Plus a Lesson for Liberalism

08.09.12

The "War on Religion": Still Placating the Base

Is anyone who doesn't already hate Obama for the usual right-wing reasons really going to believe the new Romney ad, that Obama's health-care law wages a "war on religion"? I doubt many people will. It's just right-wing fever-swamp rhetoric that I think your average person will, in his or her bones, recognize as such, because we've now reached the point in history where we've heard a lot of this, and it no longer shocks or traduces the way it once did.

Romney is still placating the hard-core GOP base. It's getting a little late for that, isn't? August isn't really the time to be trying to nail down the scary-lazy-black-people and the Democrats-hate-God voting blocs. August is when you start making your pitch to swing voters.

This is starting, just starting, to remind me of the Rick Lazio 2000 Senate campaign against Hillary, when he, under the brilliant hand of Mike Murphy, made a crucial mistake conservatives are naturally prone to make. He confused "regular New Yorkers" with "right-wing Hillary haters" and thought they were functionally the same thing. Thus he couldn't for the life of him understand why middle-of-the-road New Yorkers weren't impressed and persuaded when he and the state GOP accused the First Lady of the United States of sympathizing with the terrorists who blew up the USS Cole. The Romney camp is edging into the same territory.

If Romney wants to talk about wars on religion, I really hope he names Paul Ryan as his veep. The Catholic Bishops called the Ryan budget "immoral." Unfortunately, the Democrats probably wouldn't even point this out, wouldn't want to lean on the bishops. And this raises a problem with today's Democratic Party.

I'd love to see the party become less skittish about using religion to defend and support its policies. Many elected Democrats, indeed most, are religious people. Obviously, their religious beliefs inform their political views, and vice versa. They ought to be more comfortable talking about it.

Why should Republicans be the only ones to invoke Jesus, and only for conservative reasons and ends? I think it would be delicious if Democrats started quoting more Scripture in behalf of liberalism. After all, a lot of Scripture is liberalism. I'm not religious myself, but I think it's a shame that liberalism is so guardedly secular.