Monday, 26 February 2007

Briefly: the US's religious right

Whatever political affiliation — if any — one holds, it is interesting to see how the group that has played such a key role in American politics, and elections especially, operates. As I talked about in this post, elite within the religious right in the United States are mulling over who to through their weight behind for the 2008 presidential election.

Who will be the Christian conservatives' Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton?

For years the so-called religious right has gained steam into becoming a very influential group on the US political scene. Over the past decade or so their power has increased even more as the number of fundamentalist evangelical Christians seems to increase; i.e. the US is leaning more right, becoming more religious, or so it seems. It is important not to group all those religious conservatives into one massive stereotype, similar to the one people hold about New York, Hollywood, or the deep South (though all are true to an extent). However, for the sake of political simplicity we group people using words like center-left, conservative, and Democrat; one wonders from whose perspective those labels often come from. Not all evangelicals are conservative, not all conservatives are evangelicals. Nonetheless, people like James Dobson, a radical evangelical leader, are, in my view, harmful to America politics. They mix religious with politics, with disastrous effects for all of us. Why did the Republican Party choose to target these voters, this seemingly nutty (but not always so) demographic? Just for that: the votes.

There are tens and tens of millions of fundamentalist Christian conservatives, and if a religious leader tells many so devout to vote for a certain person, they'll vote. If a political group caters to their often immoderate policies, they'll support that group. They are much more involved than the many moderate political apathetics in the United States. Until they decide to vote in greater numbers (hopefully for the right person), the GOP will wreap in the benefits of a more radical group. This is not to say Republican policies are always marketed towards the religious right. There's always some political trickery, or so it seems.

Even in a White House run by an evangelical president there has been ample evidence the GOP is just playing the religious right, tricking them into voting then giving only superficial results in return. That's why we saw the crazy attempts to outlaw flag-burning and gay marriage before the election. It is those seemingly politically mundane issues — well, not gay marriage, but still — that fires up many Christian conservatives. Another view is the Republicans and conservatives in Congress were trying to side step more gray-area issues like immigration and focus on topics people would have strong views on, especially conservative views from the religious right when those views seem to dominate policy on topics like homosexual marriage. That is, it is easier to find someone who would speak against gay marriage and elect you because of your anti-gay stance than someone who is pro-gay marriage and would push their views. Either the GOP, the apathetic potential voters, or the religious right will have to change course to change the course of who controls the US political demographic, the prime voter targets.

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