Monday, October 8, 2007

A Value By Any Other Name…

Laurie Goodstein wrote in the New York Times that the Religious Reich is feeling like they’re getting screwed by the Republicans.

AFTER the 2004 elections, religious conservatives were riding high. Newly anointed by pundits as “values voters” — a more flattering label than “religious right” — they claimed credit for propelling George W. Bush to two terms in the White House. Even in wartime, they had managed to fixate the nation on their pet issues: opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.

Now with the 2008 race taking shape, religious conservatives say they sense they have taken a tumble. Their issues are no longer at the forefront, and their leaders have failed so far to coalesce around a candidate, as they did around Mr. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

What unites them right now is their dismay — even panic — at the idea of Rudolph W. Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because of his support for abortion rights and gay rights, as well as what they regard as a troubling history of marital infidelity. But what to do about it is where they again diverge, with some religious conservatives last week threatening to bolt to a third party if Mr. Giuliani gets the nomination, and others arguing that this is the sure road to defeat.

Many religious conservatives were proud to claim the mantle that Karl Rove bestowed on them as “the base of the Republican Party.” Now they fear they may have lapsed unwittingly into the same role that African-Americans play in the Democratic Party: a dependable minority constituency that is courted by candidates but never really gets to call the shots.

George F. Will rightly noted on This Week that the term “values voter” is meaningless; everyone, he says, votes their “values.” They may not be the same as the conservative Christians — oppress the gays and monitor every uterus — but they are values nonetheless.

The GOP has always been very good at finding a way to brand something for maximum political advantage: “death tax” for the estate tax, “partial-birth abortion” for an emergency procedure that is rarely performed, “the radical homosexual agenda” for basic equality for the gay community, and so on, including the famous “war on terror” and other such generic nouns that accomplishes nothing but gives Richard Viguerie and his direct-mailing business something to do. “Values voters” is just such another star turn.

But that’s about all the GOP has been able to do: label things. So far they haven’t delivered for their base; abortion is still legal and queers are getting married. And the Religious Reich is finding out that they’ve been used and played for fools by the Bush administration. Gee, what a surprise.