When Right-Wing Christians Come Home to Roost

It is not secret that the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez has been an avid backer of Mitt Romney for some time now and undoubtedly played no small role in getting her magazine to officially endorse him just last week.

From her position with NRO, she has been going all out to defend Romney against his critics and yesterday blasted Mike Huckabee for, of all things, using religion to polarize the GOP primary campaign:

In his role as an aspiring “Christian leader,” as one of his campaign commercials put it, he is doing nothing to raise the level of the public conversation about those running for president and the issues facing our nation. He has an utter lack of knowledge on foreign-policy issues — a reality he tries to laugh off — and on the issue he knows most, religion, to say he is completely unhelpful would be profoundly understating the case.

As the media focuses on the fact that fellow candidate Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Huckabee has been presented a real opportunity to bring people together, to take the media obsession off of how religious evangelicals cannot tolerate a Mormon president. But instead of rising to the occasion, Huckabee makes things worse. In his most unfortunate moment, he played innocent with a New York Times reporter and asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Now he is running a commercial using Christ and Christmas to change the subject away from policy and record issues.

The Republican party owes the American people the best candidate it can offer. The anti-Mormon vote is not going to win anything for Republicans. A uniting, rallying message from a conservative candidate, with a record as a successful executive who knows and believes in the promise of America, can.

It is absolutely stunning that Lopez would level this criticism against Huckabee, considering that what he is doing to Romney is exactly what the Right has been doing to their opponents since their inception two decades ago (i.e., using religion to mobilize their own activists and polarize the electorate.)

Did Lopez voice such outrage when right-wing leaders like Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer claimed that Democratic presidential candidates are “frauds” for talking about their own faith and accused them of doing so only to conceal “their long history of hostility toward Christians”? Did she come to Barack Obama’s defense when the National Clergy Council wrote an entire report attempting to discredit his faith?  What was her response when Rep. Pete Stark was attacked by Concerned Women for America and the Traditional Values Coalition for admitting that he “does not believe in a Supreme Being”?  Did she complain that the organizers of the Justice Sunday events or the “War on Christians” conference were squandering an “opportunity to bring people together”? Did she voice such concerns when Romney himself joined a bevy of right-wing activists at “Liberty Sunday” to warn that the radical homosexual agenda was out to destroy religious freedom?  Is she upset that Romney’s own National Faith and Values Steering Committee is chock full of people, like Lou Sheldon, who’ve made careers out of using religion as a divisive political club with which to pound opponents?

Obviously not. 

Apparently, it is okay for Republicans and their Religious Right allies to engage in base religious pandering and polarization, so long as it is directed against Democrats and progressive advocates, but it is unacceptable for any candidate to stoop to “playing religious hardball” against another Republican.

Does Lopez not realize that this is standard operating procedure for the Religious Right? And does she not realize that Mike Huckabee’s record and rhetoric make him the ultimate Religious Right candidate? Has there ever been another serious presidential contender that has run ads touting himself as a “Christian Leader” or stating that “what really matters is the celebration of the birth of Christ”? Does she not see that Huckabee’s entire campaign to this point has hinged on his ability to garner the support of polarizing right-wing activists?

As such, did she really expect Huckabee to refrain from insinuating that his opponent’s faith is somehow lacking and illegitimate? It’s what the Right does best.

To expect a candidate relying on the likes of supporters such as Janet Folger, Rick Scarborough, Don Wildmon, and Beverly LaHaye to “rise to the occasion” and shun the practice of “playing religious hardball” is downright naive, especially when there are electoral gains to be made by doing exactly that.