Friday, October 20, 2006

How things change . . .

I wrote an earlier post about the damage done to the Republican party by the Mark Foley scandal (not just Foley's actions but the coverup). It's revealed to the evangelical "family values" swing voters that the upper echelons of the national party are filled with privately gay-positive or gay-accepting people who have been taking publically anti-gay positions and using scare tactics to get the evangelical/fundamentalist swing vote out to the polls. Even President Bush, who no one doubts is a genuinely "born again," Bible-believeing evangelical Christian, is said to be privately kind and respectul and supportive of the gay and lesbian people--including couples--he knows. And yet he's repeatedly called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, always at get-out-the-vote times.

As this Washington Times story points out, the evangelical community is realizing it's been had. While these crucial swing voters are not becoming liberal Democrats, their growing disenchantment with this hypocrisy on sexual issues, combined with a growing recognition that the Bush administration has bungled the Iraq situation so badly that nearly everyone who originally supported the war is horrified and sickened by the results, is creating a distaste for the Republican party and its incumbents. And so they aren't going to turn out and swing the vote as they used to.

The growing "green" movement in the evangelical community isn't helping either (I watched a fascinating Bill Moyers piece on PBS last week about the growing number of theologically conservative evangelical Christians who are deciding that global warming is a real phenomenon and that as stewards of the earth they need to take responsibility for the planet's health).

As best I can figure out, those who have cozied up to the evangelicals without genuinely sharing their values have done so in order to be able to put into place economic policies which are extraordinarily pro-business and pro-wealthy people. The "family values" agenda, which is so real to so many evangelicals, seems more and more clearly to have been a ploy by many Republican politicians.

Without the evangelical swing vote, a lot is up for grabs. Once rightfully disillusioned and disenchanted, those evangelical "values voters" aren't going to be coming out and swinging elections. And so their disproportinate political power is going to diminish and, in all liklihood, evaporate. Republicans may have to become more moderate, and fiscally responsible, to get elected and stay in office.

They may even find that they need the lesbian and gay vote. And Democrats will find it easier to take positions solidly in favor of equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

So it's going to be very interesting to see what happens in next month's mid-term election, and over the next two years as the 2008 presidential campaign gets going. I'm an independent, more interested in LGBT rights, human rights, and fiscal responisibility than who is in what party. The Democrats have a unique gift for blowing great opportunities. But if the evangelicals stay disenchanted with the Republican party, and stop being a swing vote, who knows what can happen in both parties?

Some very good things may be on the way for the environment, for the economy, for LGBT people, for human rights, and for the rebuilding of the United States's relationships with the rest of the world.

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