One has to look no further than Jeffersonville, Indiana to figure out how Republicans blew their recent hegemony in American politics. This Louisville suburb is where the former chairman of both the Clark County Republican Party and Young Republican National Federation pleaded guilty last week to criminal deviant conduct for performing oral sex on a man while he slept, following a house party.
This incident is the latest to underscore the rank hypocrisy within republican ranks. The party of Rev. Ted Haggard, Sen. Larry Craig, Rep. Mark Foley, and former Spokane mayor Jim West simply lost its moral authority as guardian of the good.
More than prurience, it is the warping of priorities where social conservatives damage the GOP. While the vast majority of Americans are worried about gas prices, the right wing gasbags are pushing the Republican Party to make gay marriage its top issue.
A May poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 49% of white evangelical Protestants view gay marriage as very important, up 10 points since last fall…Overwhelming majorities of Republicans (75%) and white evangelical Protestants (81%) oppose allowing gays to marry.
To win the general election, John McCain will need to win a sizable majority of Independent voters. He has attempted to reach out to moderates by appearing on Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show and by not rallying to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in California.
However, you can be sure that the Religious Right will first exhort and then extort the GOP nominee into championing their extreme positions. They are already responsible for tarnishing his once shining brand. I can’t tell you how many gay people I meet who pine for the “straight talking” McCain of 2000, who called the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” This time, they vow to vote for Obama.
The McCain of 2008 has spent eight years cozying up to theocrats and President Bush. This has severely damaged his image and nearly cost him victory in the primaries. Indeed, the only reason he pulled out his unlikely victory was because Mitt Romney was a Mormon (and a robot) and preacher Mike Huckabee was a little too loony.
Even the old, respectable McCain, however, had a stalwart conservative record, rarely missing an opportunity to vote anti-choice and anti-gay. Indeed, the Human Rights Campaign produced a powerful video this week highlighting his votes against ending job discrimination and opposing hate crime legislation. It also showed him in a television ad pushing for the passage a failed constitutional amendment in Arizona that would have outlawed same-sex marriages and domestic partnership benefits.
Still, this reliably right wing record isn’t enough to satisfy the Republican Party’s right wing fringe. They will only be assuaged by vulgar, over-the-top displays of religious proselytizing and divisive culture war rhetoric.
“There’s a lack of fire and passion for (McCain) right now, and for him to win, that fire has to be kindled,” said the Rev. Jack Graham, a former president of the 16.2 million-member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
They can’t get excited about a man who has promised Scalia-type judges, drove HRC into the video production booth and has pro-choice advocates on edge? Talk about a bunch of spoiled brats who want all the marbles or they won’t play the game!
If McCain panders to these inflexible ideologues, he can kiss this election goodbye. This intolerant fundamentalism isn’t even working so well for the fundamentalists. The SBC reported a membership decrease of about 40,000 people from 2006 to 2007. Increasingly, polls show many young people are turned off by these churches’ socially and sexually stunted positions.
The utter emptiness of the evangelical view on homosexuality is highlighted by the gay rights group SoulForce’s national mega-church tour. On one stop, Willow Creek’s Rev. Bill Hybels met with SoulForce Director Jeff Lutes who said Hybels “has no trouble with people being gay…Essentially what he advocates or what Willow Creek advocates, is celibacy. And that’s where we differ.”
So, Hybels’ position is that millions of Americans are morally acceptable as long as they remain lonely and miserable? Social scientists recognize that human beings are social animals that seek romantic love. One can only assume that Hybels believes that GLBT people are outside the circle of common humanity and don’t have the same needs as others.
To appease the far right, McCain and the GOP will feel intense pressure to adopt such incoherent and intolerant positions. If the peccadilloes of peculiar preachers become McCain’s priority, social conservatives will have twice undermined his political ambitions – causing him defeats in 2000 and 2008.