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Tilting at Windmills

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May 7, 2009

THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT TAKES NOTICE.... When the National Council for a New America, the Republican rebranding initiative, unveiled a list of broad policy priorities last week, it left out cultural and social issues altogether. Nothing about abortion, gays, state-sponsored religion, etc. It suggested a subtle realization -- the GOP won't get back on track fighting the losing side of a culture war.

The party's religious-right base, however, isn't pleased about the prospect of being left behind by their political party. After all, conservative evangelicals are often the foot-soldiers for Republicans, and they're not about to compromise on the only issues they truly care about.

Yesterday, the Family Research Council, arguably the religious right movement's most powerful and politically relevant organization, blasted their Republican allies for considering a vision for the future that is "devoid" of "values."

The [NCNA's] priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. [...]

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%. Based on that, how can the GOP suggest that life is a losing issue? If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You're going to be there for awhile.

I can only assume this kind of talk will become louder and more prevalent, because the religious right no doubt realizes they're losing clout. The NCNA ignored culture/social issues, as did the "Resurgent Republic" project and most of the "Tea Party" rhetoric. There's no shortage of talk from Republican leaders -- on the Hill, on Fox News, within the RNC -- and practically no one is out there arguing that bashing gays and limiting reproductive rights should be the basis for a GOP comeback.

The more the religious right movement feels ignored, the more it's going to rebel. And the more the movement gets noticed, the more Republican leaders will be put in a bind -- embrace intolerant culture warriors stuck in the past, or distance the party from a large part of its base?

What I suspect will happen is that Boehner, Steele, and others will start quietly telling religious right leaders, "Don't worry, we're still with you. We're not talking about your issues, but this is just p.r."

Except, that won't work for groups like the Family Research Council and their ilk. The whole point of a culture war is to take the religious right's issues to the public and put "the family" up front and center.

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Comments

If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You're going to be there for awhile.

Finally, the Fundie Fools say something I can agree with!!

They ought to consider that the rise in agreement with their "values" by self-identified Republicans doesn't represent an actual increase in actual numbers of people who agree with them, but rather an actual decrease in the overall sample size. The truth is, in the incredible shrinking GOP, they become a bigger and bigger proportion. Of course, being able to figure out this simple analysis is really hard when not only were you dumb enough to pass the IQ test low enough to be a Republican, but you passed it low enough to be a Fundie.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 7, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Darn it, and here's me almost out of popcorn.

Posted by: Breezeblock on May 7, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

It's good to get up in the morning.

Posted by: shortstop on May 7, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether the Republicans put the culture-war agenda on their platform. The religious right will support them because they are the religious RIGHT.

We saw this last year when the leaders of the religious right publicly stated that could not and would not, under any circumstances, support John McCain. Unless, of course, a Democrat ran for the presidency. By September, they were all publicly endorsing McCain.

And so it will go. The Family Research Council and their ilk will make a big noise about abandoning the Republican Party. Until the next election when there's a Democrat running for office.

Posted by: Domage on May 7, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, because the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security have absolutely nothing to do with values. Come on, people! Education isn't a values issue? HEALTH CARE isn't a values issue? No wonder people have stopped taking them seriously.

Posted by: Hoosier Paul on May 7, 2009 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

"Why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%."

I think I see the problem. The FRC seems to believe that because social issues are becoming more and more important in the every dwindling base of the Republican party, therefore they should focus on those issues more. The "establishment" seems to realize that the reason those issues are gaining popularity in the Republican party is because the party is shrinking to the hardened core so rapidly. The FRC doesn't get this: they seem to think they have an army behind them, rather than realizing that in order to win elections, they must reach beyond. And as long as they don't get this, its good news for the rest of us, because they won't be back in power anytime soon.

Posted by: DY on May 7, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn't draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does.

It's almost as if they haven't noticed that they are all that's left of the "the base", and that "the base" is a tiny minority of all voters.

Posted by: Jennifer on May 7, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Dobson didn't hear Steele the other day. Come into the tent. Sit down. And shut up. But don' worry, there will be fish on the menu.

One of the ironies of the pizza parlor visit was the name Pie-tanza, which means dish or course. But its original meaning was a morsel served to the poor out of religious compassion. The English word for it was pittance.

Posted by: Danp on May 7, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year

What Pew Research poll is the FRC referring to? There's no way that support for abortion rights has dropped 8% in the past year, so I suspect this is a deceptive misreading of the poll results.

Posted by: Brock on May 7, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK
The [NCNA's] priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent?/blockquote>

Yes. The environment.

Next question.

