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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Selling Pottage

Maybe the death of William F. Buckley, Jr., has made me less appreciative of less compelling conservative writers. But for whatever reason, Mike Gerson’s Washington Post column today, on the alleged chafing of Christian conservatives against the yoke of the GOP, really rubbed me the wrong way.
Why? Well, on one level, Gerson is accurately giving voice to the restiveness of evangelical conservatives in a political coalition that has subjected God to Mammon pretty regularly–a restiveness expressed in actions ranging from interest in issues antithetical to the Wall Street/K Strreet wing of the conservative movement, to votes for Mike Huckabee. But on a deeper level, he’s reminding the flock that their only true home is in the party opposed to a Democratic Party that has “embraced abortion on demand, moral relativism, and intrusive, bureaucratic government.”
In other words, says Gerson, let’s hear it for the “essentially countercultural” position of evangelical conservatives that makes them “restless in any political coalition.” And let’s keep reminding Republicans that the Christian Right is honked off about the paltry return on investment they’ve received for their abundant support. But hey, in the end, even if they sport body piercings and wispy goatees, their restiveness will not and should not develop into an actual rebellion.
This annoys me for the simple reason that Gerson is describing and then trivializing a serious moral quandry for evangelical conservatives that he has personally done a lot to create. Many of them rightly fear that in hewing to the GOP, they have bought into a false prophetic stance: trading their Christian birthright for a mess of political pottage. During his long relationship with George W. Bush, Gerson was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for this marriage of convenience.
But now that it has predictably implicated them in a vast array of political sins that are hard to square with New Testament values–from corruption and celebration of privilege and spoilation of the Creation to unjust war and even torture–“restiveness” is not what I’d call a proportionate response. And unless and until Michael Gerson is willing to suggest that evangelical conservatives should seriously consider taking a walk from their sordid and spiritually dangerous relationship with the Republican Party and the latter-day conservative movement, then he’s just another pottage salesman trying to convice another generation of suckers to swallow their “restive” consciences and pull the lever for the GOP.

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