History teaches that the Christian Right has played an important role in politics. The coalition of various family and faith related organizations has been able to raise money, communicate with its members and deliver votes on election day. But what about today's TEA party vs. Establishment culture within the GOP?
No doubt many of those who identify themselves as members of the TEA party share the sentiment expressed by Ronald Reagan that "Once we forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under." But also beating within the hearts of many TEA party members is a desire to return to the conservative philosophy of Barry Goldwater, who once said "I don't have any respect for the Religious Right." and "Every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass."
Texas Governor Rick Perry has caught the attention of a number of folks lately and as time goes by he may be pressed into service as a candidate for the presidency. According to this report, he is the favorite of the Religious Right:
In early June, TIME has learned, a group of prominent figures on the Christian Right held a conference call to discuss their dissatisfaction with the current GOP presidential field, and agreed that Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the race. Among those on the call were Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; David Barton, the Texas activist and go-to historian for the Christian Right; and John Hagee, the controversial San Antonio pastor whose endorsement John McCain rejected in 2008. [Swampland]
Perry might do well to curry favor with these groups in so far as votes are concerned, but holding one's self out as a representative of the "Religious Right" doesn't come without risks.
There are still a large number of people in this country who think Bill Clinton's escapades with Monica Lewinsky were purely a private matter. Gay marriage, philandering, pornography, smoking pot, drinking alcohol, cursing, gambling and pre-marital sex are behavior's which send the hard core Religious Right into conniption fits. But those are life choices which many of the more libertarian members of the TEA party think ought to be beyond government control.
Running for the republican nomination is a perilous game these days. And it is made more perilous if one pretends to be something he or she is not. If Perry is a born again Christian with deeply held religious beliefs regarding social behavior and for that reason he appeals to the Religious Right, then so be it. If he is truly more libertarian and might thereby appeal to that segment of the TEA party movement, so be it.
But, if the GOP begins to choose its candidates by the litmus tests imposed by the Religious Right, Katie bar the door.
Not only will the libertarians go ape schtick, but the liberals will peer between every set of curtains and into every cracked closet door they can find, not only to take down the social conservative, but to further advance the notion that Christians are nothing more than a bunch of do-gooder hypocrites.
There are rewards to be delivered by the Religious Right, but there are significant risks that go along with them as well.
Perry would do better to remember the words of the man who won the Presidency 20 years ago and stay on this one message: "It's the economy, stupid." On that one we all agree.
Cross Posted from BluegrassBulletin.com