Nate Hochman on the Religious Right and the Republican Party!

Dear Commons Community,

Nate Hochman, a fellow at National Review, had a guest essay published in The New York Times earlier this month entitled What Comes After the Religious Right, in which he describes the decline of religion as a driving force in the Republican Party and the rise of socio-cultural issues.  Here is an excerpt:

“Even for an insider like me, the whirlwind of energy and debate within today’s conservative movement can be bewildering. But what’s clear is that the Republican Party is changing. A new kind of conservatism, represented by right-wing elites like Ron DeSantis, Christopher Rufo and Tucker Carlson, is making itself known. We are just beginning to see its impact. The anti-critical-race-theory laws, anti-transgender laws and parental rights bills that have swept the country in recent years are the movement’s opening shots. They have made today’s culture wars as fierce as they have been in decades. But this new campaign is also distinctly different from the culture wars of the late 20th century, and it reflects a broad shift in conservatism’s priorities and worldview.

The conservative political project is no longer specifically Christian. That may seem strange to say at a moment when a mostly Catholic conservative majority on the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. But a reversal of the landmark 1973 ruling would be more of a last gasp than a sign of strength for the religious right. It’s hard to imagine today’s culture warriors taking any interest in the 1950s push for a Christian amendment to the Constitution, for example. Instead of an explicitly biblical focus on issues like school prayer, no-fault divorce and homosexuality, the new coalition is focused on questions of national identity, social integrity and political alienation. Although it enjoys the support of most Republican Christians who formed the electoral backbone of the old Moral Majority, it is a social conservatism rather than a religious one, revolving around race relations, identity politics, immigration and the teaching of American history.

Today’s culture war is being waged not between religion and secularism but between groups that the Catholic writer Matthew Schmitz has described as “the woke and the unwoke.” “Catholic traditionalists, Orthodox Jews, Middle American small-business owners and skeptical liberal atheists may not seem to have much in common,” he wrote in 2020. But all of those demographics are uncomfortable with the progressive social agenda of the post-Obama years.”

His conclusion:

“While the old religious right will see much to like in the new cultural conservatism, they are partners, rather than leaders, in the coalition. That may be the best thing they can hope for in a rapidly secularizing country. The new cultural conservatism may protect the embattled minority of traditionalist Christians; it will not restore them to their pre-eminent place in public life, as the old religious conservatism hoped to do. But it may have an actual chance at winning. And that, from the conservative perspective, is worth a great deal.”

An interesting analysis worth reading!


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