Who killed the Religious Right?



18th-century tombstone, Hingham, Mass.

18th-century tombstone, Hingham, Mass.

18th-century tombstone, Hingham, Mass.

No one. It died of natural causes.

OK, maybe Super Tuesday put it out of its misery. But the thing was moribund, an invalid for a decade. What happened yesterday was a mercy killing, or better, candidate-assisted suicide. Here’s the pathologist’s report.

  1. It lost its leaders. Jerry Falwell is dead, and Pat Robertson and James Dobson are in retirement. Ralph Reed has lost his way. Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorsed Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee has all but done the same. Enough said.
  2. It lost its organizational oomph. Once upon a time, the Christian Coalition littered evangelical churches with voter guides and had state affiliates that worked hard to to turn out voters. Only in Iowa is this kind of thing still happening.
  3. It lost its troops. Thirty-five years ago, white evangelicals were on the rise in American society. Now they’re a shrinking slice of the demographic pie.
  4. It lost its president. George W. Bush became “Our Christian President.” His failure was a serious disillusionment.
  5. It lost its raison d’êtreThe Religious Right was all about mobilizing white evangelicals to vote their values — most importantly on gay rights and abortion. When’s the last time you heard a Republican presidential candidate talk about ending same-sex marriage or abortion?

On Super Tuesday, white evangelicals were all over the map. In Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia, they voted strongly for Trump. In Oklahoma and Texas, they went for Ted Cruz by double digits. They split between Trump and Cruz in Arkansas, between Trump and Rubio in Vermont.

“Don’t call me an evangelical,” cried Russell Moore, chief lobbyist for the Southern Baptist Convention. Put that on the tombstone. Religious Right, R.I.P.