It is argued that secular and liberal countries keep religion and politics separated from each other. However, this might be true in theory, but practice is quite different. Especially in America, there is such a deep overlap between religion and politics that one looks complete without the other. Political culture of America cannot be understood as long as one takes it independent of religious influence. Religion is certainly a key and one of the most influential factors in American politics so much so that William Martin argues American politics, domestic and foreign policies and agendas cannot be understand without understand religious influence (1999). It is apparently not possible to get elected to White House without Christian Right’s support in America. Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush; all presidents are seen as classic examples of people who rely heavily on religious right for getting elected as Presidents.
However, George W. Bush stands out as one of the best cases for understanding how religion and politics are mixed up with one another in America. In this paper, we analyze how the personality of George W. Bush was attractive to religious right. Then, how they got him elected to office both times, in 2000 and 2004. More importantly we analyze how Bush’s policies reflect Christian Right’s agenda being fulfilled. It is noted that Christian Right fully supported George W. Bush to get him elected to Presidency because of his Pro-Jesus and Pro-Christianity thoughts and ideas. Hence, after coming to office, Bush did all he could to serve the Christian right rather than serving the country.
George W. Bush’s personality was such that it not only casted a magic over Christian Right leaders, but also among masses. In various interviews and speeches, his words and body language both were quite tempting for Christian right and general masses. In this regard, first of all, he never presented himself as a perfect creature. He knew he had flaws and he was quite about them (Rozell and Whitney 2007, 1). Most of all, what was quite attractive for masses was his alcoholic past. He used to openly tell people about how he had a distracted youth, but then recovered back to a normal and presentable life. This was something in which people could see themselves and find him a role model and hence, he made his place in the hearts of people (Rozell and Whitney 2007, 1). However, what used to hit the Christian right was something beyond this point. He had a rough past, but what him back to normal life, according to Bush himself, was Bible. While telling his story, he used to tell that Bible brought him back to life and he used to praise Christianity so much that once he even called Jesus his favorite philosopher in an interview (Rozell and Whitney 2007, 1). Thus, although he opted for a path different than normal election campaigners, who try to present themselves as perfect and a mixture of liberal and conservative approach to attract voters from each end, Bush was quite open about his inclination towards Christian right. This hit bull’s eye and earned him a respectable place very quickly in the Christian Right circles.
Before the elections 2000, Christian right was quite scattered, as noted by William Martin (1999). However, the way Bush introduced himself in the media brought the scattered pieces of Right together and united them to vote for Bush to quite an extent. Martin (1999, 68) writes that 25% of religious right constitutes of White protestant evangelicals; no other group is bigger or even closer to the numbers this group has. Therefore, this was one of the major targets for Bush for getting elected to White House. However, Bush did it quite successfully. The results of the 2000 Presidential elections came as follows: Berlet (2003) notes that since the voters were scattered so only 14% identified themselves as Christian right and an overwhelming majority of those, 79%, voted for George W. Bush. Similarly, 84% of those 45% who identified themselves as Evangelicals voted for Bush. However, he was not quite popular among Black protestants. But from Catholics, he got 57% of their total votes. Overall, Bush’s 40% vote bank was from Religious rights (Berlet 2003). And according to Rozell and Whitney (2007), Bush earned 68% of total religious vote, which comprised of 34% of total votes (14). So, in short, Bush’s presidential campaign worked out quite successfully in bringing him religious vote, despite being not united. The magic that Bush’s personality had casted over Christian right brought him to White House successfully. And this did not just happen in 2000 elections, but also in 2004 elections.
In 2004 Presidential elections, there was a clear divide between religious right and liberals. And without any doubt, Bush was relying on religious right while his opponent, John Kerry, was being backed by liberals of the country. Hence, the unity of right wing and its strength became very clear in the 2004 election results. 2004 elections were labled as “Moral Values Campaign” (Rozell and Whitney 2007, 22). The reason for that was the issues on which the campaign was being run. Gay marriage, abortion and other such agendas were on the list which brought a clear divide among hardcore religious groups against liberals (Rozell and Whitney 2007). 75% of the Bush voters believed protecting religious values by a President is a good notion, while 96% of Kerry’s voters believed the opposite (Rozell and Whitney 2007, 22). This is where the superficial ideal of religion and politics staying separate gets fully exposed in so called liberal societies as America.
It was these moral values, Bush’s personality as well as his service to Christian Right agenda, as noted by Kaplan (2005), that it united the right wing and they came out in huge numbers to elect him to office again and save their future by saving moral values. So, the results of 2004 elections are obvious: Bush won by a clear majority. Or in other words, religious moral values won against liberals in America. The conservative religious vote for Bush increased even more from 47% to 52% as noted by Rozell and Whitney (2007, 23). So, the Christian Right successfully influenced masses for voting a candidate of their choice. In other words, people voted for Bush based on their religious beliefs and influences despite the fact that they popularly promote the ideals of demarcating between religion and politics. However, in this Bush-Christian Right relation, it was not only Bush who was getting benefits by getting their votes, but like previous Christian Right backed presidents, his policies were also made on the lines of Christian Right’s agenda.
George W. Bush and Christian Right’s relation was not one-sided. In fact, both needed each other and both served each other quite strongly and openly. George W. Bush came to power with Religious right’s support and then served their agenda in both domestic and foreign policy, quite significantly. As mentioned before, 2004 elections were about moral values like gay marriage and abortion and others. And Christian Right stand on this was without any doubt against both. And Bush was quite open about his views which were in line with Christian Right. His vision or policy outline was promoted as promoting a “culture of life” (Jelen 2007, 197). Hence, in this regard, he replaced Darwanian studies from schools with intelligent design studies. Similarly, under the light of the vision of ‘culture of life’ there were anti-family planning and anti-abortion related bills passed in Congress during Bush regime (Pizzo 2004).
Moreover, Bush went against gay marriage as that does not give ‘life.’ He is reported to have openly opposed court’s decision regarding amending anti-gay marriage laws and have said that marriage is “only between a man and a woman” (“Rise of the Religious Right” 2007). Thus, throughout his stay in office he kept staunch with Christian Right’s ideas about gay marriage. That is why later, when in 2012, Obama who was quite open and favorable for gay marriage won the elections, it was reported by newspapers as end of Christian Right in America and “gay marriage won” (Sessions 2012). However, the recent victory of Republicans, who are backed by Christian Right, in Senate in midterm elections 2014 (“The Republicans win the Senate” 2014) shows very clearly that Christian Right might have faced a temporary demise, but it is still very strong, active and effective in bringing people into the White House and kicking them out too. Nonetheless, Christian Right during Bush’s administration was quite strong and influential so much so that from the policies of Bush, analysts wrote that he gave rise to Christian fundamentalism in America (Pizzo 2004).
In a nutshell, religion and politics in American go hand in hand with each other. Bush administration is a clear proof of that. In which not only, Christian Right influenced the voting to elect its favorite candidate to presidency, but then, also got its policies and agendas implemented quite successfully. Bush attracted the Christian right to himself through his personality traits. While Christian Right’s support increased many folds from 2000 to 2004 elections and in 2004 elections, he came up as an even strong President and influenced decisions and policies in favor of Christian Right with all his will. Moreover, although during Obama regime, the Christian Right experienced a downfall, but the recent polls’ results show that they are back in action and their story might never come to end in America.
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