Excerpts from an interview with Patrick Hynes, author of "In Defense of the Religious Right"
Q: Quite a few people and even some bestselling books are saying the GOP is the party of theocracy. Any truth in this?
Hynes: None at all. Conservative Christians within the GOP don't agree on their theology, so to say they are trying to establish a theocracy is an ignorant smear.
Q: During your research, did you come across genuine American theocrats equivalent to the Iranian mullahs?
Hynes: No. The claim that conservative Christians in America are akin to the Iranian mullahs is an update to a similar smear that surfaced after September 11th - back then, the Religious Right was likened almost daily to the Taliban. This much is true: no matter the point in history, liberal pundits and extremist politicians will compare conservative Christians in America to whichever Islamo-fascist regime threatens to kill innocent Americans.
Q: How much impact will the Religious Right have in this November's midterm election? How much in '08?
Hynes: It is too soon to tell whether the Religious Right will engage the 2006 election with the same fervor it engaged the 2004 election or if conservative Christians-demoralized by the ineffectiveness of the Republican majority in Washington-will say home. Social issues or, if you prefer, "moral values" issues generally play a greater role in our public dialogue during a campaign than during the congressional session. They will so again this year and that fact will motivate many Christians to vote. If it motivates them as powerfully as in the past, their voice will dominate the public dialogue again this election year. If not, Republicans will probably lose their majority.
Q: Some media conservatives seem actually uncomfortable with the Religious Right. Why?
Hynes: Conservatives have their elites, too. And, of course, there are different kinds of conservatives. But those who dismiss the Religious Right do so out of ignorance, I believe. These folks generally operate under old, worn out stereotypes and believe polite society would be embarrassed if Christians were to represent the public face of conservatism. This mind set is the mirror image of the "conservative Christians = Iranian mullahs" strain of liberalism. There is this idea, held by elites on both sides, that conservative Christians hurt the GOP as much as they help it. This is demonstrably untrue, as my book shows.
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