11/28/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Culture of Lies

Social conservatives cannot complain that their issues have not been heard in the 2008 campaign, in exactly the fashion they wanted.

John McCain selected the far-right"s hand-picked candidate as his running mate, Sarah Palin, instead of either of his preferred choices, Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge. McCain used one of the far-right"s most egregious and most thoroughly debunked attacks, that Barack Obama supports infanticide, in the final presidential debate. The Republican Party platform is recognized as the most extreme platform in history on cultural issues. Palin has talked up "Culture of Life" issues in her very few interviews, and John McCain has as well, going on record saying he believes life begins at conception. The Republican National Committee, several pro-life lobbying groups, at least two independent expenditure campaigns and the McCain campaign have used television, radio, mail, internet and robo-calls to deliver what appears to be a coordinated message on the "Born Alive" infanticide charge.

The McCain-Palin campaign attacked comprehensive sexuality education, supported bans on gay marriage, and several fundamentalist Christian churches openly defied tax and election law by endorsing the ticket from their pulpits to further energize their base. Everyone is talking about the importance of the Supreme Court and attacks from the far-right have intensified as the campaign progressed. In every possible way, the Republican Party and the McCain-Palin campaign embraced the far-right's "Culture of Life."

Social conservatives could not possibly ask for more.

If McCain and Palin win, the appeal to the far-right base will be heralded as the reason, and he will owe them far more than just the Supreme Court justices he has promised. If they lose, the recriminations, which have already started, will be fierce and the Culture War will likely turn into an un-Civil War within the Grand Old Party. Already the Palinistas on the far-right are suggesting she was "mishandled" by the campaign. Others will say with the economic crisis, there was just no way for McCain to win, even with a more experienced vice-president that appealed to independents.

You can bet that none of the Culture Warriors on the far-right will take even one moment to consider that they have moved too far outside the mainstream of American culture. Either they are heroes for having delivered victory to McCain-Palin, or
if they lose, they'll argue that McCain wasn't strong enough on social
issues from the beginning. Will any brave and clear-sighted Republicans realize that rather than
throwing McCain a lifeline in this election, far-right extremism has
further isolated McCain, and the party, from mainstream Americans?

It is hard to imagine how much meaner and nastier a campaign can get than distorting someone's record and accusing them of infanticide, but I have faith that the far-right could. That is what they will argue if they face defeat.

Yet there are actual facts that tell a different story from the one social-cons will believe, and argues against crediting them with victory should that come.

Since 2004, when equal numbers (37 percent) of Americans identified with each of the two major political parties, Democrats have held steady while the Republicans have dropped to 29 percent. New registrations, especially in swing states, have dramatically favored the Democrats. Across the board, polling has indicated that the Culture War issues of abortion and gay rights matter to a very small percentage of the electorate, usually less than five percent, often less than three. Similarly, polling consistently indicates Americans reject far-right social conservative policies like abstinence-only-until-marriage, banning abortion and stem cell research, and discriminating against homosexuals.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden have unflinchingly discussed their pro-education, pro-prevention and pro-choice values, from a position of public policy as well as personal morality. Obama put together a platform that has been praised by pro-choice and pro-life Democrats, and openly talks about working to reduce unintended pregnancies while respecting different opinions on abortion. The ticket supports stem cell research and does not believe in discrimination.

The far-right cannot complain that the Obama campaign has somehow "hidden" its agenda.

Could it be that Americans are rejecting the far-right Culture War? Could it be that they see through the tactical misinformation and manipulation of the "Culture of Life" and recognize it instead as a Culture of Lies? Even with a McCain victory the trend lines are obvious, the Culture War issues no longer resonate, especially with younger voters. 

Let's be clear. I don't know anyone who would take away the right for a person to believe what they choose, to follow their faith, however they interpret it. The Culture of Lies is not about what the far-right believes or their right to believe it. The lies are about how they distort facts trying to impose what they believe on everyone else, taking away other Americans' rights in the process.

Continue reading Part 1 of Culture of Lies...

Culture of Lies is an in depth look at the recent history of the Religious Right:

Part 1: 2008 Politics

Part 2: Values

Part 3: Tactics and Strategies

Part 4: Conservative Revolt