Is the GOP Ready to Abandon the Religious Right


McKay Coppins at Buzzfeed thinks that the new report from the Republican National Committee that seeks to figure out a path for the party to remain nationally viable in the midst of major demographic and ideological shifts may signal a break with the Christian right.

When the great Republican resurrection comes to pass, will conservative Christians be left behind?
Some leaders of the religious right are openly worried this week after a sprawling 98-page report released by the Republican National Committee on how the party can rebuild after its 2012 implosion made no mention of the GOP’s historic alliance with grassroots Christian “value voters.”

Specifically, the word “Christian” does not appear once in the party’s 50,000-word blueprint for renewed electoral success. Nor does the word “church.” Abortion and marriage, the two issues that most animate social conservatives, are nowhere to be found. There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society. And the few fleeting suggestions that the party coordinate with “faith-based communities” — mostly in the context of minority outreach — receive roughly as much space as the need to become more “inclusive” of gays.

To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. “You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.”

Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report’s proposals amount to a “namby-pamby” abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

“They should be deeply concerned they’re going to be alienating their base,” Rios said, adding, “It seems to me that the leadership of the party is intent on that course. Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.”

The RNC, of course, says they have no intention of losing their base. But do they have a choice? This is the problem they face, how to hold on to their theo-conservative base and still appeal to an increasingly younger and non-white electorate. And flowery rhetoric isn’t going to cut it. If the GOP doesn’t continue to push against gay rights, abortion and other issue the Christian right is passionate about, they risk losing at least a portion of those votes to a third party. But if they continue to focus on those issues, they alienate moderate and younger voters. And it isn’t going to be easy to navigate between the Scylla and Caribdis. But Ralph Reed, who is simultaneously an ideologue and a savvy political strategist, is trying to soothe the fears of his fellow theo-cons:

And while Reed, who said he was personally consulted when the report was being assembled, disagreed with its proposal to eliminate the use of conventions and caucuses during the Republican primary season, he said he found little else in the RNC review that alarmed him.

As for the AFA’s threats of widespread Christian disillusionment, Reed said he wasn’t worried.

“I wouldn’t interpret too much into that. There are always healthy tensions and pains in growing a party,” he said. “A political party is not a church and its function is not to promulgate and support a religious doctrine.”

But that’s highly disingenuous. Reed and the rest of the Christian right certainly believes that the platform of the party should be to support their religious doctrines. And if they don’t get that, at least some of them are going to go looking for a new home. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council made that threat quite directly in a press release in response to the RNC’s study:

If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely – or move to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority.

Comments

  1. Ben P says

    When the great Republican resurrection comes to pass, will conservative Christians be left behind?

    Very clever reference.

  2. says

    I hope I hope I hope I hope!

    If the Republicans turn aside from the religious right, the Talibangelicals will almost certainly set up a theocratic party all their own, splitting conservatives into two minority parties. With luck, the pendulum will begins swinging back to the left.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Is the GOP Ready to Abandon the Religious Right?

    Hope so. Its long overdue.

  4. schism says

    You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base…

    Unless the current party base is preventing it from growing in the first place.

    …this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.

    …and this is proof of the previous point. Sorry, AFA, Christian fanatics aren’t the biggest demographic in the country anymore. So very, sarcastically sorry.

  5. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely – or move to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority.

    What the evangelical rightwingers don’t understand, is that this will also put them into a permanent minority. GO FOR IT!

  6. MikeMa says

    Theocratic 3rd party? Bring it on. Without the small moderating efforts still present in the current GOP, can you imagine the platform and the stump speeches? Priceless. The differences between them and any Muslim theocratic realm would be invisible. And instructive.

  7. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    I might also add, that having a more sane Republican Party may very well be good for the country. Who’d a thunk it?

  8. anubisprime says

    Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.”

    Nope…if the Rethugs abandon the xtians then the xtians have a lot more to lose…like a presence in a major political party.

