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.