Five Ways The Religious Right Imploded In 2012

Written by Jack Jenkins

When election returns began pouring in on Tuesday, progressives were quick to declare the election a resounding victory for President Obama, Democratic candidates, and progressive ideals such as marriage equality and the DREAM Act. A deeper look at Tuesday’s results reveals that the 2012 election season was also a resounding defeat for the political engine that has long catapulted the GOP to power: The Religious Right.

Here five ways the Religious Right imploded during the 2012 election:

1) Evangelicals failed to produce a viable candidate. While Rick Perry looked to be the evangelical darling in the early days of the Republican primary, his various “oops” moments forced evangelical Protestants to flock to Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic. But while Santorum won the support of many evangelicals, his passionate embrace of evangelical positions on abortion and contraception made him unappealing to many women voters. In the end, the machinery of the Religious Right failed to produce a candidate that fired up conservative Protestants, forcing the Romney campaign to work twice as hard to excite the GOP’s evangelical base.

2) Conservative efforts to shift the Catholic vote flopped. After the Obama administration announced the HHS contraceptive coverage requirement earlier this year, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops launched a “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign criticizing the Obama administration and urging Catholics to cast their votes in support of “religious freedom.” The effort failed miserably: Not only did Obama win the Catholic vote overall in 2012 (50% of Catholics voted for Obama while 48% supported Romney), but Pew Research found that the vast majority of American Catholics (78%) knew little to nothing about the bishop’s expensive campaign. Instead, Catholic voters appeared more supportive of the efforts of Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus who spoke out against Paul Ryan’s budget.

3) Evangelical voter turnout efforts fell short. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition targeted Ohio this year in an effort to increase evangelical turnout, promising to go “all in” by sending voter guides to churches and launching a “major push” to get evangelicals to the polls through a robust get-out-the-vote effort. But when the results came in on Tuesday, Obama had actually performed better among white evangelicals in Ohio than he did in 2008: White evangelicals in Ohio favored John McCain by a 71%-27% margin in 2008, but favored Romney by a smaller margin – 69%-30% – in 2012. Despite all the energy expended by the Religious Right, their turnout efforts failed to have any marked impact on the most crucial state of the general election.

4) Traditionally evangelical candidates lost en masse because of radical views and bad theology. Conservative Christian and then-Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin caused a stir within the Republican Party when he spoke about “legitimate rape,” but evangelical leaders were quick to come to his aid. But when Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who attends an evangelical church, referred to women impregnated through rape as having been given “a gift from God,” voters across the country – including many evangelicals – began asking questions about this new breed of politician. Ultimately, voters decided that Akin and Mourdock’s radical theology was simply too extreme: They and several like-minded candidates suffered a series of staggering defeats all across the country on Tuesday.

5) The efforts of anti-gay religious leaders didn’t stop voters from supporting marriage equality. When marriage equality amendments were put on the ballot in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington this year, conservative Christian groups moved quickly to try and dissuade people from supporting the freedom to marry. Famed evangelist Billy Graham even launched a massive “Vote Biblical Values” ad campaign, which, among other things, urged voters to oppose candidates who supported marriage equality. Undaunted, pro-marriage equality activists capitalized on groundswells of support among religious groups and ran ads featuring pastors and other religious leaders passionately endorsing same-sex marriage. In the end, Americans voted in favor of marriage equality in three (and probably four) states, dealing a resounding defeat to the anti-gay bastions of the Religious Right.

The 2012 election season appears to have been an ominous one for the Religious Right, and – if the trend continues – may very well signal the end of their traditional dominance of Republican politics. Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, has already voiced the opinion that the Religious Right is hemorrhaging support across the country, and should put less focus on abortion and gay marriage and give more attention to issues such as immigration reform, poverty, and increasing adoptions and foster care opportunities. Whether or not religious conservatives can make that shift remains to be seen, but, in the meantime, the Religious Right looks to have already lost persuasive power with many American voters.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Photo: lorenkerns/flickr


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

There are some crazies on here! Luckily America saw through these nut job religious folk

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

I have a theory. Remember, it's a theory and not the truth. But I still think it has some relevance. Well, my theory is that the trolls on Care2 wake up in the morning, put their devices on, log into Care2 and put a serach in the box. It says: GAY. Up comes thousands of articles where this word is mentioned. Then the trolls scan through the results and decide which links they will click on, preferable new ones.
And then it starts again: Trolling about their beliefs that they are better than us sinners, because we believe that everyone deserves equal rights and we are doomed because of our insistance that fundamentalism and hate leads to unhappiness.
That's my theory and I stand by it until it's been scientifically disproven!

Leah h.
Leah H5 years ago

Judy - It is Sunday. Go to church and get off this site.

Leah h.
Leah H5 years ago

Maybe they are a group whose time has come and GONE. What a relief that would be for the good of the country as a whole.

JACarlton Author
jill c5 years ago

Dave G - I believe judy's been exiled from the site.

Dave G.
Dave G5 years ago

Oh JEEZ, Judy - Give it a REST!

All your prosthelitizing and shoving the Bible in our faces does not change the fact - fact - that Church and State remain separate in the United States for a Very Good Reason, not the least among which is to keep narrow-minded, short-sighted, self-righteous people like you from dictating to the rest of us - non-evangelical and other Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Rastafarians, agnostics and even atheists - your personal take on your faith!

Again - Give It a REST.

Judy Stever
Judy S5 years ago

Oh and to stay on topic I want to add Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with everyone including the ones working for the state. If everyone did as Jesus instructed this world would be better now and there would be no means to have it separate as we would all be doing and following the same. Being of one mind with God. By following the word of God this world would have been a better place. Just like in the time of Adam and Eve. If they did not sin than we would not have sin in our life today. Because they did we have all these wonderful problems and because they did bring sin into life, Jesus was sent.

Judy Stever
Judy S5 years ago

I know you will say that was a fairy tale too but read this article. I found it interesting.

We are looking for signs but when they happen still no one believes. Like what I wrote earlier. The Kid who died then was brought back to life. Sat in a coma in the Hospital and upon his awakening told his mother he was with Jesus. He also asked why they never told the boy that he used to have a sister. He told the parents he spoke with her and knew her name. Told the parents of her name. It was amazing to hear this kid speak of his incident.

Judy Stever
Judy S5 years ago

Hi Kevin, I actually commend you for your at least researching which some people won't do. However, everyone wants proof that Jesus was who he said he was. People will not believe based on faith and trust. I know your take on scripture but Jesus does address this issue as well. He actually wants us to believe and trust Him based on his words and what he has already done.

Mat 12:38 One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority."
Mat 12:39 But Jesus replied, "Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Mat 12:40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

That generation is now. He want's us to believe without sight. Knowing that he existed even secondary should be enough.. unfortunately most people will not take that leap.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown5 years ago

Tom - It seems short-sighted to simply malign and dismiss historical scholarship because it does not happen to coincide with your preconceived "religious" notions. As I pointed out before, there is no reliable primary historical evidence that Jesus even existed. There is secondary evidence, which I personally find compelling, but no primary evidence. I am sorry that you find history to be such a threat and historians to be "enemies."

By the way, historians do not operate from a starting point of "animosity." We do however deal with facts, not fariy tales. So save your "the mean old scholars hate our religion" nonsense. Historians, at least the good ones, do not have an agenda and are not plotting against christians.