    They can of course do their own thing and form a xtian political party staffed with fundies and idiots and assorted dumbfucks receiving their mandate from Fox.
    That might be worth it for the entertainment factor and might even gain a popularity that will scare the shit out of the two main parties in the beginning but it will be short lived as the banality and moronic stupidity becomes the laughing stock of a nation.

    At least with the rethugs they could disguise a lot of their nonsense behind republican policy elsewhere in the right wing manifesto, but naked they are going to be seen for what they are…fucktards with ignorance as a feature and not a bug!

    It would accelerate their timely demise from this mortal coil….bring it on!

  9. Chiroptera says

    Huh. Maybe the Republican Party will be able to win back the traditional conservatives (those who use fear mongering to promote a draconian law and order police state and a military neo-colonial foreign policy), leaving the progressives a more substantial part of the Democratic Party.

  10. says

    Given the Christian right’s capacity for swallowing bullshit, I’m sure the Republicans will find some line to feed them that will keep them in place. Sadly, that’s the reality when you’re dealing with a group of people who are mostly authoritarian followers.

  11. Doug Little says

    So without the religious right would the Repubs become more ideologically libertarian? I would think that this would be their greatest chance for success.

  12. says

    We’ve seen this bait and switch already. In 2010, the teabaggers swore up and down that they all about economic isssues like spending, taxes, and jobs. They had no interest in the “cultural war” issues. And once they got into power on both the state and federal level? Abortion and gays.

    So no, the GOP is not ready to abandon the religious right. They may put them up in the attic for a while, but they aren’t abandoning them.

  13. D. C. Sessions says

    And if they don’t get that, at least some of them are going to go looking for a new home.

    Well, that depends now doesn’t it?

    What if primary turnout is dominated by the people that the RNC wants to cut out of the process?

  14. cptdoom says

    A political party is not a church and its function is not to promulgate and support a religious doctrine.

    Well, that was the theory, back before the Southern Strategy and the Reagan Revolution moved the GOP to aligning itself with the burgeoning Christian political movement, and alignment that has become more and more pronounced over the last 30 years. That alignment not only required GOP candidates to voice at least some support for the social oppression of the Christian political movement, but also to use the rhetoric of religion in political debate – so liberalism was not simply a “bad” idea, but “ungodly” and “unchristian.” Now we have to deal with the fruits of that movement – a nutjob wing of the GOP has taken over and regards any compromise on political principles as akin to heresy. How can you compromise with pure evil?

    There is no doubt that, to be a viable party in the future, the GOP must abandon its alignment, or it will have absolutely no means to govern a population that is rapidly moving beyond their rhetoric. That means the party will have to alienate that base, and likely lose their support and a lot of elections before they can rebuild. The issue for the rest of us is that, during the time they are rebuilding they are also not a functional political party, so we have paralysis in government. How much damage will they do before they right their ship?

  15. sc_72717b0d8dc4053e632b6512091cef73 says

    I come from a fundamentalist Baptist family, and the fact that my siblings lined up enthusiastically behind a Mormon for President in the last election and a woman for Vice President (despite their deeply held beliefs that women should never be in a position of authority) tells me that they will swallow whatever line the Republicans give them. Wave a flag and make a few vague references to “providence” and they will still follow, even if you quietly accept gay marriage and other concessions to modernity (because “the evil liberals have forced it on us and we must work with what we’re given in these dark times, as we wait for the glorious return of Our Lord”).

  16. raven says

    Tony Perkins:

    If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely – or move to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority.

    No they won’t.

    They have no where else to go.

    In the last election, the xian right wingnuts nominated a part Reptilian nonxian candidate. As many pointed out, Obama probably won because god wanted a xian for President.

    Their religion is hollowed out. It’s just right wing extremist politics with a few crosses stuck on for show.

  17. says

    Ed Brayton wrote:

    This is the problem they face, how to hold on to their theo-conservative base and still appeal to an increasingly younger and non-white electorate.

