The death of the Religious Right has been proclaimed countless times in the last twenty-odd years by countless commentators. Each time, the Religious Right has proved profoundly resilient. The movement adapted, retooled, and re-engaged.
Laurie Goodman's welcome article in The New York Times nonetheless seems uninformed by this point; however, the article's main point, that the Religious Right failed to sway voters in 2012, while arguably overstated, brings into focus that nearly all the preliminary analysis of the election strongly points to a greater turnout among voters who, at least for now, hold a more secular view of good governance and who in absolute numbers and as a percentage of eligible American voters are growing.
“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.
“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”
Conservative Christian leaders said that they would intensify their efforts to make their case, but were just beginning to discuss how to proceed. “We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, an evangelical organization in Iowa.
In mutual funds as in politics (as in life), past performance does not guarantee future results. The Latino-black-under 30 coalition that helped then-Senator Obama win in 2008 failed in 2010 to turnout impressively, thereby allowing Religious Right candidates to enter Congress and state legislatures in large numbers.
In Iowa, for example, the state's House of Representative switched from bearly blue to overwhelmingly red. In the same election, Iowa voters were successfully convinced by the Religious Right to dismiss more than 100 years of precedent and use judicial retention by popular vote (judges are initially appointed in Iowa, then retained by popular vote) to eject judges from the state's supreme court bench not for the primary reasons borne in mind by the originators of retention laws--judge's corruption or the inability to perform duties--but for the reason of simply disagreeing with a particular ruling; yes, only one ruling, and an unanimous one at that, but a ruling that the state cannot prohibit same-sex couples from being married.
In 2010, the Religious Right and Tea Party movements, which hugely overlap, used their ascendant power to curtail women's health options and resources, introduce measures to make voting more complicated--like new ID impediments and reductions in early voting opportunities--and gerrymandered districts to an extent that will in many states benefit Republican candidates almost exclusively and for years to come.
Corporatist and billionaire big bucks also did and can continue to further the Religious Right. Even considering that 2012's tsunami of corporate and billionaire post-Citizens United money did not as decisively affect the presidential race as much as progressives feared, money from those sources given to down-ballot races was much more successful, and the more down-ballot the Republican candidate, the more likely he or she is to represent not only Tea Party economic views but Religious Right views. For one example, see Matthew Fleischer's article, "Proposition 32's Anti-Gay Warriors" on billionaire and corporatist money merging with Religious Right views relative to a statewide ballot measure.
Has the electorate really changed so much in just two years that the Religious Right can be suddenly deemed profoundly or irrepairably weakened? This website thinks that's unlikely. Will the electorate have changed so much in four years that the Religious Right cannot be similarly successful in 2014 compared to its 2010 rampage? Time will tell.