In October's Atlantic Monthly, Joshua Green followed Roy Moore - or, more specifically Roy's Rock - on tour. Who's Roy Moore, and what's Roy's Rock? Well, Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who became something of a cult hero to the extreme religious conservative crowd when he commissioned a 2.6-ton (!) statute of the Ten Commandments (aka Roy's Rock), had it placed in the Alabama Supreme Court building under cover of darkness, and was later forced out of his position when federal judges determined its unconstitutionality. When crews removed The Rock, there were protests that, I'm assuming, consisted largely of gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts.
Since that time, Roy and his Rock have been in exile, but have held a large part of the Deep South limelight. His battle with the courts, and his deep-rooted belief that Christianity should not only be represented in government, but that it should be at the core of government, has won him legions of fans among the religious right crowd. Moore argues, essentially, for nothing short of a Christian theocracy. His campaign started with the Rock and the courthouse, and will soon move to a race for Alabama governor, and - perhaps? probably? - end with a run for the presidency, or another national office a la that other famous Alabaman reactionary, George Wallace.
So what does Roy's Rock have to do with abortion and Harriet Miers? Moore and his cohort of Christian crusaders represent a force in modern American politics that, when directed toward a common, specific goal (say, for example, the reelection of George W. Bush?) has the capability to swing elections in their favor. This cohort is intimidating and insatiable in its hunger for the organization of government around Christianity, particularly evangelical Christianity. (Remember, there are still large parts of this country that consider Catholics papists and the pope Satan...for real.) This cohort is also largely comprised of the vast anti-abortionista lobby, who drool over Roy's Rock so much that the thing has to be chemical washed wherever it goes.
What I've had a hard time understanding these past few years, is how and why this segment of the population, after electing and reelecting Bush, and holding majorities in both houses of Congress, still manages to maintain such a simmering anger. And then along came Harriet Miers...
Perhaps the time has come when the so-called social conservatives of this country have realized that abortion will never be made illegal. Not only would it be a disastrous failure of social policy, its politically untenable for Republicans holding political office. Despite holding the levers of power, the radical right has still witnessed a series of failures. Federal ban on gay marriage, anyone? Split establishment clause positions in the Supreme Court? The filibuster fight? And, though I loathe to mention her, Terri Schiavo? It behooves Republicans - mainstream and otherwise - to keep the blood temperature of radical social conservatives simmering just below boil. That way, when election time comes around, they can stoke the flames with auto-pilot speeches, declare that next time 'round they really will do something about that social conservative agenda, and ride the wave of radical indignation all the way back to their D.C. offices.
In nominating Harriet Miers, a decision that has left everyone but members of the Bush administration flabbergasted, the president - just like his father before him - disappointed his radical right base. Roy and his crowd were left in the lurch with an untested, unqualified nobody when they were spoiling for a fight. And so the rightist reaction hums along.
I have to wonder, though, how long the charade will be played. How long will the radical right sit in the corner, like a red-faced, bleary-eyed six-year-old during a temper tantrum, before finally turning on those who keep telling them to wait their turn. How long before they hijack the Republican Party and boot the moderates, or cause a schism and move to the magical land of third-party obscurity tempered only by political purity. How long must we wait for that blessed relief, Lord, how long?