As of last week, we all know that Christine O’Donnell doesn’t much care for separation of church and state. As far as surprising campaign knows goes, that’s near the very bottom of the list, somewhere next to “Democrats expected to lose House seats.” Nor should we be particularly surprised that Ken Buck feels the same way. Or that O’Donnell thinks that God is her personal sponsor in Delaware Senate race, and that praying makes her poll numbers go up.
This is all more or less par for the course among conservative Republicans, though it does, once again, give lie to the notion that the Tea Party is a fundamentally libertarian movement, solely interested in economic issues. We didn’t exactly need more evidence to the contrary, but by god, we got it.
If anything, this stuff is only really news to the extent that it’s emblematic of the Republican base’s backslide from New Coke to classic flavor. They’re abandoning the pretense that the Tea Party platform is anything more than a slightly more extreme of the Republican base’s old platform in a tricorner hat. Just in time to strengthen their foothold in Congress.
Still, even incremental change is worth getting worried about. The problem here isn’t that O’Donnell, Buck, et al. are vocal about their faith; it’s their conviction that American is and must be a Christian nation. Sharron Angle — someone else who thinks she’s taking marching orders from God — is likely going to enter the Senate, and when she does, she will help open up a new front in the Culture Wars’ legislative theater. The vast majority of the Republican Party will be right alongside her, as will the Tea Party’s formidable communications department. The Tea Party Nation has already decided to target Rep. Keith Ellison specifically for being Muslim, and I promise you that there’s more of that sort of thing to follow. Not just Islamophobia — we’ve already had plenty of that, mostly framed more in terms of national security and sensitivity to the legacy of 9/11, as opposed to religiously bigotry — but a concerted pushback against the gains of LGBT people, non-Christians, and even Christians who aren’t sufficiently socially conservative.*
It’s going to get ugly. I suspect that Glenn Beck is somewhat ahead of the curve here, insofar as he’s already working on resurrecting the right-wing evangelical’s gone-but-not-forgotten persecution complex. Remember, in Becktopia, it’s not the religious right that’s trying to implement a radical political agenda, but everyone else. Any attempt to resist the religious right’s agenda is a direct attack on Christ Himself, let alone Christianity.
Again, none of this is new. But it’s been lying dormant since the middle Bush years, appearing as ugly subtext at most. On November 3rd — day one of our long national hangover — I predict it will jump back onto the main stage.
*Right-wing Judaism gets sort of a pass here, since a unified Israel is a precondition for the Rapture. Besides, you can always rely on folks like Rabbi Yehuda Levin and Rabbi Daniel Lapin to endorse Republican homophobia or call atheists “parasites.”