I am not as convinced that Romney and Giuliani are "good men" who can't run in this climate. Giuliani was a failed and unpopular mayor until that one awful day in NY, and Romney appears as much borg as human. Not only that, but Sully misses the problem that Rove created himself. Putting forward the "Pastor in Chief" in the form of George W. Bush. No one has done more to undermine the credibility of evangelicals than the man who swore he read the Bible daily and then allowed the torture of other human beings under his watch.
What the Republicans are discovering is that the short-term gains of using religion as a political weapon may be outweighed by the medium-term costs. Their two best candidates have been crippled by religious controversy. The third, John McCain, despite being pro-life, has had run-ins with the religious right in the past and cannot regain lost trust with the evangelical base.
Meanwhile, independents and swing voters are turned off by some of the rhetoric. In the first nationally televised Republican debate, three candidates said they did not accept the theory of evolution. If they don’t even buy natural selection, how are they going to grapple with climate change? And then there are small stories from the heart-land that just strike many Americans as bizarre. My favourite one was a resolution proposed by Utah Republicans at a local convention a couple of weeks ago. It was a statement of opposition to illegal immigration, but it had an eye-catching title: “Resolution opposing Satan’s plan to destroy the US by stealth invasion.”
The real stealth invasion, of course, is the incursion of blatant sectarianism into secular American political discourse. Sectarian politics doesn’t work in Baghdad, and it can’t work in Washington either. When it doesn’t end all civil conversation, it diminishes the ability of good men – like Romney and Giuliani – to run for office regardless of their own religious convictions.
The Founding Fathers knew this, which is why they separated church and state and kept their own public demonstrations of religion to a perfunctory minimum. Americans are learning it again. But for the Republicans, it may be coming a little too late. At the rate they’re going, they’re not going to have a prayer. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is among Republicans discovering there is a downside to using religion as a political weapon.
May 14, 2007
Religion as a political weapon
Sully takes on Rove's strategy (oh, by the by, did everyone see that Hitch claims that Rove is an atheist?) of using religion as a political weapon. He suggests that this strategy will not work in the long term: