The news was supposed to be shocking. Nearly 40% of Americans think there has been too much discussion of religion in this year's campaign. It seems they've already forgotten the last campaign wherein Sarah "I've got more Jesus than You" Palin was prayed over by an African evangelist famous for running a witch out of town. President Obama was damn near forced to say the Sinner's Prayer on national television to prove he's a Christian (and still most Republicans in the South think he's a Muslim...sigh). The President's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, was vilified by a bunch of uber-religious crackers for saying "God damn America," in a sermon not one of them listened to. Listen to it in context and see if you disagree with him. (If you do, you don't know dick about that Bible you're supposed to be reading.) Mike "I've got almost as much Jesus as Sarah" Huckabee made absurd statements about Mormonism and "Islamofascism." That Mormon guy who's running and likely winning the nomination this time ran last time, and all the questions about Joseph Smith, golden plates, and Jesus and Lucifer being brothers popped up. In short, there was plenty of religion last time.
This one does seem a little wearying in the number of religion related stories, though, but I have an explanation of sorts, I think. Members of the press are adamant that evangelicals have made a comeback when the rest of the country thought they were politically dead. (And just who the hell thought that? The press. They're constantly amazed that religious people are religious.) Allegedly, the story is that evangelicals are helping shape this election cycle by showing up to champion their favorite evangelical, Rick Santorum. Except he's a Catholic, and he sounds much more like a fundamentalist than an evangelical, but the press, most of whom couldn't define evangelical to save their jobs, aren't much into nuance, nor do they understand the complexity of an actual confession of faith. Did the guy say Jesus? Yup. Evangelical. Never mind that evangelicals can't even decide who is in and who is out. It's a word that is almost as useless as Catholic now.
The press seems mystified that Catholics aren't supporting Santorum. It's as if they haven't noticed that Catholics, with the exception of South and Central American immigrants, have always been more moderate than conservative. You absolutely need a qualifier before even using the word Catholic. Latin American Catholic means something far different than Massachusetts cracker Catholic. The first group isn't going to support Santorum because of his ridiculous views on immigration. Newt is the only one making sense on this issue, but the other two buffoons are trying so hard to woo the hard Right they're essentially handing Obama the election. Alienate Latinos and women and then try to get elected. Who the fuck wrote your strategy? Steve Schmidt? Are either of them planning on pulling a woman out of his hat at the last second? Be sure to pick one for whom glossolalia is a tertiary or quaternary language, right after English, domestic policy, and foreign policy. The cracker Catholics aren't supporting Santorum because he's not one of them. He doesn't even sound like them. Catholics aren't typically social or theological conservatives. The press seems to listen to the Catholic hierarchy and assume the parishioners believe the same things. Clearly, they do not.
Evangelicals, really fundamentalists, are supporting Santorum, though, and that has the press in a lemming-like fugue as they churn out story after story about how evangelicals are shaping this election. It's total bullshit. The amorphous group known as evangelicals (and we'll pretend for a second that we can even define that concept) isn't politically dead, but they sure as shit can't get anyone elected either. It's a little pathetic, honestly. Their man Santorum stands zero chance of winning the nomination, not to mention the election. Here's the truth: neither Republican candidate can beat Obama right now, so if Romney gets the nomination and loses, evangelicals have managed to back a candidate that will lose badly to the loser. What this election cycle has shown is that white fundamentalists in the South are more deeply entrenched in allegedly traditional cultural assumptions than we'd thought possible, a position that will continue to alienate them from the larger culture. Religious leaders like Richard Land, Al Mohler, Tony Perkins, and their ilk reveal a staggering degree of ignorance when they want to make contraception an issue, as if evangelicals and Catholics are united in their hatred of contraception. This election doesn't even require satire, as it's satirical at its core. The press just needs to notice.
Genuine evangelicals are all over the map in terms of cultural assumptions; many even support Obama. There is no monolithic voting block. It's time the press learned the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. It's also time they learned the difference between a Southern conservative and a Southern racist. And it wouldn't hurt if they'd ask a few questions of the "Christians" who show up in these stories to deduce whether they are in fact practicing Christians or people who simply believe a few important doctrines about Christianity. Religion isn't really shaping this election. It ought to be. Romney's faith is fair game. Jeremiah Wright's name will likely come up again, and it'll only be fair for Obama's team to start churning out the questions about Mormonism's more bizarre teachings and Romney's adherence to those doctrines.