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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Evangelical Identity Politics

One theory of the intra-conservative split over the Harriet Miers nomination is that she’s being sold to conservative evangelical Christians as “one of their own,” with all the carping from elite opinion-leaders on the Right representing a continuation of the much-alleged discrimination against evangelicals, from a different direction.Indeed, there’s been talk, undoubtedly abetted by the White House, that Miers’ appointment represents the establishment of an “evangelical seat” on the Supreme Court, similar to the “Jewish seat” that supposedly existed for much of the twentieth century.Amy Sullivan punctures the idea that Miers is the first evangelical to get nominated to the Court, citing the (then-) evangelical Episcopalian Clarence Thomas, but go back a bit further and you find Southern Baptist Hugo Black, and a significant number of southern Methodists.But in any event, this effort to attach conservative evangelicals to the Miers nomination as a matter of group identity is obviously ironic given the supposed hostility of conservatives to group entitlements. And it’s also casts some new light on the peculiar but characteristic Christian Right conviction that anyone who loves Jesus and reads the Bible will reach the same conclusions about issues like abortion and homosexuality.Lord knows I’ve spilled a lot of ink exploring and criticizing that assumption, and in casting doubt on its accuracy with respect to Miers herself. But it has certainly become a central feature of the Christian Right’s own self-justification for its decisive and spiritually hazardous commitment to partisan politics, and perhaps the White House figured that out in making its own politically hazardous commitment to this nomination.

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