in the White House. Melissa McEwan summarizes:

We’ve got a Christian president who’s just as Christiany (even if it’s a different flavor) as the last guy, who had an almost unanimously Christian administration which relentlessly pandered to conservative Christians, including nominating three openly Christian justices to the Supreme Court (two of whom made it to the bench), an almost entirely Christian Congress who start each session with a prayer, guaranteed freedom of religion, money that says “In God We Trust,” a pledge of allegiance that describes us as “one nation under God,” television networks who will accept advertising from conservative religious groups but not liberal political groups, schools who are incorporating a religious belief into science classes, gays being denied marriage in order to protect its “sanctity,” conscience clauses for pharmacists and healthcare providers, religion-based residential communities being built, Museums of Creationism springing up, laws still on the books that respect Christians’ holy day (like in Indiana, where you still can’t shop for a car or buy booze on a Sunday), churches not required to pay taxes, Christmas recognized as a national holiday, and on and on and on.

Anyone who looks at the American landscape and sees “threats to religious liberty” is fucking delusional.

With no real basis for his claims, Gingrich must resort to fabricating an argument:

Gingrich alleges that threats to religious liberty have multiplied under the Obama administration. He points to the recent economic stimulus package, which prohibits colleges from using federal funds to build or repair buildings used for worship or other religious purposes.

That claim has been debunked many times since the right wingers started spreading it, such as in this post by Steve Benen. Newt Gingich tries to position himself as the ideas guy of the right wing. Instead we see him repeating untrue right wing talking points and trying to keep the culture wars alive for political gain.

If Gingrich was really as smart as he portrays himself to be, he would realize that it is the alliance with the religious right which has destroyed the GOP. You cannot claim to be the party of small government and simultaneously support using the power of the state to impose religious views upon others. The Republicans can only revive as a national party by rejecting the religious right and rebuilding as a party with ideas which are relevant to the twenty-first century. Of course this can take manyl years and won’t help a political has been whose goal is to revive his career and run for president in the near future.

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8 Comments

  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Remember, there was a time when Newt was the poster boy for the anti-abortion, gay-bashing, vaguely racist wing of the Republican Party. With the polarization of the GOP to such a degree that wing has become the Republican Party, to all intents and purposes, this really isn’t a surprise at all. Nor should it be forgotten that these positions appeal primarily to voters in parts of the country where people /are/ genuinely disadvantaged in economic and social areas too diverse to count and they are only too glad to blame that on the government and on ‘religion hating liberals.’ I live on the Tennessee-Virginia border. The economy is crappy and social services are strained to the breaking point and that was before the economic crisis began.

    Most of the people living here are very religious and they have a very deeply ingrained belief that city people are not religious, not really.  They feel the cities are getting attention they are not getting, and that it must be because the government hates them for being Christian.

    It doesn’t make sense, but this is the message conservative politicians try to sell them and too many are willing to believe it.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I think you and Melissa misunderstand why Christians feel put-upon.  A secular society prevents them from showing Christian charity.  Very few of them really want to burn heretics or stone gays, but they want to publicly show charity by not doing so (very often).   A modern secular society actually acknowledges rights to everyone, so that keeps Christians from showing their love by restraining their righteous violence.  This makes them sad and frustrated.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    While I do have to note that there are quite a lot of Christians (members of most mainstream Protestant denominations and most American Catholics) who are part of the majority of American citizens who support a modern secular state and the separation of church and state.

    That said, Fritz, I agree with you completely about the kinds of Christians who support the Newst Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the world.

  4. 4
    cognitive dissident says:

    That quote from McEwan is fabulous! I often wonder if Newt and his cohorts believe in their own persecution complex, or if it’s just a a show for the masses.

    If they’re really worried about religious liberty, why aren’t they supporting the ACLU?

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Regardless of whether they believe in it, portraying themselves as persecuted victims is a big part of the right wing shtick.

    Not only don’t they support the ACLU, many conservatives see the ACLU as the enemy. That sure tells a lot about their position on civil liberties.

  6. 6
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I can tell you from reading conservative comments on issues like abortion and gay rights, that religious traditionalists (if not their political leaders) really do see themselves as victimized by pluralism and tolerance.

    I have seen the argument advanced (which Barry Goldwater once flirted with, but ultimately abandoned, and which Pat Buchanan still makes) that in a truly ‘free’ and ‘tolerant’ society, oppressed minorities should be tolerant of oppressive bigotry. The theory is that calling out bigotry is intolerance, unfairly attacking the bigots, and that recognition of civil rights is a violation of religious freedom. The conservative poster in question said to a gay rights poster:

    “How can you demand that I be tolerant of your views when you are totally intolerant of mine?”

    The implication being that justified anger at bigoted attacks is equal to unwarranted bigotry against fellow human beings.

    This is similar to an unattributed quote from a very different era, during discussion of the integration of baseball:

    “It was decided that if we included negroes, then inevitably someone would take offense. Whereas by excluding them, no one is harmed.”

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    They sure do have a way of turning things around. Earlier in the year I had some posts on the culture wars, which I blamed on conservatives for engaging in to impose their views upon others. I found some conservatives saying it was started by liberals. Reasons given were along the lines that liberals started the culture wars by supporting gay marriage or other rights gays. Their argument would only make sense if someone was forcing them to have a gay marriage.

  8. 8
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Their arguments make perfect sense if you accept the Old Testament notion that the only legitimate government is one sanctioned and endorsed by God and operating according to his principles. When a Christian fundamentalist means ‘freedom’ they do not mean ‘freedom’ in any secular sense. They mean freedom from sin, freedom from the fear of Hell. Therefore, freedom is only possible under a government so endorsed. This is why Mike Huckbee can see it’s easier to change the Constitution to bring it in line with the Bible than vice versa with a straight face. To his way of thinking, the one is dependent on the other to have legitimacy.

    So anything that violates Biblical mores as the religious right sees them is a threat to the soul of America. Sinful society breeds sinful people, so the only way to save people is to save society.

    The fact that all this is specifically in violation of much of the New Testament and later Protestant writing about government and religion does not bother them one bit.

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