The Atlantic

The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum

A faction of the religious right has concluded that if liberal democracy does not guarantee victory, then it must be abandoned.
Source: Andrew Kelly / Reuters

By the tail end of the Obama administration, the culture war seemed lost. The religious right sued for détente, having been swept up in one of the most rapid cultural shifts in generations. Gone were the decades of being able to count on attacking its traditional targets for political advantage. In 2013, Chuck Cooper, the attorney defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage, begged the justices to allow same-sex-marriage opponents to lose at the ballot box rather than in court. Conservatives such as George Will and Rod Dreher griped that LGBTQ activists were “sore winners,” intent on imposing their beliefs on prostrate Christians, who, after all, had already been defeated.

The rapidity of that cultural shift, though, should not obscure the contours of the society that the religious right still aspires to preserve: a world where women have no control over whether to carry a pregnancy to term, same-sex marriage is illegal, and gays and lesbians can be arrested and incarcerated for having sex in their own homes and be barred from raising children. The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.

That was then. The tide of illiberalism sweeping over Western countries and the election of Donald Trump have since renewed hope among some on the religious right that it might revive its cultural and , a faction of the religious right now looks to sectarian ethno-nationalism to restore its beliefs to their rightful primacy, and to rescue a degraded and degenerate culture. All that stands in their way is democracy, and the fact that most .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min read
A ‘Ridiculous’ Emmys Night for Fleabag
The acclaimed Amazon series created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge swept the comedy category, beating out heavyweights such as Veep and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The Atlantic10 min read
Spain’s Attempt To Atone For A 500-Year-Old Sin
The country is offering citizenship to Jews whose families it expelled in the 15th century.
The Atlantic11 min readPolitics
What Would Jeremy Corbyn Mean for Britain’s Foreign Policy?
The Labour Party leader could be the country’s next prime minister, and could well redefine its role in the world.