It was amusing when someone noted Romeny’s Mormonism and Obama’s blackness as being, in the mind of the average American, comparable to Alien vs Predator. A good point was being made with that humorous framing. Times they are a’changin.
A Mormon as president is in some ways a more shocking possibility than a black man. Christians, especially conservative Christians, haven’t had a positive opinion of Mormons, considering them not Christian or else a cult. The religious right isn’t known for being open-minded and inclusive toward groups seen as foreign or strange.
What emphasizes this sense of shifting alliances is that Ryan the Catholic was chosen as the running mate to Romney the Mormon. This is truly fascinating. For a long time, it was Evangelicals who were the base of the Republican Party. Catholics and Mormons are very different animals for they both come out of strongly hierarchical traditions, the opposite of the more populist tendencies of Evangelicals.
I was thinking about what this might mean. Does this represent a demographic shift in the GOP base? Or does it just represent a demographic shift in the GOP leadership? Who is the new religious right?
As if to answer my question, I came across a telling piece of info in a book review of The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism by David R. Swartz (“Pro-Life, Pro-Left” by Molly Worthen):
“70 percent of evangelicals now tell pollsters they don’t identify with the religious right, and younger evangelicals often have more enthusiasm for social justice than for the culture wars”
That is mind-blowing. Evangelicals have been the force behind the religious right for decades. They helped takeover the conservative movement and the Republican Party. They elected George W. Bush, a fellow Evangelical. But now the religious right has lost the Evangelicals and their loyalty is up for grabs.
Partly, this is just a demographic shift among Evangelicals themselves. Evangelicals have been known to make such shifts. Before the Culture Wars, the Evangelicals had been the force behind many other movements such as the Populists who paved the way for the Progressives… and, of course, evangelicals were major players in the Civil Rights movement.
Conservatives have taken Evangelicals for granted. That is a mistake that might be costly, but it is unclear who might benefit. There are a whole lot of other shifts going on right now. It is hard to see where it is all heading.