The Virgin on a Dollar Bill: The Future of the Religious Right?

A great deal has been written about the religious right’s role in the current GOP presidential campaign but recent events have left experts scrambling to make sense of it all. There’s the issue of Romney’s membership in the Latter Day Saints; the Catholicism of Gingrich and Santorum, and now, whether Gingrich’s marital history will make it difficult for Evangelicals to vote for him (or if not all Evangelicals, then Evangelical women). There is even the story last week about the religious right leadership meeting in Texas to decide who they should support (and cries of vote-rigging from the Gingrich camp afterwards).

Reflecting on this weird mix, Michael Kazin posits “The End of the Christian Right.” His argument is this: 1) They’ve lost the culture wars–support for gay marriage now tops 50%; 2) They lack the leadership of earlier generations (there’s no Jerry Falwell among the current crop); 3) most importantly, they are losing the demographic battle. Of course, he makes this argument while acknowledging the continuing potency of conservative Christians in the Republican primary fights.

Kazin has received some pushback. Ed Kilgore disagrees.

But if they haven’t been able to pull their muscle behind a single candidate, that’s not a sign that they are on the wane—it’s a sign that, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, they have already won.

Look at the potential nominees: Unlike 2008, no candidate in the field is pro-choice by any definition. Only Ron Paul seems reluctant to enact a national ban on same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. and Herman Cain have been vocal in fanning the flames of Islamophobia; again, only Paul has bothered to dissent to any significant degree.

I’ve got no particular insight on this matter. But an image I came across on a Mother Jones blogpost strikes me as very interesting:

We may yet see new realignments, with closer cooperation among conservative Evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics. It’s already taking place, of course. That evangelicals might have endorsed Santorum would have been unthinkable a generation ago (and is probably as difficult for many to swallow as voting for a Mormon). But what battles in the culture wars would an army led by the Roman Catholic bishops and supported by the American Family Association and the National Association for Evangelicals win?

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