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Republicans are ashamed of their evangelical supporters (but don’t dare admit it)



Can you imagine a scholar writing a book about the history of the American conservative movement from Goldwater to Trump without mentioning rightwing Christians?

Of course you can’t! That’s because you, dear reader, are educated enough to know how the marriage of convenience between the Republican Party and reactionary Christians has elected every Republican president since 1980.

The story of the modern conservative movement, in fact, can’t be explained without referencing the role of Christian propagandists like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Billy and Franklin Graham, Ralph Reed, Phyllis Schlafly, James Dobson, Pat Buchanan and numberless, faceless Republican-Christian stooges, congressmen, ministers and columnists. But you’d never know that from reading W. James Antle’s review of Lee Edwards’ new book, “Just Right,” which was in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.

Antle, who haunts the outer fringes of the Tea Party, has made a career taking potshots at Democrats and liberals; he seems to have a particular problem with Hillary Clinton and Gays (what else is new in Republican Land?). Edwards, the book’s author, teaches at Catholic University, which makes his bias obvious.

I haven’t read the book—and won’t—but Antle’s review is remarkable for that Christian lacuna. Here are Robert Taft, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan (“a commanding personality”), William F. Buckley, Jesse Helms and even Roy Moore. Here is Trump, who “clearly spoke for…disaffected Americans.” Here are the Tea Party, Schlafly and Milton Friedman. But where are the Christians?

It’s dishonest to the point of pathological to write a history of conservatism and not include evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics and others who violated the First Amendment and threw their religious scruples overboard when they crawled in bed with the Republican Party. So dishonest, indeed, we can conclude that W. James Antle is little more than a propagandist following Josef Goebbels’ edict, If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Christians in the conservative movement? Nope! Not here!

But why is Antle so intent on whitewashing the role these religious extremists played? We’ll never get a straight answer from him—he’s incapable of intellectual candor. But we can guess. He’s embarrassed by them: an educated man himself, he regrets that he has to ally with such crude, low-information Bible thumpers. As indeed he should be. And Antle isn’t the only Republican to shy away from reactionary Christians. Few in the GOP mention them, unless they have to—they’re the crazy uncle in the basement. Republicans need their votes, but privately and personally, they loathe them.

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