He has a great post here on the Democratic Party's past, present and future fortunes. And I think he gets it mostly right, although I'm probably not as pessimistic about the Party's presidential prospects and don't find as much reason for defeatism in last year's presidential election as he and others do for reasons I've discussed previously.
Nonetheless, I think he has the bigger picture about right.
However, the question I find myself returning to is, to the extent we believe that Democratic Party fortunes have been adversely affected by a cultural "backlash" (Thomas Franks' term), why has there been and why does there continue to be this backlash? In other words, what is causing this backlash and why has it proven to be as significant as it has, at least in some areas of the country if election results are any guide and exit poll surveys are to believed?
More specifically, why, in an age of modernity, increasing urbanization and globalization, and comparative prosperity, has the language and politics of reactionism (nationalism, religious fundamentalism, among other isms) proven to be as robust as it has?
Undoubtedly there's no one single, simple answer to such an inquiry.
But because I think it's important, and because I have roots in it I think I can talk about it with at least some awareness of its complexity, I'll try to dissect the role played by religious fundamentalism.
The first comment I'd like to make about the subject is that religious fundamentalism as a reactionary and driving political force in America is certainly not anything new. It's influence has ebbed and flowed as society has changed and various national developments have affected it. So I don't think its re-emergence in the past three decades--especially in the last 10 years or so--represents some fantastically unique or original dimension of American political life.
The second comment I'd like to make is one that will sound rather counter-intuitive, but it is this:
Today's religious fundamentalism is not being driven primarily, or perhaps not even remotely, by, considerations of Bible teaching. For all intent and purposes, today's weekly church goer that reports voting for Bush is functionally biblically illiterate.
Today's religiousity seems to be comprised of an ever increasingly conservative Catholic church, and the emergence of the so-called "mega-church" phenomenon within Protestant evangelicalism.
Of the first, Roman Catholicism pays little regard for the Bible, but bases most of its authority on tradition.
Of the second, there seem to be two types: those that are overtly political; and those that are not. Both are "conservative", although the latter is conservative only in the small "c" sense of the word.
The overtly political strands are best represented by D. James Kennedy, the pastor of the Fort Lauderdale based Coral Ridge Ministries, and Rod Parsley, the pastor of the Columbus, OH World Harvest church. Both have shows on cable television, although Kennedy can also be seen on regular TV. Both shows are almost exclusively devoted to political issues, namely those of abortion, gays, school prayer, in particular, and that of a Christian Nation concept in general. If there TV shows are any indication, their "ministries" are almost wholely devoid of any meaningful Biblical instruction or commitment.
The second, less politically driven type is represented by Joel Osteen's Houston based Lakewood church, and Rick Warren's (The Purpose Driven Life) Saddleback church in Lake Forest, (southern) California. While neither are politically centered, both ministries represent the Christian church's attempt to reach a new, more modern society. Both use religion as a means of enhancing the lives of their parishioners. Some label them as "self help" religions, and in the case of Osteen, a type of "prosperity gospel". But neither are known as seriously doctrinaire leaders. Of the two, Warren is the more Biblically attentive, but neither is concerned with the task of interpreting and applying the full range of Bible narratives and instructions.
So for both the overtly political, as well as the more open groups, the Bible itself plays a rather small role, used only sparingly as the circumstances demand. Although I didn't include him here, The Houston based T.D. Jakes fits in generally with the more "open", self help type of religion, but again as with the others, his focus is not biblical interpretation.
Now, granted, there are some religious professionals on the circuit who are on TV and who are more biblically focused, such as Charles Stanley, and to a lesser extent, John Haggi. But in terms of where the mass movement in religion seems to be, it is of a less rigorously Biblically applied variety.
All of this is to suggest that the emerging new religious institutions should not be thought of as monolithic or as necessarily representing a divide between modernist and fundamentalist. I believe its more nuanced that that. Obviously, the less political of the mega church movements represent the least dangerous facets of religion and represent the most likely partners in any new Democratic faith venture that is more secular than patriarchical.