    And don’t forget increasingly more secular and less religious electorate.

    Tony Perkins wrote:

    If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely – or move to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority.

    Actually, either option would put the Democrats on a path to a permanent majority. No matter what Tony Perkins may believe, the Tea Party can no more win elections without the centrist voters as the establishment GOP can without the right wing voters.

  18. raven says

    Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.”

    What xian principles?

    The only fundie principles are hate, lies, and hypocrisy.

    They are right wing extremists first and second they are…well, nothing really. Babbling idiots maybe.

    This whole question is the wrong way. The fundies have owned the GOP for over a decade. The real question is whether they will burn the few moderates left at the stake or hang them. If they can even find enough moderates to make a decent bonfire.

  19. says

    The Republicans, as they are, are going to continue winning elections for at least the next 8 years for two reasons:

    1) The Great Gerrymander of 2010 (with power to add if the states go ahead and start gerrymandering the Electoral College)

    2) The likelihood that there will be a Democrat in the White House until 2020 (at least), in the form of Hillary Clinton.

    The gerrymandering will continue to allow the Republican Party to punch above its weight, and having a Democrat in the White House will allow them to continue to act irresponsibly as the opposition to the Democratic administration.

    Thus I don’t really see that much will change over the rest of the decade. Running another “moderate” in 2016 (like Christie) and losing again (if Clinton runs) will do nothing to persuade the base that they themselves need to moderate their positions.

  20. laurentweppe says

    • Right-wing party makes a deal with the far-right,believing that they can keep the useful-idiots on a tight leash.

    • Far-rightists start practicing entryism on a massive scale: it does not even has to be a massive coordinated campain: the appeal of becoming associated with a “respectable” part of the political elite is incentive enough to fuel this behavior.

    • The useful idiots become so entwined within the political class that they are now in a position to bully the old elites while said elites cannot retaliate without heavily damaging their party.

    If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely – or move to create a third party. Either option puts Republicans on the path to a permanent minority.

    You know, something similar happened in opst-WW2 France: with its last shred of credibility owned by De Gaulle, the Right repudiated the fascists it had courted so much before the war, who of course reacted by saying that the Right was “as bad” as the left and that they would suffer as much when the fascists’ day of reckoning would come. For decades, the neo-fascists remained on the fringes. But eventually, the old guard of fascists died, and was replaced by people who had been too young to have been enthusiastic supporters of Pétain and were savvy enough to alter their speeches: so the anti-semitic, catholic fundamentalist, monarchist french far-right became islamophobic, pretended to be more secularist than the secularists (who were proclaimed to be “not true” secularists because they opposed disenfranchising Muslims), and replaced their nostalgia for the ancient regime with reaganian supply-side fetichism first, then when This fell out of favor, with populist sound-bites copied straight from the far-left playbook.
    .
    Eventually, the new coat of paint, associated with the fact that having been far from wielding actual power for so long that now most people never experienced personally the life under a far-right regime means that the neo-fascists are once again a force that the traditional right is actively courting, thus being ready to restart the self-defeating process I described at the beginning of this comment. I would not be surprised if the american right did something similar: wait until the theocons become so universally reviled to throw them under the bus, only to start courting them again one of two generations later.

  21. Trebuchet says

    There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society.

    And they manage to put those two utterly contradictory ideas together without the slightest hint of irony.

    I don’t think there’s much chance of a religious party having much impact, or even getting organized. There are simply too many “leaders” with similar, but different, views of religion. And the fundies aren’t going to vote for Democrats anyhow, the best we can hope for is that a few of them stay home.

    I disagree, by the way, that the fundies constitute the Republican base. They’d like to think they are, but they’re not. The base is with the big money and big corporations. That’s apparent from their last presidential candidate.

  22. lancifer says

    Trebuchet

    ‘There is nothing about the need to protect religious liberty, or promote Judeo-Christian values in society.’

    And they manage to put those two utterly contradictory ideas together without the slightest hint of irony.

