Christian Right

Why America Never Had Universal Child Care

In 1971, a national day-care bill almost became law. Therein lies a story.

Following The New Republic's recent blockbuster day-care story, a historian describes a 1971 effort to create a national child-care program–and the backlash that ensued. 

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Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential race earlier this week marked the end of a long, strange trip for the former Pennsylvania senator, who made himself the political vehicle for Christian Right resistance to Mitt Romney. But the lesson of Santorum’s inevitable defeat isn’t that he was too socially extreme. Ironically, it was his record of loyal support for the compassionate conservative agenda of George W. Bush that did Santorum in, not his 1950s-era values.

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My old student, that is, my former student from four-plus decades ago, Michael Kazin, has written that the long life of the Christian Right has come to an end. It certainly has lost its old “failsafe” battles. I have no nostalgia at all for the hardened hearts and mellifluous voices which judged intricate human dilemmas through dogma, through harsh dogma, at that. It’s odd, though—isn’t it?—that black churches, rarely labeled as “right anything,” are among the places where same-sex marriage, even the idea of same-sex sex, runs into trouble, big trouble.

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The political fumbling by Christian conservatives has been even worse this presidential cycle than it was in 2008, when their blood-enemy, John McCain, won the top spot on the Republican ticket. The Christian Right’s fatal failure this time was its inability to form a consensus behind a single candidate. Last weekend’s Texas conclave of religious conservatives, engineered by Family Research Center president and Christian Right warhorse Tony Perkins, initially appeared to have generated a united front behind Rick Santorum.

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Having spent much of 2011 writing incessantly about the Republican presidential nominating contest, I’m simultaneously relieved and saddened by the impending end of the “invisible primary” and the beginning, with next Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, of the actual voting.

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In the lead up to voting in the presidential nominating contest, the only thing that reliably rivals the scrutiny received by Iowa is the disparagement expressed against the tyranny of the Great Corn Idol. With its unrepresentative electorate, its peculiar demands on candidates, and its odd procedures for making its preferences manifest, the Iowa caucuses have been singled out by many as an ill-conceived ritual whose time is long past.

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This weekend’s “Thanksgiving Family Forum” at a Des Moines megachurch probably seemed like a great idea to Iowa social conservatives when it was first developed. You’d have the presidential candidates arrayed around a “Thanksgiving table,” obediently waiting for a symbolic serving of activist support. In the pews would be thousands of stolid Iowans of the sort most likely to show up at the January 3 caucuses. Wielding the microphone would be focus-group king Frank Luntz, probing the worldviews of the candidates to determine their fidelity to a teavangelical, big-God, small-government creed.

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The Persecution Card

 [Guest post by Ed Kilgore] Alec made note of Anita Thigpen Perry’s tearful and defiant speech yesterday at North Greenville University suggesting that her husband was being “brutalized” by the media and his presidential rivals because of his faith.  But there’s another notable aspect of these remarks beyond Ms. Perry’s display of fierce spousal loyalty, or even her conviction that God has cast an early ballot for her husband: the debasement of the idea of “persecution,” one of the most unattractive habits of the contemporary Christian Right. Ms.

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While few in either the mainstream media or the conservative commentariat have been so bold as to deny that the Republican Party is a lot more ideologically rigid than it was four or twelve or thirty years ago, there has been some regular pushback against attaching such terms as “radical” and “extremist” to the party’s views. Some conservatives like to claim that they just look extreme when compared to a Democratic Party dominated by a radical socialist president.

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In many respects, the “invisible primary” that precedes the formal delegate-selection phase of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination process has gone very well for Mitt Romney. Despite his status as the Establishment candidate, he has not become an unacceptable pariah to the ascendant Tea Party-Christian Right factions in the party and he has cruised through two televised debates without anyone laying a glove on him.

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