The morning after barely missing a spot in the December runoff, congressional candidate Zach Dasher sat down in his Ouachita Parish home to the first real breakfast he had had with his family in a couple of months.
Baer, his pre-K son, bowed to bless the meal. “He said, ‘God, thanks for letting Daddy lose, so we can go back to being normal,’ ” Dasher recalled.
Normal, which presumably means a life without politics, may still be a ways away.
True, Dasher came up 1,860 votes shy — out of 239,545 cast — but the results provided him with evidence that his goal of merging the tea partyers with the Christian right is possible. “Conservatism, in the long haul, will be unable to accomplish anything without it,” Dasher said. The two groups stand side-by-side politically; they just don’t operate together.
In dozens of stump speeches, Dasher repeated: America’s Founding Fathers relied on divine faith to guide an economic system that had little government interference. Those who adhere to libertarian free-market economics need to adopt a religiously based morality and those who call themselves conservative Christians need to welcome the laissez-faire economic system.
Embracing those tenets would strengthen America and would help roll back the rising tide of the secular community using the arm of the state to attack Christian values, Dasher said.
Dasher is perhaps better known as the nephew of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” family of reality television fame. Robertson cut a commercial, holding a tattered Bible and an automatic rifle, saying “Bibles and guns brought us here and Bibles and guns will keep us here. Zach Dasher believes in both.”
While tea party and religious right candidates didn’t win too many — establishment Republicans swept the day –— Dasher points out that they polled better than expected and did so without watering down their basic message.
One example is Rob Maness, who ran to the right of Congressman Bill Cassidy, the establishment GOP candidate, in the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
With apologies to Sarah Palin — her pre-vote predictions were optimistic — nearly all the polls prior to the primary election pegged Maness, a first-time candidate, at 10 percent or below of the total vote. In the end, he did much better than anticipated, drawing 202,532 ballots or 14 percent of the total vote.
An exit poll of Louisiana voters, conducted by Edison Research, of Somerville, New Jersey, for The Associated Press, found that 37 percent of the state’s voters support tea party candidates, while 26 percent oppose them.
The tea party, as such, is not a large singular organization in Louisiana. It’s more a loose association of people who share similar philosophies gathered in maybe a half dozen or so separate groups scattered around the state.
“The independent tea parties, like us, but not necessarily the national tea parties, are very closely aligned with the evangelical community because we are strong Christians,” said Bob Reid, who heads the Tea Party of Louisiana, the largest such organization in the state with about 15,000 members.
Tea party members, basically, go to church with conservative Protestants, attend the same social functions and send their children to the same Sunday night youth programs.
But, other than agreeing with each other philosophically, there’s little coordination to move the evangelical community into political action, he said.
Personally, Reid says he’d like explore ways to, say, help conservative Christians register and turn out the vote. He spoke while preparing to go to a night service at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, which was featuring an update on the City of Houston mayor subpoenaing five pastors in connection with a lawsuit over the city’s equal right ordinance. The satellite uplink presentation was shown simultaneously at several hundred churches across the South.
While the religious right might be open to merger, the libertarians predict a rough union.
The Libertarian Party, which most consistently pushes the flat taxes and regulatory rollbacks that Dasher wants the religious right to embrace, also has a laissez-faire attitude towards people’s private lives, said Rufus Holt Craig Jr., who ran in the 6th Congressional District as a Libertarian.
To cite one example, libertarians believe contracts between consenting adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, are not anything with which the government should involve itself. Dasher and the religious right say homosexuality is condemned in the Bible and should be in America, he said.
“I wish the world was so simple that we could pass a law that says ‘Thou shalt not do X’ — smoke cigarettes, get fat, whatever,” Craig said. “Those are things that we believe belong in the moral sphere.”
Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate Capitol news bureau. Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCNB. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.