I RISE to offer a defense — not a full-throated defense, more of a limited one — of the beleaguered, battered, all-but-broken religious right.
Of course you do, honey.
For the last two weeks we’ve watched various paladins of traditional valuestwist and squirm as they try to square their Christian conservatism with Donald Trump’s sexual attitudes and conduct.
You spelled “try to square their Christian conservatism with their endless stupidity and lust for power” wrong.
They sought a remoralized politics, a less licentious culture, and now they’re making lesser-of-two-evil arguments to protect a pagan demagogue from the consequences of his own unbridled lust.
They sought to gain money and advantage through pretending to their congregants that they were going to criminalize abortion and cleanse society, when really all they were going to do was demonize gay people and poor women, bitch about TV they secretly watched, and screw their mistresses on church property.
This is a grim endgame for a movement that just a little over a decade ago had liberals fearing its electoral strength and allegedly-theocratic ambitions. And for those liberals today, the religious right’s crisis tastes like victory and vindication both: Those theocrats are finally cracking up, and Trump has proved that all their talk about virtue and character was just partisanship, with no real moral substance underneath.
In this year of general political misery, I don’t begrudge anyone their share of schadenfreude. But here are four points to keep in mind.
Before we get to your four bullshit points here are two of my own. One: Yes, you do, or you wouldn’t be writing this scold-y column more in sorrow than in anger, woe is you, etc.
Two: Nothing about the demonization of women and gay people for four decades “tastes like victory.” For 40 years, as the AIDS crisis raged and young men and women came out of the closet to be beaten on the street, as young men and women pushed back against a culture that said they were worthless, the religious right was yelling into microphones that these kids were sick and God hated them. People DIED from that and those bodies are on the religious right.
Is it a characteristic of sociopaths that they think everyone else is a sociopath too? Tastes like victory. How dare you. Tell it to the dead.
First, serious religious conservatives didn’t want Trump. Yes, he had hacks and heretics on his side from early on: Jerry Falwell Jr., Mike Huckabee, various prosperity preachers. But most churchgoing Republicans preferred other candidates; only 15 percent of weekly churchgoers were steady Trump supporters from the start.
Yet they all climbed on board once he became the nominee, because the alternative was that liberal abortion-loving hellbeast, wasn’t it? They all punched their tickets and Ross wants to quarrel about what time they showed up, like being late is only good for half the credit.
Second, religious conservatives have stronger reasons than other right-wing constituencies to fear a Clinton presidency. Tax rates go up and down, regulations come and go, but every abortion is a unique human life snuffed out forever.
Oh, for chrissakes. I don’t expect intellectual honesty from someone who publicly professes sympathy for the religious “right” but I do expect him to read his own newspaper:
The numbers began to fall late in George H. W. Bush’s presidency and plummeted during the Clinton years. There were 180,000 fewer abortions in Mr. Clinton’s last year as president than in his first year. But that trend line flattened out so that the declines in Mr. Bush’s first term were tiny.
The religious right got the president they wanted in George W. Bush. He had congressional majorities and nearly unprecedented support from the American public and he did not deliver the wholesale criminalization of abortion religious conservatives had been promised for decades. He did not even bother to push for his constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality until it was obvious nothing was going to happen there. His Supreme Court justices couldn’t stop same sex marriage, and outright upheld Obamacare. So spare me the “but a Clinton presidency” “but the Supreme Court” rationalizations.
Next up, it’s the “but the church picnic gets awkward when I wear my Hillary button” argument:
Asking Christian conservatives to accept a Clinton presidency is asking them to cooperate not only with pro-abortion policy-making, but also their own legal-cultural isolation. If you can’t see why some people in that situation might persuade themselves that Trump would be the lesser evil, you need to work harder to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Okay. I’ll put myself in the position of supporting a literal fascist because it’s uncomfortable to admit that I voted for Trump at the PTA meetings. Wow, these shoes suck because I’M A GIANT BUTTHOLE. Legal-cultural isolation. Hork. THOSE ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. “Cultural isolation” has to do with not seeing every single thing you believe in validated on the evening news, is what I imagine Ross is getting at here. I don’t have to imagine what that would be like because every Sunday I open the damn paper and there Ross is.
As for legal isolation: Hillary will not lock her political opponents up. That’s the other guy. That’s actually a thing he said.
Third, religious conservatives are as divided as any other conservative faction over Trump.
Poor you guys. Divided over whether to support a serial sexual predator. Do you genuinely think this makes you look sympathetic? This is your DEFENSE of the religious right? That you feel kind of squishy when considering whether someone who brags about sexual assault should be your Godly vote? I’d hate to see you assail the movement, if this is how you attempt to exculpate them.
When religious conservatives were ascendant, the G.O.P. actually tried minority outreach, it sent billions to fight AIDS in Africa, it pursued criminal justice reform in the states. That ascendance crumbled because of the religious right’s own faults (which certain of Trump’s Christian supporters amply display), and because of trends toward secularization and individualism that no politics can master; it cannot and should not be restored.
But some kind of religious conservatism must be rebuilt, because without the pull of transcendence, the future of the right promises to be tribal, cruel, and very dark indeed.
When the religious right was actually in OFFICE nobody could get AIDS drugs here in the U.S., and if by criminal justice reform you mean mandatory minimum sentencing that devastated minority communities, but hey, at least you “tried” minority outreach. You gave being a human in the modern world your VERY BEST SHOT!
And what the bloody blue fuck is “the pull of transcendence?” Does Ross mean the general cloaking of punishing the poor in the language of the divine? Because I’m more than happy to see that burn in all seven hells. If Trump has done anything, he’s made the religious right honest about what it wants: Power, and money, and grabbing some pussy.
I understand how that gives Ross and his ilk a sad, because they made a bet 10 years ago that they’d always be at the cool party, but let’s not pretend this is some kind of spiritual crisis.