Neal Gabler at the LA Times has this exactly right — the party that kowtowed for too long to the Religious Right has successfully converted the entire conservative movement into a fundamentalist religion with all the trappings of radicalization and irrationality.
Religious groups may have found a community of interest with a political party to further their aims; they have not, by and large, sought to convert the political system into a religious one. Until now.
The tea-baggers who hate President Obama with a fervor that is beyond politics; the fear-mongers who warn that Obama is another Hitler or Stalin; the wannabe storm troopers who brandish their guns and warn darkly of the president’s demise; the cable and talk-radio blowhards who make a living out of demonizing Obama and tarring liberals as America-haters — these people are not just exercising their rights within the political system. They honestly believe that the political system — a system that elected Obama — is broken and only can be fixed by substituting their certainty for the uncertainties of American politics.
As we are sadly discovering, this minority cannot be headed off, which is most likely why conservatism transmogrified from politics to a religion in the first place. Conservatives who sincerely believed that theirs is the only true and right path have come to realize that political tolerance is no match for religious vehemence.
Unfortunately, they are right. Having opted out of political discourse, they are not susceptible to any suasion. Rationality won’t work because their arguments are faith-based rather than evidence-based. Better message control won’t work. Improved strategies won’t work. Grass-roots organizing won’t work. Nothing will work because you cannot convince religious fanatics of anything other than what they already believe, even if their religion is political dogma.
I shouldn’t pull that large a blockquote, but the entire damned piece deserves a read. If we’re to understand why fundamentalists are now dominating the discourse in America, and pulling the nation further and further into the rabbit hole, we need to understand why, and how, religion has perverted the Loyal Opposition.