Faced with the threat that a slowly improving economy may buoy the President’s reelection chances, Republican campaign strategy is tilting toward the Religious Right.
After winning a tiny sliver of voters in three states, Rick Santorum is in Texas talking to pastors: “There's not a management problem in Washington, all right. There's a more foundational problem there that goes to the basic concepts of who we are as a people. And those are deeply moral questions...
"I have seen the interaction with faith and public life and to me...there are not boundaries at all. I can't and I won't check my faith at the door because it motivates me to do things that I believe are best for our country.”
In 1960, a candidate named John Fitzgerald Kennedy told an assembly of ministers in Texas: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him...
"I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office."
The GOP is moving toward demonizing Barack Obama, not only as the advance agent of European socialism but a devil’s disciple of the “secular left.”
Back in Washington, a Congress with 10 percent approval is hammering the President on a White House decision that health plans of faith-based organizations must cover contraception if they serve people of multiple religious backgrounds.
But the attacks may have dubious traction, as the Washington Post reports that “while Catholic leadership has blasted the new regulation, polls show that a majority of Catholics are actually more supportive of the provision than the rest of the country.
“A poll out Tuesday from the Public Religion Research Institute finds 52 percent of Catholic voters agreed with the statement, ‘employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.’ That’s pretty much in line with overall support for the provision, which hovers at 55 percent--likely because Catholics use contraceptives at rates similar to the rest of Americans.”
All this GOP movement backward will remind older Americans that it was less than two years ago that New York State, finally loosening the grip of the Catholic Church, became the last in the Union to allow no-fault divorce. Until then, couples had to commit perjury to get an “annulment” on the grounds that the husband refused to have children or some such other lie.
Now, Mitt Romney will have to fight off Santorum in the Republican drift back to theocracy and whoever wins, in the general election, the President will have to test how firmly most Americans still believe in the separation of church and state.
Update: Parodying himself, Santorum is now warning that Obama is becoming Madame Defarge: "They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is the government that gives you right, what’s left are no unalienable rights, what’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine."
Roll out the tumbrels.