by Max Brantley
Interesting thesis by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times that blames Newt Gingrich's fall in the polls in Florida on his decision to step away from the far-right politics of anger — such as against mainstream media — that worked so well for him in South Carolina.
Interesting that the politics of grievance and moral issues no longer seems to include sexual issues. For a reason, Edsall writes.
Gingrich is the first conservative presidential candidate to campaign on a package of traditional values from which he is exempting issues relating to personal sexual behavior. And there are reasons why this strategy worked on Jan. 21: The moral vision of the religious right is collapsing everywhere, including within its own ranks.
There are fewer and fewer “traditional” families in the United States; the number of secular voters is growing at a faster rate than the number of those who are religiously observant; women’s rights and homosexual rights have become broadly accepted; births outside of marriage are now routine among whites, Hispanics and African Americans.
While some religious conservatives are backing the former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, many partisans on the moral values right have lined up behind Gingrich, including a good number who formerly sympathized with Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. Joining Gingrich’s National Faith Coalition are Tim and Beverly LaHaye (Tim LaHaye is the author of “Battle for the Family” and Beverly LaHaye is the founder of Concerned Women for America, the largest women’s pro-family advocacy group in America); Dr. Jim Garlow, the California pastor who presides over the website ProtectMarriage.com, which backed the Proposition 8 campaign against gay marriage; and Don Wildmon, whose American Family Association website features his unshakeable commitment to “Strengthening Today’s Marriage and Family Movement.”
In South Carolina, we saw the consequences of this. Gingrich’s strength as the tribune of conservative rage at liberal elites trumped his long history of personal failings. He violated the very family values and the sanctity of marriage that social conservatives profess to believe in, but it was much more important that Gingrich was the enemy of their enemy.