Carpetbagger's got a post about the religious right and how obviously impotent they have become. But this shouldn't be a surprise. The surprise is that they ever officially tried to get power and that anyone assumed they had it. Because they never did. It was always smoke & mirrors.
For as much as the Christian conservatives had power, it was because Republicans aligned their message with the evangelicals in order to get more foot soldiers on the campaign trail. But the party wasn't doing this because they were being forced to by the evangelicals. Rather, the Republicans were taking advantage of them. They saw how their message could be piggybacked onto the religious message and sent out together.
Somehow, we were to imagine that a group that wanted a strong government to rid the country of abortions, porn, drugs, and violent entertainment meshed perfectly with anti-government libertarianism. But at the end of the day, the Republican Party stood for the Republican Party and they'll do whatever it takes to stay in power. Everything else was a sham.
And the religious right's big mistake was in ever becoming part of the party. They were supposed to be agitators from the outside who applied light pressure on a like-minded ally. They weren't supposed to be part of the same group. Yet before they knew it, they were giving church directories to the RNC and attacking church members for supporting Democrats. Rather than being a group pressuring from the outside, they effectively turned their religion into an arm of the Republican Party.
And it's the same mistake that Limbaugh made. By taking too aggressive a stand in controlling the party, they become liabilities to each other. No longer can Limbaugh or the evanglicals be interested parties pushing from the outside. Now, they represent the party. And their interests are expected to coincide. And even worse for them, they can be taken for granted. Limbaugh and the evangalicals still have a stranglehold on Republican messaging, but have almost no influence over actual policies.
And when the party goes against them, by nominating McCain for example, then they have no choice but to suck it up and toe the line. But of course, neither Limbaugh or the evangelical leaders ever represented anything more than a sizeable minority and couldn't have possibly delivered elections or primaries singlehandedly. And they continue to make that abundantly clear.
That's why they should have stayed at arm's length from the party, rather than becoming outright party leaders. Instead of being able to pick their fights, they're stuck slogging through every battle that comes along. And every time they don't prevail, they become that much weaker. They were much better off posing as a victimized voiceless minority than as bullying power players. And the more they force the Republican Party into adopting their positions, the less sense there is for there to be a Republican Party.