In the wake of Mitt Romney’s near-landslide defeat in the 2012 presidential election, many prominent conservatives have argued that the Republican Party needs to moderate its extremist appearance in order to expand its tent and compete in future elections. Even the Tea Party representatives in Congress now seem to agree that the party must avoid the heated, public confrontations with the White House that marked most of the past four years.
Unfortunately for these Republicans, a critical portion of their base does not seem to have gotten the message.
Bob Jeffress, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas and a leader of the religious right, is one of those Republicans who isn’t interested in working with the president. On the contrary, Jeffress believes that Obama’s re-election will lead to the rise of the Antichrist.
“I want you to hear me tonight, I am not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist, I am not saying that at all. One reason I know he’s not the Antichrist is the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes,” Jeffress said last Sunday.
“President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist,” Jeffress continued. “[It] is time for Christians to stand up and to push back against this evil that is overtaking our nation”
Jeffress, who famously referred to Mormonism as a “cult” while opposing Romney during the Republican primaries, is not the only member of the religious right who seems to recoil from working with the president. Rev. Franklin Graham, who has suggested that President Obama may be Muslim, has warned that Obama’s re-election “sent America further down a ‘path of destruction.’”
Similarly, American Family Association activist Bryan Fischer — who publicly took credit over the summer for forcing Romney to cut ties with his openly gay foreign policy advisor Richard Grenell — tweeted on election night that “Today was Pearl Harbor. Tomorrow we begin planning for Normandy.”
While the religious right refuses to moderate its strict anti-Obama stance, the rest of the Republican Party may be starting to wonder whether appeasing the group is still worth the trouble. Although evangelical Christians voted overwhelmingly for Romney, they arguably have less political impact than ever before. As Public Religion Research Institute chief executive Robert P. Jones told The New York Times, “Barack Obama’s coalition was less than 4 in 10 white Christian,” yet he was still able to win comfortably. Furthermore, three states voted in favor of marriage equality on Election Day, marking major defeats for the religious right.
“This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable,” Jones concluded. If he’s correct, then Jeffress, Graham, and Fischer’s fury may not ultimately matter.