Time For A Divorce

By Doug Mataconis | Related entries in General Politics, Republicans

Kathleen Parker that it’s time for the Republican Party to divorce itself from the religious wing of the party:

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

(…)

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

(…)

[T]he GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

Here’s the deal, ‘pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

It isn’t that culture doesn’t matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party — and conservatism with it — eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one’s heart where it belongs.

Parker is, I think, largely correct.

Because of it’s increasingly obsequious adherence to the dictates of the vocal religious right, the GOP has become increasingly disengaged from the great middle of America, which is where elections are won or lost. Extreme examples of this can be found in the Republican Congresses offensively obsessive interference in the Terry Schiavo case, a matter that should have been left to the family or, at the very most, to the courts of the State of Florida, and in the need for even a “maverick” like John McCain to pander to guys like Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer.

As Parker goes on to say, saving the GOP doesn’t mean rejection religion, just putting it in its proper place:

[I]t isn’t necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world’s architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.

But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

(…)

The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won’t get whiter. And the nonreligious won’t get religion through external conversion. It doesn’t work that way.

Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base — or the nation may need a new party.

GOP, the ball’s in your court.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway


This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 and is filed under General Politics, Republicans. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 Responses to “Time For A Divorce”

  1. blackoutyears Says:

    Amen. (snicker)

  2. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    I agree with the sentiment of this article, but notice that it is about culture and not issues. There are only 2 issues deemed “social issues” that are associated with the religious right: abortion and gay marriage. Since the general public overwhelmingly rejects recognition of gay marriage on every ballot initiative, and Obama as well as most democrats who run for federal office also reject gay marriage as a platform, that leaves only abortion.

    Again, there is no evidence that Americans are supportive of Planned Parenthood and NARAL’s agenda, although it seems people are concerned with defining life at fertilization. Certainly Americans demand restrictions on late-term abortions, parental notification, and physician’s right to refuse. I don’t believe the abortion issue significantly factored into the Republicans’ loss this time around.

    Its all about image, and Republicans are associted with religious zealots that leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Thats it. No political positions need change for the Republicans, they just need better marketing. Therefore, religious zealots should donate quietly, stay out of the spotlight and just rally their own to vote – sort of like Bush avoiding campaigning with McCain – if they know whats best for them, since politically they can get the same out of republican administrations that they always had.

  3. mike mcEachran Says:

    Do it!

  4. Trescml Says:

    The public does not support gay marriage, but it is hardly overwhelming. Over time this gap has closed and will likely continue. Abortion isn’t a winning issue for the Republicans either and neither is abstinence only sex education. What is worse though than the positions on these social issues is the tone that the farther right part of the party has. It turns off the middle of the road voter and I can’t see this wing on the Republican party staying quite. I am not sure that the make up of the electorate allows the Republican party to walk away from social issues (and a big chunk of the base) to better appeal to swing voters. I think the better tactic is to have candidates that can soften the edge of some of these positions so the the middle of the road voter feels nothing will really change. No matter what direction the Republican party goes, the bitter, angry tone has to be ditched or elections will just keep getting worse for the pary.

  5. mw Says:

    The problem with her thesis is that, historically, the Republican Party has never won a national election without the social conservatives. Ryan Sager’s book “The Elephant in the Room” is an excellent review of the history and tensions in the “Fusionist” alliance between what he calls the libertarian and evangelicals in the GOP. A divorce between the libertarians and evangelicals in the GOP means the GOP can only lose. I think the split has to be a bit more nuanced than that and Jimmy is more on the right track. It is not the evangelicals per se, or social conservative issues, that are the problem. The problem is the extreme fringe, the zealots that are willing to trample church/state separation or even advocate amending the Constitution on the basis of their religious convictions.

    She is also wrong that the evangelicals are the only or even the biggest problem with the GOP. The extreme edge of right wing securitons (neo-cons?), who are again willing to sacrifice constitutional protections, but in the name of security may be even more culpable. I am talking about the Republicans who are willing to undermine l the 4th amendment search and seizure, gut habeas corpus, ignore rule of law, jail reporters for treason and eviscerate constitutional checks,balances, separation of power to give the executive unrestrained power to wage war in the name of security.

    If it was up to me, the divorce should be with anyone who is willing to subvert the constitution on the basis of either their religious beliefs or in the name of security.

    That said, I don’t think it is possible for the GOP to do that. The best line in her article may be the last – “the nation may need a new party”.

  6. Adam Says:

    This is ridiculous. This past election the republican party has hopefully cleansed itself from liberal republicans and even moderate republicans. A new start is needed with fresh leadership. Being conservative is not always about being religious it is about using logic and critical thinking skills. For example, gay marriage. Gays made their best case when they said what they do is nobody else’s business. now they are trying to assert that they have a “right” to other people’s approval. None of us have that right. Moreover, if you are going to defend gay marriage because current marriage laws are “unfair,” why not defend polygamy?

  7. kranky kritter Says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much resistance I got when I suggested this on a right-leaning blog. Most conservatives just don’t buy it.

    I’ll buy MW’s historical relationship argument to some extent. However, I am not the kind of person to assume that some sort of natural political law has been manifesting itself. This relationship need not necessarily endure, any more than the 2 current parties need endure. The ranks of unaffiliated voters continues to grow. We could see more parties or we could see one of the current parties wither and be supplanted. Ask a whig, if you can find one.

