Losing Their Religion

As believers in faith and ritual over science, perhaps it's not
surprising that they failed to heed the basic laws of physics.

Most people understand that when a pendulum is pushed too far in one
direction, it will eventually, inexorably swing back just as far to
the opposite side. This is the natural order of things, and it tends
to apply across the board -- even to that bulwark of chaos theory,
politics.

Is it any surprise then that America's Evangelical Christians, who for
the past eight years have been allowed an astonishing level of
ascendency within the corridors of power and in the determination of
policy, now find themselves all but sidelined in the 2008 presidential
race -- literally, a voting bloc without a candidate? Although nothing
is -- if you'll pardon the pun -- carved in stone, it would seem that
yesterday's John McCain victory in Florida has made his fast-track to
the Republican nomination all but inevitable, and that effectively
leaves the Jesus-Said-It-That-Settles-It crowd without a seat at the
executive table.

I wish I could say I was sorry to see them go, but the truth is I can
hardly mask my delight -- and that's what's unfortunate.

I have no doubt that the far-right religious elements won't abandon
politics altogether; the most cynical -- or devout, depending on the
side of the aisle we're talking about -- would claim that God still
has promises to keep, and as such needs his mortal attendants to
continue fighting tooth-and-nail to bring his Earthly kingdom to
fruition via White House provision. But from here on out, even the
naive among the faithful are likely to understand that any lip-service
paid to Evangelicals will be just that -- lip-service. There are no
True Believers left in the race, only boilerplate politicians pimping
themselves for the almighty vote. What's worse, neither McCain nor
Obama or Clinton -- whichever Democrat claims the nomination -- has to
worry about his or her rival laying absolute claim to the powerful
fundamentalist voting bloc, which means that even the tokenism won't
be ladled on as thickly.

The lamentable truth in all of this is that the needs of Evangelical
Christians don't deserve to be disregarded or downplayed, nor did they
ever. Like any segment of the American population -- anyone willing to
take part in our supposed democracy -- they deserve equal
consideration. The problem, of course, is that for the past eight
years they've had those who disagree with their agenda at a monumental
disadvantage; the deference they've been shown by the Bush
administration, to say nothing of the iniquitous sycophants of the
mercifully defunct 109th Congress, has at times seemed destined to
turn America into an authoritarian theocracy.

And it's led to a backlash, naturally.

Although the Evangelicals themselves, as well as the far-right
contingent in general, may be inclined to hang their heads for now and
bide their time -- believing that they don't have a dog in this fight
-- that would accomplish nothing. For nearly a decade this country has
been held hostage by all-or-nothing, unilateral politics, the
prevailing modus operandi of which was to crush the dissenting
opinion. It's all but laid waste to the American system of government,
causing some to wonder if Jeffersonian Democracy is an experiment
that's failed outright.

It hasn't -- not yet anyway.

Thankfully, the Evangelical political juggernaut has been beaten back
for the moment. But it will cast a long shadow in its absence and
return to fiercely dominate the debate, unless we not only abandon the
politics of division and exclusion but go so far as to impress upon
the fringes the need for them to meet us in the middle.

If we don't, the pendulum will only swing back, leaving another group
of Americans without a voice.