Gary Bauer is gaining my respect
. No, not for his political and moral censoriousness, but because he's gradually beginning to see that he and the rest of the social conservative movement are being used.
"I'm not blaming the president, but religious conservatives have been doing politics for 25 years and, on every front, are worse off on things they care about," said Gary Bauer, president of American Values. "The gay rights movement is more powerful, the culture is more decadent, the life of not one baby has been saved, porn is in the living room, and you can't watch the Super Bowl without your hand on the off switch."
Now of course some of what Bauer said was wrong--for instance, TiVo owners were more likely to have their hands on the rewind button during the Super Bowl halftime show. But he's generally right. Sure, this particular administration is much more conservative than any we've had since at least the nineteenth century, and when it comes to the divide between Bible and State, it might be the most conservative ever. The federal bench has also grown markedly more ideological, as the Nixon, Ford and Carter appointees die off or retire, leaving the judiciary under the domination of appointees from the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George Bush II, the Wrath of Scalia.
But after 25 years, what big successes can the social conservatives claim? Electing Presidents is nothing more than a defensive success if those Presidents refuse or fail to deliver on your signature issues. And for social conservatives, whose issues are founded on an idyllic vision of a Christian and moral past that never really existed in America, Republican Presidents haven't delivered jack.
Just look at the record. Since the early 1990's the Supreme Court has upheld both Roe v Wade and the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and it struck down state sodomy laws. More children attend day care than ever. More women work out of the home than ever, and most of them prefer to work out of the home even if it's not necessary for maintaining their standard of living. "Will and Grace" is mainstream, and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is on network television. The social conservatives' crusade against the teaching of evolution has had little success. And, like Kos, knowing that gay and lesbian couples are running down to the San Francisco City Hall to get married hasn't filled me or presumably anyone else with an unquenchable desire to run down to the local courthouse and file for divorce.
But apparently those sinners in San Francisco pledging themselves to a lifetime of monogamy and loving commitment might just be the last straw for some social conservatives:
Their list of grievances is long, but right now social conservatives are mad over what many consider the president's failure to strongly condemn illegal homosexual "marriages" being performed in San Francisco under the authority of Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Top religious rights activists have been burning up the telephone lines, sharing what one privately called their "apoplexy" over Mr. Bush's failure to act decisively on the issue, although he has said he would support a constitutional amendment if necessary to ban same-sex "marriages."
"I am just furious over what's going on in California and over what the president is not doing in California," a prominent evangelical leader confided. "He says he's 'troubled' -- he should be outraged. If he's troubled, he should pick up the phone and call [California Republican Gov.] Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and tell him we want action against the rogue mayor who is breaking the law."
"They can't possibly guarantee a large turnout of evangelical Christian voters if he does not do what is morally right and take leadership on this issue as he did on the war" in Iraq, said CWA President Sandy Rios.
She echoed other conservative leaders in blaming White House political advisers and not the president himself for the failure to move forcefully against San Francisco's civil disobedience. But the veteran activist and radio host said Mr. Bush could pay a steep price in November for following his strategists' bad advice.
Disillusionment like this frequently surfaces while the conservatives are in ascendancy, but so far it hasn't really made much of a difference--the Republicans and the social conservatives always unify against those gay-loving ultra-liberal Democrats. Karl Rove is convinced that waning enthusiasm for George H.W. Bush cost him the election in 1992, but Bush's inability to convince swing voters that he cared about their economic distress and would do something to fix the economy is what cost him a second term. (Ross Perot didn't help him either.) But what's different now is that the social conservatives seem to be figuring out that the only reason they haven't gotten what they want after three years of the Republicans controling all branches of the federal government is that the Republicans won't deliver for them. The Republicans, starting with Karl Rove, apparently determined that they can't give the social conservatives what they want and still control government, and maintaing Republican power prevails over giving the social conservatives what they want.
Despite the Republicans' failure, intentional or not, to resume Oliver Cromwell's revolution of the saints, this is still no time for progressives to be smug. The country is one Supreme Court Justice away from being one step closer to a theocratic plutocracy. But if more social conservatives like Gary Bauer partially open their eyes and see that they've sold their vote to the economic royalists and gotten nothing but empty promises in return, then Karl Rove's fear of losing decisive margins of social conservatives might just come to pass. If that happens this election, for progressives November 2nd will be a rapturous day.