    Jimmi, as you know, I think you’re wrong about the need for any GOP positions to change. No need to fight that one.

    I am personally disappointed in where liberal and progressive thought has evolved to, and I remain independent and unaffiliated. And kranky, of course. I can only speak for myself when I say that my primary reason for remaining independent is my persistent negative reaction to the authoritarian social conservative strand in the GOP. The stridency of these folks make the GOP a club I just can’t join. How common is that sentiment? I dunno, but probably common enough that conservatives ought not to try so hard to dismiss it.

    One last point you need to note is that your hypothesis above suffers from a fatal flaw. You can’t make zealots be quiet. It’s like white on rice. :-)

  8. Jimmy the Dhimmi Says:

    I really believe that everyone is over-thinking the results of this election. Obama was in the right place at the right time, with the public’s embitterment towards Bush over his incompetence with the Iraq war, Katrina, and his presiding over our current economic collapse. Obama’s youth, charm, populist rhetoric and the narrative of the first Black President were the only assets he brought to the table. He did not win on issues, other than “Bush didn’t work, time for a change.” Couple that with McCain’s feeble campaign and that’s all Obama needed.

    Also, keep in mind the election was still relatively close; it wasn’t a land slide. Palin – the religious conservative – gave McCain a lead until she opened her mouth and people found out she was a ditz. How in the world did McCain/Palin get 46% of the public to vote for them?

    The GOP should not panic.

  9. Orlin Bowman Says:

    Absolutely not…The moment you divorce yourself from God, you are toast. No exceptions!

  10. Science Says:

    The problem is not that the GOP has religious leanings — both parties do. The problem is that the GOP has radical religion

    * writing its party platform (just try reading the Texas GOP platform)

    * attempting to legislate a narrow morality

    * attempting to legislate away womens’ rights, attempting to criminalize homosexuals

    * helping suppress government based on facts / science / rationality so it can be replaced by bullshit and greed

    * choosing as the V.P. a delusional person whose religion speaks of witchcraft and means it

    * NOT promoting health care for children (the CHIP act)

    * NOT opposing torture (!); NOT opposing war (!); NOT opposing corruption (e.g. Ted Stevens)

  11. Dyre42 Says:

    “Ask a whig, if you can find one.”

    You can find them here: http://modernwhig.org

  12. david Says:

    “If it was up to me, the divorce should be with anyone who is willing to subvert the constitution on the basis of either their religious beliefs or in the name of security. ”

    That’s pretty much every single republican so who would be divorcing from them?

  13. Chris Says:

    Can we just let the beast die?

  14. Tim Says:

    @Adam

    Neither the liberal or conservative movement is concerned with logic and common sense.

    They are ideologies taken as fact without question.

    It is in the center where common sense lies, which is exactly why we’re having this discussion to begin with.

  15. kranky kritter Says:

    Jimmi, I do agree very much with you that the nature and extent of the democratic victory of 2008 has been overstated. The democrats enjoyed politically advantageous circumstances (unpopular 2-term incumbent, unpopular war, awful economy) and they happened to have a singularly skilled messenger championing their message.

    Republicans are still searching for the next Reagan, and democrats will face a similar problem within 8 years.

    This win is NOT evidence of a sudden triumph of liberal philosophy. Most Americans still harbor healthy skepticism about big government solutions.

  16. Jacob Says:

    “Most Americans still harbor healthy skepticism about big government solutions.”

    While that’s true, and used to be an advantage the Republican had over the Democrats, that advantage has largely vanished due to the Bush administration’s support of big government.

    The Republican party still talks a good talk against big government, but these days it doesn’t walk the walk.

  17. blackoutyears Says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the trends in the evangelical and born again ranks. Young people who are self-identified as such don’t find homosexuality to be a compelling issue for instance (see soureces such as the Barna surveys). Evangelical leaders like Jim Wallis are building a different brand for the faith based on fighting poverty and espousing environmental concerns. This may make it both harder to demonize people of faith and at the same time further diminish the GOP reliance on them. Both are options I’m rooting for.

    Jimmy, I’m not sure about your tailoring of the abortion issue. Forget NARAL and PP, when life starts, etc. The majority of Americans (57%-63% depending on surveys I’ve seen the last four years) support the right to choose, a staunch minority opposes it under any circumstance, and an even smaller minority supports it under any circumstance. I doubt the first group is going to get smaller over time, so the question becomes how the GOP retains the support of the second while not alienating the first. I think the necessity of change is empirical based simply on numbers as abortion mobilizes a diminishing section of the electorate. I think it’s going to be harder and harder to make it an issue as long as the *reasonable* course is espoused by non-zealots (i.e. work on prevention of unwanted pregnancy, provide education and preventive measures, agree as the vast majority do that late-term abortions are only acceptable in the event of threats to the mothers’ life). One wonders if the socons hold their collective nose and vote GOP or simply fail to vote. If it’s the latter then the votes need to be replaced somehow, hence the sort of talk of rebranding.

    mw, couldn’t agree more about the neocons being the shaky leg on the GOP tripod. It’s so much easier to blame it on the Jesus freaks than the party elites and adventurists. Whether it’s pandering or explaining a loss, the socons get the blame. As long as they fail to realize that they’ll continue to be exploited. Just one more price of blinkered ideology.

  18. End of the Week Links — 11/23/08 « Says:

    [...] itself from its more religious membership. What do you think? Read the original article and the commentary [...]

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