There has been increasing hostility toward Christian involvement in politics, and the animus hasn't been solely from the left. To be sure, Democrats have taken the lead, demonizing conservative Christians as science-challenged scolds who don't care about women's "reproductive rights," but there is plenty of antipathy from certain elements within the Republican Party, as well.
Many establishment and some libertarian Republicans have long looked upon Christian conservatives with mild, condescending contempt. Party leaders from Barry Goldwater to Alan Simpson have openly derided Christians and lamented their negative influence on the party and on the overall political climate.<p>Even Ronald Reagan's warm embrace of faith-based conservatives didn't diminish the establishment's disdain for them, which forcibly reared its head over the Todd Akin and Rick Mourdock kerfuffles. So swift and dramatic was their descent on Akin following his "forcible rape" embarrassment that one could almost infer they were lying in wait for just such an excuse to marginalize outspoken Christian conservatives.
Don't get me wrong; I had serious doubts about Akin's electability after the comments, too, but the establishment's outrage wasn't limited to Akin (or Mourdock) or even to his rape comment. There was palpable disgust from certain quarters on the right over what they perceived as the lunacy of making social issues a part of the equation at all.
If my analysis is incorrect, then why do we hear so much conflation of the Akin and Mourdock incidents with the question of the viability of social conservatism in general? If the outrage over these two was simply limited to their comments, then why are they increasingly cited as Exhibits A and B in the case for purging social conservatism from the Republican Party?
The GOP's distaste for social conservatives this election cycle wasn't confined to the Akin affair. If you'll recall, Rick Santorum was the object of much scorn for his insistence on placing social issues front and center in his campaign. Some of the criticism was based on Santorum's perceived demeanor and sanctimony, but no small amount of it would have occurred even if Santorum had been cheerfully optimistic in his approach to these issues.