Writing at USA Today, Rod Dreher confirms something that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, namely that social conservatives and Christian voters are an essential element of the Republican base and that the McCain/Palin ticket lost for reasons having little to do with deep demographic changes misidentified by pundits such as Jeffery Hart and the aforementioned Kathleen Parker.
There are of course those who would like to see Christian voters marginalized as a voting force.
Democrats like the idea because it helps them win elections. Fiscally conservative Republicans wish the religious right didn’t have so much say in the Republican party. And many liberals reject Christianity and resent its influence in the country.
That’s a lot of opposition. The marginalizing of Christian voters may happen in the course of time if the decades-old trend of it’s-all-about-me social philosophy continues to erode traditional national beliefs away. Dreher says that doesn’t have to be so:
Today, the greatest threats to conservative interests come not from the Soviet Union or high taxes, but from too much individual freedom. Look around you: Americans have been poor stewards of our economic liberty, owing to cultural values that celebrate unfettered materialism. Our families and communities have fragmented, in part because we have embraced an ethic of extreme individualism. Climate change and a peak in oil production threaten our future because we have been irresponsible caretakers of the natural world and its resources. At best, the religious right stood ineffectively against these trends. At worst, we preached them, mistaking consumerism for conservatism.
All political problems, traditional conservatism teaches, are ultimately religious problems because they result from disordered souls. In the era now dawning, Americans will learn again to live within limits — and together. Religious conservatives are philosophically positioned to lead the way, but we can’t do it by pouring new wine into old skins.
It’s worth noting that the extreme individualism that Dreher decries is the problem not because of the fact of individual freedom itself but rather because of the choices that individuals make with that freedom. This contrary to the view of many religious fundamentalists of the Islamic and Christian faiths.
We have the God-given right to make our own decisions, in life and in the voting booth. On this point, Dreher notes a truth that many conservative candidates don’t always consider when banking on Christians’ votes:
…we mustn’t err as our elders did, assuming that the culture will improve if we elect more Republicans.
Americans of all political and religious backgrounds have been ill-served by the current batch of Republicans, something social conservatives should bear in mind when choosing the next Republican party lineup.
Like it or not, Christian voters will have a loud voice in the Republican coalition for years to come and deservedly so. Both the origins of the United States and current demographics indicate that their views deserve to be be heavily represented in our republican government.