I've read plenty of analyses of how the American conservative right captured the hearts and minds of the faithful. These have been mostly discussions of the tactics; appeals and alignment on social issues (abortion, women's rights, gay rights), making sure that each and every Republican candidate makes the appropriate obsequious noises to god and country, prayer breakfasts and prayer meetings. What I haven't heard adequately explained is why.
Conservatives - politicians in general - are no more or less religious than the rest of us. In fact, given the level of the compromises made to their values daily, I would argue that as a class politicians may be less religious than just about any group in the country except scientists. And citizens who profess faith to one of the major religious cults and their offshoots - supposedly based on the good deeds of some ahistorical figure - should be looking to ally themselves with the party that makes care for their fellow citizens a prime plank in their platform. To borrow one of their own phrases, "what would Jesus do?" So how did that all go so wrong?
The Republican Party has become the party of the white, wealthy elite; that is self obvious. And yet, through the tactics I mentioned above they have captured the reactionary religious factions of the deep south and in a fair bit of the rest of the country. Getting these folks to consistently vote against their own and their children's best interests. But why? Their aims are not the same - at least not the aims they both profess daily. So the Republicans have thrown on the cloak of religion to capture a pretty large voting block, but to those who observe closely, these two groups just don't fit well together. What is it about the faithful do Republicans want (besides their vote)?
Their blind faith.
If someone can believe - against all scientific evidence to the contrary - that the world was created in six days just 10,000 years ago they will believe in Trickle Down Economics. If they believe that the Koran was dictated directly into the ears of a first century man in the Levant by god they will believe that the President was born in Kenya. If they believe that they can speak in tongues with little flames dancing over their heads, they will believe - despite mountains of evidence - that anthropocentric global climate change is a hoax. If they believe that an early first century Jewish teacher - who may or may not have ever actually existed - was the literal "son of god" they'll believe that corporations are people. If they believe any or all of the above, they'll believe just about anything you tell them.
That's why the Right has courted the religious in America. Their ideas and theories have been tested and found wanting many times. They were losing voters; they could see the future and it was not all white men nodding their heads sagely at the preachings of rich white men at the head of businesses looking only to improve the bottom line. But they were not in a hurry to let go of their power or their money. Maybe other writers have come to the same conclusion but I'm sure the editors of major publications would never let this be written for public consumption. In any case, I've never read this anywhere else. But it makes perfect sense. In a twisted kind of way.
And it scares the hell out of me.