Sunday, February 19, 2012

Republicans and the Culture Wars

Despite the ongoing damage that far right religious beliefs of all stripes continue to do and the division and discord that seem to be their principal hallmarks, the Republican Party is poised to yet again try to utilize religious based hatred for political advantage. One need look no farther than the GOP presidential nomination contest. Romney and Gingrich certainly ought to know better, but their blind ambition overrides any sense of decency and civility that they might otherwise bring to bear. Ron Paul likewise seems only too happy to use bigotry for political advantage. And Santorum? In my opinion, the man is mentally ill and frighteningly seems to truly believe all the batshitery he spouts. On the state level, the Republican Party of Virginia has taken shameless and dangerous pandering to Christianist extremists to new levels. An article in The Daily Beast contends that this year on the presidential level, using God, guns and gays may backfire on the GOP. We can only hope that such is the case. Here are some column highlights:

You know the Republican Party is going through a rough patch when it can’t even conduct a proper culture war.

Once upon a time, the GOP knew how to pick a compelling values issue, or at least demagogue one in a way that was guaranteed to make the Democrats look like a pack of sneering, godless Francophiles. Partial-birth abortion—now there was a winner. Ditto gun rights. And, man on man, did conservatives milk the gay-marriage issue for all it was worth, back when it was worth something.

But of late, the party seems to be losing its touch. Oh, sure, Republicans have enjoyed watching President Obama’s tussle with the Catholic Church over insurance coverage for contraception. Indeed, many party leaders rushed to pile on, tossing about phrases like “freedom of conscience” and “war on religion.” As a broader political proposition, however, getting labeled the party that wants to limit access to contraception is less ballsy than flat-out nuts.

On pure piety points, no one can beat Rick. We’re talking here about a guy who has said he would use the presidential bully pulpit to warn of how contraception tempts even married couples to get busy in ways contrary to God’s will. This, of course, is part of the problem. Opposing abortion is one thing. Opposing contraception even among married folks doesn’t make Rick seem like a paragon of moral virtue so much as a refugee from the 16th century.

But it’s not just that the senator’s positions are out of touch with the mainstream electorate (a mere 8 percent of Americans think birth control is immoral; 84 percent of U.S. Catholics think you can use it and still be a good Catholic). It’s that the guy is simultaneously too pious and too pathetic.

Take his views on gay rights. Plenty of people object to gay marriage, but Santorum has long come across as a bit of a clown on the entire subject of homosexuality. It’s some combination of his whiny manner and his slightly-too-colorful blatherings about how “sodomy” is kinda like polygamy or incest but not quite so bad as man-on-dog action. With that kind of commentary, small wonder Dan Savage decided to execute his devastating lexical takedown of the senator.

[T]his whole Serious Candidate business is new to Santorum. Still, this is no way to run a culture war.

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