TNR Gets It Wrong

The New Republic is, hands down, my favorite magazine. But, every once in awhile, even they publish something that is frightfully wrong.

This morning, they have a post up by Michael Kazin who suggests the Religious Right's influence on national politics is waning. He writes that attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage are moving away from the positions articulated by the religious right, a claim that is only half-true. Attitudes towards abortion have remained remarkably for the past couple of decades while, in recent years, attitudes about same-sex marriage are decoupling from other social issues as younger evangelicals have become increasingly ambivalent about the issue.

But, Kazin's biggest flaw is to think that it is only on suc social issues that we should look for the religious right's influence. I don't want to give away an argument I will be making in a forthcoming article, but Kazin is incorrect to think that the social issues are the only things that matter to evangelicals or the area in which they have exerted their primary influence in recent years. By way of example, look at this morning's op-ed by Michael Gerson about conservative resistance to climate change science. Gerson writes,

"The resistance of many conservatives to arguments about climate disruption is magnified by class and religion. Tea Party types are predisposed to question self-important elites. Evangelicals have long been suspicious of secular science, which has traditionally been suspicious of religious influence. Among some groups, skepticism about global warming has become a symbol of social identity - the cultural equivalent of a gun rack or an ichthus."
Kudos to Gerson for printing the word "ichthus." But, more importantly, how does Kazin explain the way otherwise intelligent people like all the current crop of GOP candidates have fled from the issue of climate change except because conservative evangelicals have raised a ruckus about it?


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