Yesterday, James Carville made a comment in an interview with Huffington Post. It got some play around the web, but didn't really make a lot of waves. Mostly because he said what everyone knows -- even those who would rather pretend otherwise. The Republican party, Carville said, was stuck with the religious nuts. If they try to get rid of them -- or even soften the message -- it's over.
"I don't think they can do that because their party would crumble... That is not an option really available to them," Carville said. "They can talk about other issues and do other things, but once you have a Republican nominee, or serious Republican leaders who are pro-choice or pro-gay marriage, they are going to lose a lot of their voting base. These people will break off. And I don't think that's a real open discussion among people that really know what is going on in the Republican Party."
The problem with the religious right is that their ideas don't really change. They add causes to their list of grievances, but most don't really subtract until that cause is resolved. As a result, they're stuck in time. The ultimate conservatives, they see an unchanging society continuing forever -- at least, after they've perfected it. So time moves on, while they stay stuck. The zenith of the evangelical fanatic has probably passed, the time when they could swing a national election their way is over. The Bush administration represented the last of it and Bush's wins in both of his elections were either questionable or unimpressive.
But the end of the religious right is a slow and painful death. They linger on, weakened and weakening, railing against a world that refuses to stop changing. They stand against knowledge when facts become inconvenient, choosing the bliss of ignorance. Anachronistic thinking is applauded, while innovative thought is shouted down. Stem cells are evil, abortion is evil, evolution is evil, gays are evil, people who don't say "Merry Christmas" are evil, liberals are evil, feminists are evil, and now people who recognize global warming are evil. Nothing must ever change, unless it changes back to the way things used to be, so new knowledge that would require us to change everything is about the worst thing imaginable.
Of course, the fact that it's also drawing people away from the evangelical zealot's brand of fanaticism isn't all that attractive either.
If you can get people to believe in creationism, you can get them to believe anything. Or, at least, that's what you'd think. But some in the evangelical movement are succumbing to this whole "save the world" mumbo-jumbo and abandoning the Republican party's message of climate ignorance.
[Associated Baptist Press:]
As Congress debates clean-energy legislation, a conservative Christian group is ramping up lobbying efforts to raise questions about the science of climate change.
The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation Committee recently hired Shannon Royce, a 25-year veteran of conservative organizations including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, as executive director.
"If you listen to the hype that you will hear in the media, you will hear that evangelicals really feel strongly about global warming, and the impression is that all evangelicals have bought into this global-warming bandwagon, and it simply is not true," Royce said in an interview [mp3] on a Christian radio station in Chicago.
Royce calls global warming "pseudoscience" and literally accuses environmentalists of killing Christians.
"The environmental extremists, and frankly unfortunately even some of our left-wing evangelical friends, see people predominantly as polluters and consumers," she said. "Now what do you have to do if people are predominantly polluters and consumers? You need less people. It's not necessarily that these groups are the same groups that would promote abortion abroad. They just won't let us get food to those people, so they die naturally. It's not the same as killing them directly, maybe, but it's still really against the principles of what we believe as Christians."
Cornwall Alliance spokesperson Calvin Beisner testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, telling representatives that global warming's a bunch of hooey because the "work rests on the naturalist, atheistic world view." See, God's perfect, so it stands to reason that the world He created is too. A real Christian "sees Earth and its ecosystems as the effect of a wise God's creation and providential preservation and therefore robust, resilient, and self-regulating." Put simply, you can't screw up the planet because the world is magic.
What was that about pseudoscience again?
If Carville's right that the GOP needs the religious right to stay alive -- and he is -- then the reverse is also true. Without a national party to do their work in Washington, the religious fanatics would be seriously screwed. If the religious fanatic flock starts to wander off in non-Republican directions, groups like Cornwall Alliance exist to send out wranglers to bring them back to the herd. Besides, these errant Christians are better off spending their energy hating gays, trying to force women to remain pregnant against their will, and fighting the menace of evolution in our schools. For the institutional side of the religious right, global warming is a distraction.
But if the Republican influence in America is on the decline, so is the influence of the religious right. Standing against change in the world is a losing proposition that involves something they don't believe in - evolution. People adapt to the times they live in, while conservatives of both the religious and political types believe the times should adapt to the people. People are wandering away from these "core issues" of movement conservatism and toward issues that actually matter for the time they live in. Republicans and the religious right, ignoring evolution, fail to learn one of its central lessons -- adapt or die.
The Earth may not be "robust, resilient, and self-regulating," but the political landscape is. It's self-regulating those who refuse to change right out of existence.
Get updates via Twitter