In both the Republican Party and the Vatican, conservative extremists have gained a disproportionate influence on a broad range of issues. Convinced that the culture is godless and corrupted and that many laws and policies are immoral, they have managed to find ways of governing the nation and the Church not from a broad consensual center but from the activist fringes of conservatism. In the US, this has led to an unprecedented political coalition between Catholics and evangelicals, which has helped to elect Republicans and to keep issues like abortion and homosexuality in the forefront of public debate. In the Catholic Church, with the election of a conservative pope, Benedict XVI, it has led to a doctrinal zealotry, the alienation of large numbers of American Catholics, and an increased intrusion of the Church into politics.
In Bush's Fringe Government, Garry Wills examines how the will of the majority in both the United States and the Catholic Church is being thwarted by the growing power of an aggrieved, extremist minority. These extremists claim to be "pro-life." Yet Wills demonstrates, in an analysis of Jimmy Carter's religious beliefs, that by supporting capital punishment and low minimum wages, and opposing gun control, family planning, stem cell research, and universal health insurance, they have become promoters of a "culture of death" that can only be justified by their "self-righteous and punitive fundamentalism," not by the gospels they so insistently preach.