Frank Rich sees symbolism in the death of Jerry Falwell, agent for hatred attributed to Christ, and the rise of Rudy Giuliani, who seems to have won the Republican presidential candidates’ debate in spite of his social liberalism.
What a difference a midterm election has made. The Karl Rove theory that Republicans cannot survive without pandering to religious-right pooh-bahs is yet another piece of Bush dogma lying in ruins, done in by two synergistic forces. The first is the raw political math. Polls consistently show that most Americans don’t want abortion outlawed, do want legal recognition for gay couples, do want stem-cell research and never want to see government intrude on a Terri Schiavo again. On Election Day 2006, voters in red states defeated both an abortion ban (South Dakota) and, for the first time, a same-sex marriage ban (Arizona).
But equally crucial is how much the “family values” establishment has tarnished itself in the Bush era. Some of that self-destruction followed the time-honored Jimmy Swaggart-Jim Bakker paradigm of hypocrisy: the revelations that Ted Haggard, the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, was finding God in the arms of a male prostitute, and that the vice president’s daughter and her partner were violating stated Bush White House doctrine by raising a child with two mommies. But a greater factor in the decline and sullying of the Falwell-flavored religious right is its collusion in the worldly corruption ushered in by this particular presidency and Mr. Rove’s now defunct Republican majority.
The Republican Party has indeed dug itself a deep hole, by relying on that most ignorant and cultist part of America for its votes. But the financial muscle, the media control, control of the Frederal bureaucracy, and the Supreme Court that stole at least one presidential election are still in place. Rich’s laundry list of GOP liabilities and internal contradictions notwithstanding, we are not done with the bigotry and corruption from the far right; not even close. If Bush should get another chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice, this country will be in big trouble for a very long time.