I have no idea what Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has been doing for the last year, but whatever it was has apparently kept him in some sort of cave. How else do you explain this column?
It is 2009’s quiet story — quiet because it’s about what didn’t happen, which can be as important as what did.
In this highly partisan year, we did not see a sharpening of the battles over religion and culture.
Yes, we continued to fight over gay marriage, and arguments about abortion were a feature of the health-care debate. But what’s more striking is that other issues — notably economics and the role of government — trumped culture and religion in the public square. The culture wars went into recession along with the economy.
The most important transformation occurred on the right end of politics. For now, the loudest and most activist sections of the conservative cause are not its religious voices but the mostly secular, anti-government tea party activists.
Among the “evidence” cited by Dionne is the fact that Dick Armey, who doesn’t like James Dobson, has emerged as a leader thanks to the “tea party” movement, and the fact that the fight over abortion hasn’t yet sunk healthcare reform:
Even the cultural and religious conflicts that have persisted were debated at a lower volume. Going into the health-care skirmishes, both supporters and opponents of abortion rights pledged that they would not try to upset current arrangements that bar federal funding of abortion. Although they feuded bitterly over what this meant in practice, their opening positions reflected a pulling back from the brink.
Dionne’s column was written one week after Religious Right leaders and Republican members of Congress gathered for a “prayercast” seeking God’s intervention to prevent the passage of healthcare reform.
Over the last year, we have written more than 1500 posts chronicling various aspects of the Religious Right’s increasing stridency, including several posts about the Manhattan Declaration, which was itself a proclamation that they would never stop fighting the culture wars, and James Dobson threatening to leave the country if reproductive health needs are covered by healthcare reform legislation.
Does Dionne happen to remember that Dr. George Tiller was murdered this year? And that Wiley Drake called it an answer to his prayers, just as he was praying for President Obama’s death while Randall Terry said Tiller got what was coming to him and warning that abortion coverage in healthcare reform would lead to more violence.
Does that constitute “a pulling back from the brink”?
If 2009 was a year when “the culture wars went into recession,” I can’t begin to imagine what “a sharpening of the battles over religion and culture” would even look like.