McCain was right the first time: Falwell was intolerant, and his politics were divisive and served the nation poorly. He built an effective political organization at least partly by appealing to people's worst instincts. His rhetorical universe was populated by villains like the ones he identified after 9/11.Jesus always tried to appeal to peoples best instincts.
As Frank Rich points out in The Reverend Falwell’s Heavenly Timing the power of the political high priests of hate like Falwell was diminishing.
Though Mr. Falwell had long been an embarrassment and laughingstock to many, including a new generation of Christian leaders typified by Mr. Kuo, the timing of his death could not have had grander symbolic import. It happened at the precise moment that the Falwell-Robertson brand of religious politics is being given its walking papers by a large chunk of the political party the Christian right once helped to grow. Hours after Mr. Falwell died, Rudy Giuliani, a candidate he explicitly rejected, won the Republican debate by acclamation. When the marginal candidate Ron Paul handed “America’s mayor” an opening to wrap himself grandiloquently in 9/11 once more, not even the most conservative of Deep South audiences could resist cheering him. If Rudy can dress up as Jack Bauer, who cares about his penchant for drag?The hate mongering Mullahs of the Religious Right like Falwell may have been responsible for the rise of the current Republican party but stand in the way of the future Republican Party. So Jerry Falwell may have died last week but the power he once held started to die with Terri Schiavo.
The current exemplars of Mr. Falwell’s gay-baiting, anti-Roe style of politics, James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, see the writing on the wall. Electability matters more to Republicans these days than Mr. Giuliani’s unambiguous support for abortion rights and gay civil rights (no matter how clumsily he’s tried to fudge it). Last week Mr. Dobson was in full crybaby mode, threatening not to vote if Rudy is on the G.O.P. ticket. Mr. Perkins complained to The Wall Street Journal that the secular side of the Republican Party was serving its religious-right auxiliary with “divorce papers.”
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