Religious Right Faltering?
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The recent death of the Reverend Jerry Falwell has given America its share of news stories about how Falwell became a king-maker of sorts, establishing the Religious Right movement as a potent political force. There have also been accompanying stories about how the Religious Right’s influence is waning. At first glance, this appears to be good news; the would-be theocrats have had far too much control of the country over the last couple of decades.
Most of media speculation is based upon the current field of declared Republican candidates for nomination in the 2008 presidential elections and the polling data about them. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, is the current front-runner. He is also a social liberal, despite being a war-hawk. James Dobson, perhaps the current leader of the Religious Right, and head of Focus on the Family, has openly declared his dislike for Giuliani. John McCain, Arizona Senator, and Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, are the next two on the list. McCain is also not a favorite of Dobson or most of the Religious Right, and as a Mormon Romney is at a disadvantage with the Religious Right. The Religious Right’s favored current candidates are Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and Colorado House representative Tom Tancredo. But these are decidedly bottom-tier candidates in all the polls none are likely even to make it to the GOP national convention.
It would be nice if the Religious Right’s political power were collapsing, but it’s far too soon yet to send in the coroner for an autopsy. Two potential candidates who are toying with running: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and former Tennessee Senator (and current television actor) Fred Thompson. Gingrich has strong support among the Religious Right; so does Thompson, though to a lesser degree. (One thing working against him is that he works in the dreaded Leftward-leaning world of Hollywood.)
It’s very possible that the Religious Right could actually get their favorite Newt Gingrich on the 2008 ballot. If so, that will only crystallize their control of the Republican party. On the other hand, if they back Gingrich to the hilt but he doesn’t get the nomination, that would definitely show their power has waned.
The bottom line is that the jury is still out on the matter of the Religious Right’s power … and it’s far too early to celebrate. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes, and this means we won’t know until the Republican national convention.
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