Politics and religion haves always had a rocky relationship as the Founders of the United States understood. They sought to alleviate some of the worst conflicts of the two and allow as much freedom as possible for both to thrive. More recent times, foes of religion have used the wisdom of the Constitution to silence religious voices in the public square. Although on the surface what they argue sounds reasonable, the actual practice goes against the spirit and perhaps letter of the law. The freedoms they claim to protect become restricted with vague notions of what is public and private. It is one thing to make a case of disagreement and a different matter to ridicule and accuse without presenting an argument. As no fan of Skousen’s simplistic research, but in agreement with the spirit of Glenn Beck’s ideas , I think both have been treated unfairly to the detriment of honest debate.
The same goes with how those who are most influenced by them, The Tea Party, are continually dismissed. Even when they garner success, such as the latest U.S. election, it is as if they have failed. The truth is those on the left and the right who don’t like them either deliberately misrepresent or seriously misunderstand the movement. An article by Nathan B. Oman that is critical of the religious members ignores the actual history of who comprises the electorate. The vital conservative religious vote is cast as a recently developed nuisance that, “will render conservative religious voices irrelevant to serious political discussion,” compared to more moderate conservatives. It is hard to believe considering voting outcomes over the last 30 years. What will happen is that moderate religious pundits will become irrelevant to other pundits.
His main point is that the more conservative religious voices (that he calls “Cold War” conservatism) will cause “the center” to leave the Republican Party. First, he misses that the Tea Party that Glen Beck represents is not really a religious group, even if found to be made of largely religious people. There is a religious and secular divide that the objectors have no idea exists or how to use against them. More importantly, he doesn’t understand that those who belong to the movement don’t care about the Republican Party and would like to see it go the way of the dinosaur with the Democrats. They hold to principle and not loyalty.
Most importantly, the religious voters are more vital to Republican Party victory than any swing-voters or those in the center. This isn’t to say that those aren’t needed, but they don’t do as much harm as Mr. Oman would like to assume. What causes more damage is when the religious voters reject a candidate. Glen Beck and the Tea Party have revived a group that for the past two or three years has retreated from politics. The last time they came in force was the re-election of George W. Bush, with a predictable outcome; he won a second term.
Looking at recent history, and not insider punditry, it seems that the winners of the election are predicated by the galvanization of religious conservatives and not the turn out of the center. In fact, the more the religious conservatives are excited about a candidate then the more likely the center will follow. This has been going on at least since Jimmy Carter was elected President, if not before. Ironic for Republican pundits critical of the conservative religious movement that the most “center” candidates for U.S. President always end up losing. They were excited for Ronald Reagan (feeling Jimmy Carter let them down), luke warm for the first Bush, critical of Bob Dole, reluctant at first for the second Bush, but excited the second time around, and seriously disliked John McCain. If this continues, it doesn’t bode well for a Mitt Romney run unless the dislike of Pres. Obama overwhelms any displeasure with him. Considering that the conservatives see them as the same politically, it would be at best a tossup match.
Just like previously, the Republican Party cannot ignore the religious conservatives if they want to win. What happened the last Democrat cycles was a show of disappointment in the Republican establishment. The promises made by Pres. Bush’s second term didn’t materialize even in a majority atmosphere, causing the religious conservatives to retreat. Blue Dog Democrats saw an opening and took it, but didn’t learn from the experience of Republicans who lost by leaning left. Glen Beck, and by extension Skousen, saved the Republican Party from obscurity by once again energizing conservatives of all stripes. It is up to the Republicans if they want to embrace this group to remain successful or reject them at their historically arguable peril.