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Critic at Large: Palin shows what happens to party highjacked by zealots

Critic at Large: Palin shows what happens to party highjacked by zealots

Who knows how the Sarah Palin story will play out? It seems as if every political pundit in America

Who knows how the Sarah Palin story will play out? It seems as if every political pundit in America has a take on Palin’s resignation as Alaska’s governor.

They can be mean-spirited (She’s hiding a scandal!), or cynical (Since she can rake in $60 grand and up for a simple speaking engagement, she’s taking the money and running like hell.)

Some wonder whether this is her way of tuning up for a presidential run in 2012, or is the resignation a case of a hometown girl unable to stand the heat in her kitchen?

We will get more information, but if we stand back, one thing stands true: Palin’s departure signals the bankruptcy of the Republican Party. It’s what happens when the party of Reagan and Lincoln allows itself to be hijacked by the religious right, zealots suckered into the shaky belief that America is a Christian country, forgetting or ignoring the reality that the most prominent of our founding fathers were deists — men who believed in a who god created us and then left us on our own.

If we acknowledge that we are a country founded by religious zealots, we must also recognize that many of the men we regard as founding fathers were secular humanists. Their god was reason. Or as Tom Paine declared, followers of “Common Sense.”

It’s no coincidence that our forefathers made the separation of church and state first on their list of amendments. They knew or feared what would happen if America really did turn into a Christian country.

Petition of 1785

Here’s part of petition signed by group of citizens Chesterfield, Va., in 1785, bidding legislators to avoid that danger:

“Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty . . . thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is men’s labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws.”

By pandering or catering to the religious right, Republican leaders lost their way and, in the process, alienated many of the party faithful turned off by excessive displays of devotion. Colin Powell jumped ship, and it is widely believed that John McCain would have chosen Joe Lieberman as his running mate if the selection would not have offended members of the religious right.

Hence, the selection of a God-fearing, Christian woman, who in an e-mail, announced the birth of her son “not in her name but in God’s.”

As reported in the current issue of Vanity Fair, Palin signed the news of Trig’s birth: “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.”

Can you imagine such a missive coming from traditional Republicans like Eisenhower, Reagan, Lincoln or McCain?

Public opinion

It’s not surprising, writes J.E. Dionne, “that a recent Washington-Post/ABC survey found that only 36 percent of Americans held a favorable opinion of the Republican Party; 56 percent had a negative view. Other polls show the GOP in even worse shape.”

That’s the situation facing Republicans in the next elections. Besides Mitt Romney, who are the leaders? Maybe Sarah Palin should seize the day and accept those lucrative speaking offers before her well dries up.

Reach Dan DiNicola at [email protected]

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