Posted by: inkadu on May 7, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever, are they going to form their own party or start cavorting with liberals ? They have no place to go w/o becoming even more irrelevant.

Posted by: ScottW on May 7, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

If the Republicans had guts (and sincerely wanted to retain their dwindling Log Cabin element), they'd tell these right-wing fundie punks, "First, stop hijacking the term 'family' for your own intolerant plans. Then we'll talk."

Posted by: Vincent on May 7, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The awful truth for the Republican party is that it has no issues that appeal to a majority of voters. Not social issues, not economic issues, not security issues. None. Zero. Nada.

Posted by: MattF on May 7, 2009 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

"If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base?"

Cookies and coffee will be served in the church basement at the conclusion.

All they have left is the base. Maybe they should take notice that the rest of the country has had their fill of them.

Posted by: Saint Zak on May 7, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

The fundie right in this country has had a long apathetic history of not voting in this countries elections. Up until the appearance of Reagan and the clerics of the religious right created the Moral Majority did, they bother to go and vote. A lot of these people don't even consider a mortal presnit as their leader, nor the constitution as a document to live by.

They are of the spirit world and not of this one, Like you said Steve, without constant high maintenance schmoozing to their bible centered values (literal and uncompromising, and often whacky), they will return to the political nothingness.

This is the wingnut conundrum they can't get around. These people can't be reasoned with to lighten up to win elections, and they will not be pleased until America becomes a full blown Theocracy. And since, at best, they make up 20 to 30 percent of the GOP base, losing them does not bode well for a party that has already lost the moderate part of it's base. They can please the fundies, or they can please the moderate goopers, not both.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on May 7, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps if the number of people who claim to be Republicans got down to about 5%, these people would finally be happy?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on May 7, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

...isn't pleased about the prospect of being left behind by... - SB

I believe that was some sort of evangelical radio series by the same name.

and what shortstop said @ 11:20 AM

Posted by: Kevin on May 7, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether the Republicans put the culture-war agenda on their platform. The religious right will support them because they are the religious RIGHT.

This is absolutely wrong. What you're suggesting only makes them more irrelevant. Religious leaders screwed up royally by getting too close to Republicans, as they stay more powerful if they're the sole voice for a "victimized" minority. Because by cozying up to politicians, they gained real power, thus denying them the victimhood they required. And worse for the religious leaders, their followers started looking to the government to solve their problems, rather than looking to the religion. Big mistake. And so they ended up losing power to the Republican Party, and now that the party is failing, losing even the appearance of power. BTW, this isn't dissimilar to what happened during the Reformation, when governments realized that they now had the power that the Church once owned.

And as for the religious right caving in and supporting McCain, that was a TREMENDOUS blunder. They couldn't have made a worse move last year. McCain was going to lose, and had they abstained from supporting him, they could have claimed that it was their distaste for him that caused his defeat and used that as a club to keep the Republican Party in-line. As it is, they ended up betraying their cause and looking impotent, which only made things worse. But again, much of that stems from the fact that they were already too closely associated with the party to begin with. They needed to be critics pushing the government from the outside, not allies pulling from the inside.

And while that made sense for the politicians, who realized they were putting these people in their own pockets, it was also a stupid move in the long run, as they became too closely associated with a fervent minority with an insatiable desire for power and no willingness to compromise. Overall, this was a huge blunder for everyone involved. And the longer the religious leaders keep supporting Republicans, the worse it will be. They'd do best if they took their flocks and left for awhile.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 7, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's good to get up in the morning.

And a big Amen to that. Used to, I'd wake up and wonder what steaming pile GWB was going to dump on us today. Now all the Right can do is pass gas.

**Sorry for fecal humor/

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on May 7, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

You know, I thought these evangelicals were convinced that the end times are here and it's just a matter of time before Jesus comes back and starts kicking ass and taking names. Isn't that the reason they don't care about the environment?

If this is the case, then why do they care at all about who runs this country? We're all doomed anyway, right?

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 7, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Looks to me like the predicted "post-Palin" split between fiscal conservatives and Jesus freaks has become a reality. And the party is going with the former. Not surprising.

This is what Republicans always do! Look at Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Sarah Palin, etc., etc., etc. The party cozies up with anyone who can make them richer and more powerful. And the instant they become embarrassing, the GOP kills them off. They don't try to reason with them. They don't try to persuade them. They act like they've never seen them before. They shun then, ignore them, scorn them, and [if there be money to make] they send in our bloated military to smoke 'em out, hang 'em on television and then blame the Liberals for being too soft!

The Republicans may well be giving the crazy Christian right its first shock treatments. Ignoring them, robbing them of their power, and then waiting for them to turn around and beg the GOP to take them back.

