10/18/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Suckering The Fundamentalists, Again

Last week I was awash in admiration for the Republicans. As I have so many other times, I wished I could be a Republican. They are magnificent. If my formative years hadn't included such a strong dose of Jesus and his stubborn, demanding ideas about the poor, I might be able to join them. I, too, could be a winner and get to keep more of my money for me, me, me.

The cause of my Republican yearning was the woman whose name is on everyone's lips: Sarah Palin. She was a brilliant choice. She's helped the Republicans sucker the Religious Right again.

2008-07-22-otb_godscountry.jpgThis election fundamentalist kingmakers swore they wouldn't fall for Republican ploys, not again, not this time. After 30 years of controlling the party, they were tired of being shunted aside after the election. Thirty years of effort, millions of volunteers, millions of dollars, and the Religious Right has made no progress on its core issues. There's been smoke but no purging fire.

Abortion is still legal. The last two Supreme Court justices appointed both gained approval only because they didn't vow to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Gay rights gain more supporters every year. Thirty years ago, fundamentalist Christians could titillate and offend with stories of homosexual perversions. Now no one outside fundamentalist ranks is interested enough to listen. Once a fundamentalist Christian boycott against businesses that offer equal rights to gays and lesbians would make headlines for days. Now people yawn.

At one point during George W. Bush's administration, the Republicans controlled Congress. The three highest positions in the country (president, Speaker of the House and Senate Majority leader) were held by men who favored Religious Right policies.

And still nothing happened on the issues closest to the fundamentalist Christian heart.

The kingmakers were right to take their toys and go home.

But they didn't. Instead they overplayed their hand. They forced McCain to pass up more experienced candidates. They won. Heady with their victory, the faithful rushed back into the Republican fold. And that very week, Cindy McCain announced that she didn't favor overturning Roe vs. Wade. Shades of Laura Bush, a move to placate moderate Republicans that worked before.

What's going to happen next? The Republicans will lose. Or they will win. Either way, the Religious Right will be suckered again. Because their real constituency isn't large enough to force substantive change. They can control the Republicans. They can swing an election. But they can't move the country.

My Republican longing and admiration lasted a week. This week, it's not looking so good for the Grand Old Party.

Some of its most seasoned supporters are questioning whether Sarah Palin has the experience to step into the president's shoes if she needs to. This week, New York Times' conservative columnist David Brooks, after a bit of overblown fulminating against the Democrats, concluded that, yes, experience does matter. And no, Sarah Palin doesn't have enough. He isn't alone in his conclusion.

One hundred and forty thousand women have signed up at the new website, and given reasons they won't support her. Moderate Republican women are quietly and sometimes noisily jumping ship, angry that experienced, capable women like Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison were passed over. And the Dems haven't unleashed Hillary yet.

I'm feeling better about being a Democrat. Better every day.

Christine Wicker is the author of "The Fall of the Evangelical Nation." Her website is