You remember the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical assault on our 1980s political system? For those of us who were alive during those times, it became abundantly clear that if you were a Christian, you were a Republican. If you were a godless heathen, the Democratic was your party.
The Moral Majority went belly up in the late 80s, leaving its followers to be scooped up by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of America. Robertson then passed the evangelical torch to President George W. Bush.
We all saw how well that went.
And now, those people who want to use Christians to political ends may be out of luck.
From Christianity Today:
A new CNN-Opinion Research poll finds that a majority of Americans think government should not promote "traditional values," the first time in the past two decades that support for promotion of traditional values has been below 50 percent. The June poll finds that more Americans now believe that the government should stay out of the values business.
Since 1992, CNN's pollsters have found that the majority of people feel that the government is "doing too much." The only exception to that was in the days after September 11, 2001, but other than that anomaly, Americans have polled consistently that they want government to stay out of their business.
And now, this year, they also are polling that they want government to stay out of their morality. But why? Did Americans suddenly become a bunch of drunken baby-killers? No, as Christianity Today goes on to point out, a recent Gallup poll showed that, overwhelmingly, Americans are not happy with the state of our country's moral character.
The shift in opinion does not mean that Americans like the current values in society. A January Gallup poll found that seven in ten Americans were dissatisfied with "the moral and ethical climate" in America. This was up from 62 percent a decade ago.
So what's going on?
The theory that is floated by CT, which is a good one, goes something like this: Conservative Americans, the kinds of people who would have been ripe pickings for the moralizing crowd, have become so completely fed up with government, so completely convinced that anything government touches turns into a bureaucratic soul-crushing nightmare, that they now want said government to stay out of everything. Period. End of story. Go crawl into that bathtub and die.
That's one theory. Another, of course, is that the Right is starting to see that legislating morality is a non-starter. With New York just legalizing gay marriage and the lifting of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the hardcore religious right certainly can't feel like they are gaining ground. Perhaps they are just changing tactics?
Personally, I like the former theory more, mostly because it gels with what I have been witnessing, from the local Liberty movement, and its poster girl, Sarah Anderson, to the conversation I had about NYS's gay marriage bill with a Republican organizer that went something like this:
Me: You don't support gay marriage? But you are all about personal liberties, government non-intrusion into private matters, blah blah blah. What gives?
Him: I don't care if gay people get married, but I don't want government making that decision. In fact, I don't want government in charge of licensing marriages at all. Get rid of all government-sponsored marriage licenses and leave it to the churches and the lawyers.
Has the fear of big government overtaken the fear of our immoral neighbors?
CT does a good job laying out the argument:
The turn away from values-promotion may be part of a more general movement favoring less government. The poll found that for the past two years the public increasingly think "the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses"; a shrinking number think "government should do more to solve our country's problems." Sixty three percent said government was doing too much, up from 52 percent when Obama was elected President. The current support for less government is the highest in the past two decades.