    Why don’t you know that Judeo-Christianity (TM) is the only religion? All those others are dangerous “cults”. Protecting “religious liberty” is the same thing as “promoting Judeo-Christian values”.

  23. Rip Steakface says

    I feel like this is one of those titles begging for a one word answer.

    “No.”

    I think a quote from Rorschach of Watchmen would also be applicable.

    The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”

    And we’ll whisper back: No.

  24. Synfandel says

    Tony Perkins:

    If the RNC abandons marriage…

    Is the Republican Party considering outlawing marriage? That’s radical.

  25. sundoga says

    Losing the relig relics and the soc bloc would definitely help matters. The Republican party would still have a problem with too many members beholden to big business, but frankly that seems to be a universal problem in US politics.

  26. says

    “In the last election, the xian right wingnuts nominated a part Reptilian nonxian candidate. As many pointed out, Obama probably won because god wanted a xian for President.”

    But Obama is not a True Christian ™ because he doesn’t hate gays and lady parts and, well, you know

  27. dogmeat says

    With luck, the pendulum will begins swinging back to the left.

    Gregory,

    No matter how desirable this may be, why would it do so? The reasonable Republicans have been leaving the party for years, many of them have shifted to the Democrats and have assisted that party in its shift from the middle to the right. Why would the fracturing of the hard-right Republicans lead to the center-right Democrats shifting to the left? If anything I would expect the Democrats to shift a little more to the right as they gobble up the more left-right leaning Republicans.

    This is good in that it is forcing the remaining political bastion against marriage equality, racial equality, and gender equality to at least examine itself. But given the general slide to the right that we’ve seen over the last decade, I’m not particularly optimistic that a Democratic majority is all that different from a Republican majority of the 80s.

  28. matty1 says

    They can of course do their own thing and form a xtian political party staffed with fundies and idiots and assorted dumbfucks receiving their mandate from Fox.

    Honest question from a Brit who has only seen Fox in online clips. Is it more a Christianist channel that happens to back Republicans because they sell that brand or a partisan Republican channel that gives airtime to Christianists because they vote the right way?

  29. slc1 says

    Re matty1

    The latter. Interesting considering that Murdock is not noted for being particularly religious and the Koch brothers are notorious non-believers.

  30. says

    Honest question from a Brit who has only seen Fox in online clips. Is it more a Christianist channel that happens to back Republicans because they sell that brand or a partisan Republican channel that gives airtime to Christianists because they vote the right way?

    The latter. They often work hand-in-glove with the Republican Party in the dissemination of the latest GOP talking points. How much is due to ideology vs profit motive can certainly be debated, but any alignment with Christianists is a marriage of convenience, nothing more.

  31. hunter says

    That quote from Perkins is priceless — if the evangelicals bolt and the Republicans become a permanent minority, where does that leave the evangelicals? He can’t honestly believe they’re going to form a new majority? (Of course, I don’t think Perkins ever does anything honestly.)

  32. laurentweppe says

    where does that leave the evangelicals? He can’t honestly believe they’re going to form a new majority?

    They will form the vanguard of Real True Christians who, finally freed from their alliance with the squichy moderate conservative, will in a glorious uprising take up arms and slaughter their way to the top.

  33. robertfaber says

    If you take out the culture issues, what message is the GOP left with? Smaller government? That’s losing it’s appeal, especially now that the democrats are growing balls (or brains) and explaining what the republicans actually mean by that, which is cuts in social security and medicare, which a huge supermajority of voters don’t want to see. Rising tide lifts all boats? The number of people who actually believe supply side works, given the evidence of the last 30 years, is going to keep dwindling. And the foreign policy advantage the GOP had held since the Iran Hostage crisis vanished with the recent wars of adventure. They really don’t have a lot to offer white evangelical voters, let alone everyone else.

