Cotto: Time for the GOP to divorce the Christian Right (column)
January 3, 2016
It looks like Ted Cruz won't get a leg up on Donald Trump after all.
While a Quinnipiac University poll released shortly before Christmas placed Cruz just four points behind The Donald, Trump reclaimed solid ground heading into New Year's. Exactly how and why seems answered by the methodology through which Trump repelled credible contests from Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
Before either of these presented a serious challenge, one must remember how The Donald took Jeb Bush from top slot to also-ran. From my perspective, Bush remains a substantial opponent simply because of his burgeoning campaign chest and scores of wealthy backers willing to stick with him.
Of course, Jeb has spent north of $55 million thus far and finds himself less popular than when the cash began to flow. Still, money talks, and, even if apparently relegated to loser status, a fellow with it must not be discarded entirely.
The reason for Jeb's downfall is no secret. His support of increased immigration, amnesty for illegal aliens, expanded free trade policies and more foreign military entanglements sent all the wrong messages to GOP voters.
Cruz falling to Trump so quickly is another story.
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The firebrand U.S. Senator from Texas built his campaign around the Christian conservative movement. This worked the better half of two decades ago for another Texan, whose governance caused the rise of Barack Obama and then Trump, but falls flat today.
Not much to do with Cruz personally, but everything pertaining to the Christian conservative cause itself. America is in the midst of rapid secularization — especially among young adults, though the trend can be seen across the board. While the political infrastructure for Christian conservatism still exists, there are fewer people receptive to whatever it propagates.
Eventually, nary enough folks will be found to man the movement's machinery. While America is not there yet, this day is closer on the horizon than at any other point since the mid-1970s, when Christian conservatism became an organized political front.
Some, even if far from Christian conservative crusaders themselves, believe this to be a bad thing. I heartily, though respectfully, disagree. The Christian conservative movement hijacked Republican politicking from the mid-1980s until George W. Bush's second term drew to a close. During that time, economic and national security concerns increasingly took a backseat to squabbles over same-sex marriage and abortion.
The GOP won the presidency in 1988 despite this movement's presence, lost big during 1992, reclaimed Congress by — with few notable exceptions — muzzling it in '94, suffered tremendously throughout '96, took further losses during '98, only 'won' the Oval Office due to an ever-controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000, 'enjoyed' one of the narrowest presidential victories on record in '04 and was wiped out two years later.
In '08, Obama was elected, and already historic congressional losses were made worse.
During 2010, Republicans took Congress once more. By then, financial issues ruled the day; social policy took a backseat. Nonetheless, it roared back to life by '12, which contributed to Obama winning another four years. In '14, GOP candidates focused again on economic matters and reveled in success.
The trend is unmistakable.
Beyond the Christian conservative movement's sheer goofiness, if any party of the center-right is to prosper, it must be somewhat secular in character. This is because the overwhelming majority of modern-day Christian denominations — from the Roman Catholic Church to mainline Lutherans — are in favor of atrocities like unchecked immigration and welfare statism.
When one thinks about it, Christianity is an inherently left-wing religious system. This extends from Jesus Christ, the ultimate hippie of his day — if he did indeed exist — to Paul (nee Saul) who supposedly began evangelizing, so that all social and personal inequalities would be absolved through faith in Christ alone. Judaism, on the other hand, is far more adept to political conservatism, yet in America, at least, this is not reflected in voting trends.
Talk about irony.
Much more can be said about the leftist character of Christianity and how it plays out in the political realm. This is a long overdue conversation, and one which the GOP should have if it wants victory in modern America.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues.