The media has turned its attention so quickly to the Fiscal Cliff — and now the Petreaus affair — that we haven’t seen nearly as much gloating… er, analysis… about the election as it deserves.
Among the election’s losers, Karl Rove grabbed an outsized share of attention because of his $300 million in unsuccessful campaign spending and because went through his denial phase on live TV, protesting the Fox News decision to award Ohio to Obama. Others who bet their money, their reputations and more — to name three: Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu — ought not escape ridicule.
But something happened Tuesday to a pillar of the conservative narrative that is more profound and has yet to take its place in the public narrative. The religious right lost, big time. They lost not because they backed the wrong candidates, or because they waged lousy campaigns, or because they didn’t “get their message out.” They lost because 21st century America just doesn’t agree with them on things.
They lost not just the White House and not just the Congressional races. They lost on gay marriage in three states. They lost the public debate over personhood, abortion and access to contraception. And they know it — though it came as quite a schock.
“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the New York Times. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.
“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”
It’s another part of the Republicans’ demographic nightmare. For the first time, more than 20 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation, a percentage that is much higher among younger voters.
For 30 years, the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed and Mike Huckabee have been have been blurring the distinction between religion and politics. The Saturday before the election, Pat Boone robo-called me on behalf of Scott Brown, attaching a religious tone to secular Brown campaign talking points. He lost too.
“We’re outnumbered!” Rush Limbaugh lamented the day after the election, but it’s worse than that. American voters are tired of their sanctimony. They have heard the religious right’s arguments and decided they disagree. It’s time they took their religion back to church and stopped trying to dictate government policies.