Normally, I don't like to dabble in fear. But there is a nasty underbelly to American society that I think we're being a bit Pollyanna-ish about. It's called the Christian Right. Now, I don't mean the decent church-going folks who spend hours of their week organizing or participating in church activities, nor folks who pass along literature such as Gideon's Bibles to college students, nor even the ideal-minded voter who uses abortion as a litmus test for choosing a candidate. By "Christian Right" I mean the organized and fairly well structured affiliation of groups, causes, and leaders who misconstrue the U.S. Constitution as a religious document, who see the world only from their Christian ideology, who don't separate Christian doctrine from American and Western social norms, and who are currently using irresponsible scenarios to fan the flames of hatred and intolerance. See these two links in particular.
While it seems that this presidential election is offering many of the changes it promised (on both sides), what I fear is what happens in four or eight more years. I admit it seems unlikely that in 2012 or even in 2016 that we will be faced with President Palin, I admit that these years are frought with uncertainty. Hard times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes and the base supporting Palin will likely take this to heart as Paosner's article notes. This base feels that they -- and only they -- are the "real America" in Palin's own words. They are the base from which home-grown terrorists are likely to come in the guise of defending that real America.
Janet Folger, for example, has argued that her opponents are "not advocating tolerance. If that were the case, they'd live and let live. Instead, they do things like demand that the Boy Scouts change their position by accepting homosexuality. And they will sue anyone who doesn't agree with them. It's basically forcing people to embrace their behavior" (source). She conflates "tolerance" with maintaining an intolerant status quo, something which lost in the Boy Scout case anyway. But Folger was funded by Rev. James Kennedy and there are more like him -- from Pat Robertson to Rod Parsley, to James Dobson. These are the names of the Christian Right who have their own funding, their own access to power, and their own versions of what the political fringe understands as madrasahs -- radical schools of fundamentalism -- in order to inculcate their inflexible ideology.
On its own, I'd imagine this ideology might wither and die. I certainly don't think it is popular when exposed for what it is. However, the issues it raises resonate with a lot of voters -- even folks who are now going for Obama. Note how even the good Senator from Illinois has bluntly stated that marriage is between one man and one woman; anything else is just too secular for much of America, despite the fact that sanctioning committed relationships between people is the government's job. A marriage license is, after all, a legal document. Tolerance would be accepting ALL forms and religious sanctioning of the practice, regardless of gender and if you don;t want homosexuals to marry, then don't marry them! Furthermore, the McCain campaign has been warning its base about total democratic control of "all branches of government.. no checks and balances." This is malarkey of the first-order as the Court is still famously balanced, if tilting right for now and even in that center-right tilt, it often rules against the Bush administration. Further, there will still be a minority power in Congress and so the deals will not be signed, sealed, and delivered with no input from the Republicans.
Again, though, the point is how this will all unfold itself in the social fabric. Will a coalition of intolerance form under the guise of "real America" and a "real alternative" sort of like a perversion of the Green Party in 2000? Will home-grown terrorism shift the "War on Terror," apparently further legitimating the charges of government persecution? Or, will economic difficulties once again stir age-old racial tensions and divisions, thus muting the progress we have seen under an Obama candidacy? I think the answer remains murky at best, but I have hope that Obama is smart enough to already see this coming. However, there is a lot not within his control: the economy, the massive shift he proposes to a more eco-friendly manufacturing base, the confluence of intolerant ideologies and ideologues, and public perception of how we collectively handle these and other challenges.