Smart v. Stupid
That's a wrap, evangelicals
You've been replaced by a big bag of cash
Evangelical politicians are the guys who gather up money and power by claiming God speaks to them. They prefer to be called “social conservatives” as if they are not entirely driven by religious fundamentalism. They have had a pretty sucky week.
After a long string of victories, evangelicals feared they were losing a second presidential nominating process. TO MORMONS FOR CRISSAKES! So they met in Texas to pick a candidate. Case closed, they imagined. We still matter, they assumed.
Not so fast …
These leaders thought they were watching the nomination slip away because of dilution of influence. Some supported Perry, some Santorum, and some Gingrich. Pick one guy, they thought, and we’ll be running the show again. Work separately, and THAT MORMON will get the nomination.
When last we visited the meeting, I predicted quite emphatically (foolishly?) that evangelical leaders knew Rick Santorum is unelectable. Santorum is on video opposing birth control, a position that surely makes him icky to women of every political stripe. But darned if they didn’t pick Santorum anyway; silly me.
They never imagined the real reason for Romney’s march might be that courting the evangelical vote no longer matters.
These guys are not the kind of pastor you might find at your neighborhood church. They are more like that TV pastor who will send you a free plastic packet of “blessed healing water.” “Drink it if you have cancer. If you are blind, pour it on your eyes. AND BE HEALED!” we’re told.
They guys seek to use the Bible to make people give them money. Then they invest their collection-plate earnings with despots and dictators proffering the logic that if God didn’t want them to do it, he’d stop them. I’m reminded of the old joke that ends, “I just throw all the money up in the air and I figure God will take what he wants while it is up there.”
In other words, they are self-aggrandizing fatheads. They use God to con suckers. They’ve built a power base in the Republican Party by delivering votes through inflaming the delicate sensibilities of simple thinkers — particularly in places like South Carolina.
So they were completely blindsided. They met, they chose, and their choice — Rick Santorum — didn’t gain a single point in the polls. Santorum simply went nowhere. On Jan. 1, the Gallup Daily GOP Tracking Poll put Santorum at 13. On Jan. 11, he was at 13. Today, he’s at 13. It’s a Gingrich/Romney race.
Let me offer an alternative explanation for the waning influence of the Republican Party’s evangelical vote-wranglers. They no longer matter. Now that money men can spend as much as they want on elections, they no longer have to pander to religious conservatives. They no longer have to accede to the wishes of the evangelicals in order to get their votes.
Just as Gingrich was trounced in Iowa by negative ads — forcing him to go find his own rich guy — moneyed interests in the Republican Party now realize they can win any election simply through the force of paid advertising. Votes are forgone. They are the inevitable result of a negative, saturation-advertising campaign.
TV cuts out the middleman. It has to be liberating for the money boys. They can simply spend as much as they want. They no longer have to pretend to like the snake-oil salesmen.
Post-Citizens United, it’s a great time to be rich, eh?
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”