In his Nov. 13 segment of MSNBC's Politics Nation, the Rev. Al Sharpton sat down with Frank Schaeffer, columnist for The Huffington Post and author of Crazy for God, to discuss the role of the religious right in the Republican party. Schaeffer characterizes religious right evangelicals as a "cancer" in the Republican party that will not go away, taking the party down with them.
Sharpton explained that the evangelical explosion in politics began in 1980, when "millions helped Ronald Reagan win the presidency" and evangelical leaders like the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson rose in national political prominence. Evangelicals were credited with helping George W. Bush win the presidency in 2004 with 79 percent of the evangelical vote.
Citing an article in The Atlantic, Sharpton said that in the 2012 election, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Republican Mitt Romney. The evangelical vote consisted of 27 percent of the overall electorate — the highest it has ever been in an election, but the evangelical right's social conservative agenda concerning marriage equality and abortion was rejected.
Schaeffer opined that the electorate is weary of "the extremism, the masogony, the anti-woman platform, anti-abortion platform which many evangelicals hold." He added that this election season, right wing Roman Catholic bishops also joined the Republicans with their message that President Obama was "anti-religious."
"The evangelicals have dug themselves in a very deep pit that they can't get out of," he said. "So here you have the Roman Catholic bishops, the evangelicals who have been proven totally ineffective, and can the Republican party move past that? Not on your life."
Schaeffer, who was once a high profile religious right activist, says that the right wing evangelicals are not going to go away because of the big money they enjoy and because they cannot budge from their ideals that are rooted in their faith.
"It'a about money, the leadership," he said. "It is Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Mike Huckabee — they earn a lot of money off of pushing this agenda and saying you give us donations, millions or 25 bucks a pop, and we'll deliver the vote. They have failed miserably and they'll take the Republican party down with them, which is not good for the country." Schaeffer welcomes a vibrant two-party system that debates substantive issues and ideas, but warns that, "These evangelicals are like cancer. They'll take down Republicans with them. They may even peel off into a third party if they can't get their way, then that will be — our system will teeter for awhile until we readjust."