"You know, Republicans aren’t all religious fundamentalists from Alabama; some of us are just normal, working-class Catholics from Queens."And Democrats aren't all corrupt socialists from Chicago. (H/T: Clever S. Logan.)
-- Eric Ulrich, New York GOP
Ulrich touches a sore spot with me. This goes back to Ryan Sager and his 2006 book, Elephant in the Room, which went on and on about a putative GOP rift between evangelical Christians and libertarians. It's a theme that Democrats love, and so Sager got lots of media love, including appearances on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show and Glenn Beck's CNN show.
When you actually examined Sager's book, however, you discovered that his argument was like the Rio Grande, a mile wide and six inches deep. He tended to treat all pro-lifers and social conservatives as if they were evangelicals -- i.e., conservative Protestants.
In fact, Catholics have always been the backbone of the pro-life movement, as anyone familiar with the movement could tell you. And this was especially true with the Terry Schiavo case, which Sager (and many others) cited as evidence of the undue influence exercised by "the Religious Right" within the GOP. But it was Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life who led the Schiavo crusade. Terry Schiavo was Catholic, her family was Catholic, and end-of-life issues are part of an elaborately developed Catholic doctrine on the sanctity of human life.
As with the Schiavo case, as with opposition to abortion, so also with opposition to the gay-rights agenda -- the Catholic Church has been firmly on the conservative side, and yet Sager (again, like many others) continue to single out evangelicals when they want to slam "the Religious Right." Why?
It is an appeal to prejudice. It is very easy to win applause from the urban elite by evoking the stereotypical image of the white Southern evangelical -- the bigoted, backwoods Bible-thumping hillbilly holy-roller -- as symbolic of conservative Christianity.
That this stereotype is not even valid for Southern Baptists (whose pastors are trained in seminaries that teach Greek, Hebrew, ancient history and moral philosophy) is beside the point. Pandering to disdain for Southern "rednecks" is always a handy way to ingratiate yourself with the elite, and this is what Sager did with his book.
Ulrich panders to the same prejudice by contrasting himself to "fundamentalists from Alabama." Does he actually know any fundamentalists from Alabama? They're some of the finest people in the world. Beyond the fact that many of my friends and family are Alabama fundamentalists, I spoke to more than 5,000 Alabamians -- fundamentalist and otherwise -- at Tax Day Tea Party rallies in Tuscaloosa and Hoover.
If Eric Ulrich and the New York GOP were half as organized and energized as folks down in Alabama, maybe they wouldn't have lost that NY-20 seat. But if they want to hang their heads shamefully and trash their own party -- "I'm a Republican, but we're really not all bad!" -- we can expect no help from them in the conservative resurgence.