    I don’t think the evangelicals will split to form a viable 3rd party. But the evangelicals are not as strong a voting bloc as they are made out to be. Obama himself got 30% of the white protestant vote, down from 34% in 2008 but given the blitzkrieg of hate against him that’s still a pretty strong showing, and Hillary’s numbers are going to be much stronger. If the GOP stops appealing specifically to the religious right, you’re going to see some of them move to the Constitution party but mostly you’re going to see more of them vote for democrats.

  34. schweinhundt says

    A hard split between the theo-cons and the Republicans would probably help the GOP in races for the President and, possibly, the US Senate. However, it would likely hurt (initially anyway) in the US House and state races.

  35. schweinhundt says

    Tacitus @22:
    Given the general left-leaning concentration in urban areas and the diffuse (but wide-ranging) right-leaning prevalence in rural areas, I suspect that human geography is more of a factor than gerrymandering.

  36. Michael Heath says

    Trebuchet writes:

    I disagree, by the way, that the fundies constitute the Republican base. They’d like to think they are, but they’re not. The base is with the big money and big corporations. That’s apparent from their last presidential candidate.

    An alternative exists and it’s what I observe consistent with Thomas Frank’s thesis in What’s the Matter with Kansas. There are two bases, one is the voting base, which is conservatives dominated by populist conservative Christians and the other base is the party’s financial constituents. The financial constituency lacks the votes to win elections and therefore needs to finance candidates and causes which will do their bidding while pandering to the voting base.

    Chris Mooney’s Republican Brain reports on the plethora of scientific studies which explain how the financial constituents can play their targeted voting base. It’s no coincidence the voting base are reality deniers, that’s a needed element for this scheme to work.

  37. sundoga says

    Robertfaber@40 – There’s still plenty of distance between the moderate left and moderate right to argue about. Supply side economics isn’t dead but should be, but there’s still plenty of people (myself included) that would like to see smaller governments and greater restriction on the powers of government. The balance of power between state and federal governments, gun ownership, involvement with international bodies, precisely how to reform the immigration system – all of these are areas reasonable people can disagree on and take issue with.

  38. Michael Heath says

    sundoga writes:

    . . . there’s still plenty of people (myself included) that would like to see smaller governments and greater restriction on the powers of government. The balance of power between state and federal governments . . .

    So you must have loved how the states reacted to the recession, with the exact opposite policies needed to defend GDP. And where the federal government’s 2009 stimulus had to initially be directed at falling state spending and the repercussions to jobs in those states; rather than more emphasis on creating new jobs like infrastructure. Where many states were obligated to contract given laws installed since the rise of conservatism which required austerity policies right at the time the economy needed stimulus to aggregate demand. Sheesh.

  39. says

    @Sundoga:

    Gunz need to be regulated by ONE body, the fed. The states have demonstrated that the loudest, looniest and best funded proposals are now LAW. They demonstrate, as nothing else could, what a mistake it is to NOT have federal firearms policies that are uniform and fair to all parties.

  40. Michael Heath says

    sundoga writes:

    Thanks guys, perfect examples!

    Merely declaring victory without first demonstrating such has been credibly earned is not only poor form, but strongly suggests avoidance in order to maintain one’s position in spite of evidence that position is not defensible. I suggest blockquoting that which has you imagining victory and then actually rebutting it.

    I’m all for dancing in the end zone, but one has to at least take a stab at the goal line first; not just declare a TD from the sidelines because you imagine one is deserved.

  41. sundoga says

    MIchael, I think you’ve misunderstood. I wasn’t advocating any of those positions except the reduced government. My point was that there is still enough of a gap between the left and right wing that reasonable people can make a good aergument in favour of either side of them – that there is still a political division between moderates on both sides even if we eject the extemists.
    I think this is not a bad thing, and I believe your and democommie’s responses show that merely mentioning these issues is enough to provoke an argument.
    I’d be more than willing to debate you on any of those issues should we turn out to have basic disagreements over them, but I don’t really think this is the place. And I do, in fact, believe that the point I was trying to make is made.

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