With their "Faith-based Initiatives" and so on, the Republicans have proven that their courtship of Christians is not about social policy or culture, but about blatantly harvesting votes and money from the poor, stupid fundamentalists. Now their exclusion from the NEW GOP's exciting new policy stuff is their punishment for the humiliation of letting the glamorous Sarah Palin get beaten by a socialist negro.

It's gonna hurt the god squad. But they'll be back.

Posted by: chrenson on May 7, 2009 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Two important details I think you guys are missing - #1 The religious right owns most of the state Republican parties. So this sets up a fight between the national party and the state parties. #2 - reading about the McCain campaign, the religious right gave him their tepid support but they weren't volunteering. McCain really had almost no volunteers. Once Palin went on the ticket, the religious right started volunteering. So the national party can ignore the religious right currently, but let's see what happens in 2010 when the need volunteers.

Posted by: Hipporider on May 7, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

But NCNA's platform wasn't really devoid of values, it simply expressed the (BTW, non- or anti-Christian) values of enhancing or protecting the power of moneyed elites. (Well, worse than Democrats do.)

Posted by: Neil B ♪ on May 7, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kudos Dr. Biobrain. The power the fundies had when they moved into the political arena is that they could always stay home. And that was a big voting block that the GOP started to really court. They had stayed home in the past but now their leadership likes the power they have been given and only threatens to stay home...but the GOP already started to allow them to run thier own candidates and now they are stuck with them...
Make a deal with the devil and unless you can play a better fiddle he owns your ass!
And the beautiful thing about this is that is what will destroy the GOP and St. Ronnie is the one that started the whole partnership with the "moral majority"...hey, thanks you old bastard.

Posted by: Bethie on May 7, 2009 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

For anyone interested, I wrote more about this here:
The Reformation Continues

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 7, 2009 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

A delicious piece of irony: Karl Rove got his man elected, and especially re-elected, by mobilizing the evangelical base, and now the party is a prisoner of that same faction of the base.

How many Pandora's boxes in the Bush legacy?

Posted by: SRW1 on May 7, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

In a perfect world, the religious right should be taking it's "rightful" place as an irrelevant voice in government because that's they way it should be. But it's so much fun to watch the GOP squirm...they are in such a predicament. Like it's often posted here "pass the popcorn", it's going to get more & more hilarious!

Posted by: whichwitch on May 7, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Doc Biobrain Doesn't disprove my point, he merely disapproves of it. Despite whatever disadvantages it might pose, the religious right will ALWAYS support Republicans.

Staying home isn't an option for them. If the leaders don't come out and demand their followers vote Republican, that leaves the followers free to choose based on things the leaders don't like (like Christ's admonitions in Beatitudes). It also leaves their "power" unused for that election cycle.

So it may well be a strategic mistake for the religious right to stump for Republicans. But they will. They have no other choice.

Posted by: Domage on May 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

They should just start their own party and be done with it.

They could call it the Upstanding Moral Citizens for a Christian America with Morals and No Babykilling and No Darwinism and No Condoms and No Faggots and Stop Calling Us Crazy You Darwinismist Faggot Party.

Posted by: hgareieag on May 7, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of every book where the evil scientist/warlock is eventually dismembered/eaten/dragged down to hell by his creation.

Maybe some GOP operative picked up a Lovecraft book and thought it was a how-to manual.

Posted by: The Answer WAS Orange on May 7, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Domage - The point I disproved is your suggestion that they don't have a choice. They most certainly do: They can stay home. Because your argument applies to EVERY group and is to suggest that we're all slaves to whichever party is closer to our interests. But as Obama showed, that's simply not true. And it's not just an issue of the vote on election day, but of the actions supporters take beforehand; and Obama got a heckeva lot more support than Kerry, Gore, or Clinton did. As he showed, not all Dems are equal; and the same is true for Republicans. Being the right candidate really helps.

And as I showed, not only do they have a choice, they MUST choose to abstain from knee-jerk support for Republicans, if they want to stay relevant. They need to make it known that a politician cannot get their support unless he's everything they want and they need to demand that their followers refrain from voting for any candidate that isn't one of them. And again, their big mistake was in ever telling their followers that the government can help them. If they want to stay relevant, they need to make their flock turn to them for help, not the government.

And honestly, I have no idea why anyone thinks religious leaders want Republicans in office. At this point, their inability to win the culture war politically is an established fact. They'd do much better just walking away from politics all together and sticking with religion. Your point only applies if it's assumed that they need to be involved in politics, yet I see no reason why that's true.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 7, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its "nostalgia" for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new "relevant" ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!)

