The acknowledgement of the religious right by the Reagan presidential campaign was an important milestone for Pat Robertson and other evangelical leaders seeking to co-opt political actors to forward their social agenda. The marriage of the Republican party and religious conservatives has proven to be a fruitful one with the rise of Republicans to dominate all branches of government and the ascendance of â€œChristian valuesâ€ as a pervasive rhetorical tool in support of discriminatory policies.
Ralph Reed, one of the most recognizable children of this union, may be exposing (yet again) the hypocrisy of this conservative alliance with his candidacy for Georgiaâ€™s Lt. Governor and the scrutiny that any campaign invites from its opponents.
Unlike most conservative Christian leaders, Mr. Reed was drawn to Republican politics first and evangelical faith later. He arrived in Washington as a 19-year-old Senate intern in 1981 and became executive director of the College Republican National Committee two years later, under Mr. Abramoff as chairman. From the New York Times
The connection to Abramoff is the crux of the issue here. It seems that Mr. Reedâ€™s political consulting company received over $4 million through Abramoff to help close down Indian casinos in Texas and Louisiana. He, of course, denies knowledge that the money originally came from the Coushatta tribe trying to eliminate competition from neighboring tribes.
The web of connections throughout the Republican Party is pretty extensive and due, in no small part, to the active lobbying by Mr. Reed on behalf of his client, Mr. Abramoff. Conservative stalwarts like Senator Cornyn, then the Texas Attorney General, are directly linked to this scandal.
On his own, Mr. Reed has not shown very good judgment either. During the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign Reed was a consultant to the campaign while working on behalf of Microsoft to influence presidential candidates with regard to the software companyâ€™s antitrust problems.
The point that I am driving to here is this: religious conservatives should take a very hard look at their relationship with the Republican Party and consider getting an annulment.
Between the current ethics scandals of Tom DeLay and the blatant abuse of religious causes to forward a political agenda, I think religious conservatives are getting a raw deal. This Republican administration has not followed through on a number of the promises that they made. Sure, they flog gays and women who want reproductive choice when it is most necessary, during a campaign, but party leadership knows that they will never be able to win a constitutional battle on these fronts. The faith-based charity initiative was never funded to the levels it required to be effective, let alone successful. The bankruptcy bill and Social Security reform proposals will hurt more people in the Bible belt than anywhere else in this country. The Republicans are like an abusive, alcoholic husband â€“ full of promises to make things better but locking the wife and kiddies in the basement at the first sign that things arenâ€™t going his way.
Itâ€™s time for the religious conservatives to step out and form their own party. They could call themselves the Christian Liberation Party. Their platform would reflect all of their core beliefs and they could probably mount a credible effort to reliably elect third-party candidates across local and state offices in the Midwest and South. Over time they would penetrate the ranks of Congress and eventually they would elect a President. It will take time and money, but they have plenty of the latter and everyone has time. So, I say to religious conservatives across the country, â€œLeave that abusive and unappreciative political mate, drunk with their own power and spiritually bankrupt. Take your cause to your own people and start your own party. To thine own self be true.â€