Sarah Posner, author of the indispensible weekly American Prospect feature “The FundamentaList,” spendt a day hanging out in the hallways outside a meeting of the Council for National Policy, the shadowy umbrella group where Religious Right leaders often coordinate efforts with other elements of the conservative movement. She came back with all sorts of interesting experiences:
While the CNP was trying to look to the future last week, it seemed hopelessly enamored of its aging leaders. When I arrived to meet Warren Smith, the conservative evangelical activist and journalist who had invited me to chat, we ambled past anti-evolutionist Ken Ham, who was holding court to a small but rapt audience in the hallway; eyed Left Behind author and CNP co-founder Tim LaHaye, who was shuffling in and out of the “CNP Networking Room;” caught a glimpse of Rick Santorum, who since being booted out of his Senate seat has led the charge against “radical Islam” from his perch at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center; and spotted the religious right’s anti-feminism doyenne Phyllis Schlafly, 84, who had earlier that day delivered a speech to the CNP Youth Council on how to “find your place in the conservative movement.”
Posner talked Smith into giving her a sense of what was being said in CNP’s closed-door sessions:
“What I’m hearing is that there is no loyalty to the Republican Party,” said Smith, meaning no loyalty to the party as constituted but loyalty to one purged of insufficiently conservative members. “What Richard Viguerie talks about is not a third party but a third wave. Basically there needs to be a flowering of grass-roots conservative activism and local groups, local PACs. He’s basically saying you’ve got a Republican county commissioner in Buzzard’s Breath, Texas, and he’s not a conservative? Run a conservative against him.”
Well, that’s a new and refreshing conservative strategy, eh? But it’s certainly in accord with what’s being said and heard across much of the conservative movement: there’s nothing wrong with the GOP that a more consistently conservative message can’t fix.
What’s missing from the usual conservative talk, however, is the upbeat, we’re-the-wave-of-the-future sentiment so common prior to 2006. They know that they and the GOP are in serious trouble now, and there’s not much time for laughter.
The best bon mot in Posner’s column was this:
I wanted to ask [Tim] LaHaye if he thought the end-times would happen during Obama’s presidency, but when I circled back to where I had seen him, he was gone. Rapture, anyone?
No, I don’t think there’s a lot of rapture in Religious Right politics these days.