(emphasis mine)

I smile every time the right pushes the idea that they're losing because they're not "conservative" enough.

Posted by: nb on May 7, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Your point only applies if it's assumed that they need to be involved in politics, yet I see no reason why that's true.

Anecdotal evidence here, but a couple of years ago one of my churchy next-door neighbors was just explaining to me, after years of staunch support for the Bushies, that politics and politicians just aren't "godly". I'm sure I was standing there for a few seconds with my mouth agape before I said, "well of course they aren't. Politics is about what goes on in this world - it's a secular pursuit dealing with secular issues. I can't imagine why anyone would expect it to be different." I think she and her husband both stopped voting around then.

Posted by: Jennifer on May 7, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Also, here are the poll results they cite.

Don't think they're fudging the numbers... I'm just curious (and can't seem to find) what their party identification numbers look like. I'm guessing that the moderate/liberal Republican support for choice rights has dropped so drastically because of recent trends in party identification.

Posted by: nb on May 7, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Bio, you forget that the fundie leadership likes their influence in Washington. Would most on the left know who Dobson, Robertson, Falwell or Warren is if the right had not elevated them into political leadership roles?

Posted by: Bethie on May 7, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"I can only assume this kind of talk will become louder and more prevalent, because the religious right no doubt realizes they're losing clout..."

Sounds like they're in their last death throes, if you will.

Posted by: garnash on May 7, 2009 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

I just giggle at this argument every time I hear it: the only reason the GOP loses elections is because their candidates aren't right-wing enough. So the voters have no choice but to vote for the liberal Democrat.

Posted by: Speed on May 7, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm amazed they've continued to support the Republicans this long - after all, how much of their initiatives have come to pass? Looks to me like they should be feeling used. Not that I give a crap - the more these people are marginalized the better.

Posted by: inthewoods on May 7, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

it's the worst of both worlds for the religious right...their issues turn off many more voters than they attract...and at the national level, the people they vote for don't or won't deliver...no marriage amendment, roe v wade still stands...etc, etc...

sucks to be them...

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 7, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Those Pew numbers are screwy ... there's no reason they should change that fast.

First, when asked if it was more important to protect gun-owners' rights or to control gun ownership, the figures went from 58-37 in favor of gun control to 49-45 in one year (April 2008 - April 2009), and there's nothing I can think of that could account for such a rapid shift.

The abortion numbers are even more interesting. When asked if abortion should be legal in most cases or illegal in most cases, the plurality in favor of "legal" went from 54-41 in August 2008 to 57-36 in mid-October 2008 to 53-40 in late-October 2008 to 46-44 in April 2009. Are we to believe that the plurality in favor of abortion rights dropped by over a third (+21 to +13) in a matter of weeks in October 2008? How did that happen, especially during the waning days of a presidential campaign which ended with a pro-choice candidate defeating an anti-choice candidate?

Not sure what happened here, but abortion attitudes have been stable for decades, and there's no reason to think they've shifted that suddenly.


Posted by: KTinOhio on May 7, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

One explanation KT, could be even the pollsters are underestimating the exodus of people from the GOP and are greatly overweighting their results toward the remaining purist wingnuts.

Posted by: Mr. Stuck on May 7, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

These guys crack me up. They get so excited by the thousands that mat show up for a Palin rally saying "see, this is what America wants", the whole time ignoring the millions showing up for Obama and the dems who are the majority of Americans. Reminds me of the goober who holds up 20 one dollar bills and says "I'm richer than you" to the guy who is holding up 5 100dollar bills.

Yes, just keep listening to the Family Re-preach Council...that'll work

Posted by: bjobotts on May 7, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'd just like to back up Biobrain's argument a little bit.

GW Bush was successful where his father was not because he was a True Believer, a drunk who had gone to a local Texas church, sat on a metal folding chair and bowed his head in prayer. Evangelicals responded to that in both elections.

One of GW's big roles in his father's campaign was in courting the evangelical vote... the Republicans certainly understand that there is a constitutiency there that needs to be fired up and turned out.

One mistake that the original argument was making is assuming the having the "support" of Dobson and even a majority of evangelical voters does not mean a lot if those people are not inspired to VOTE and vote in numbers.

Elections are being decided by very thin margins these days, and the difference between a candidate who has your support and a candidate who has your VOTE can be pivotal.

Compare the feelings/votes among liberal friends between Gore and Obama. Evangelicals aren't robots, they have the same spectrum of passions as everyone else.

Posted by: inkadu on May 7, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

National Council for a New America is actually a good idea. Not all good ideas work, and I have doubts about this one.

Posted by: Burr Deming on May 7, 2009 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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