Political Animal


February 14, 2013 12:53 PM The Cool Kids of the GOP Show the Christian Right the Door

By Ed Kilgore

Today’s Big Read for those who are bored with the regular news (or lack thereof) is Robert Draper’s very long piece in the New York Times Magazine about the difficulty the Republican Party is experiencing in keeping up with the Obamas.

Draper wanders through a lot of territory in an article that is mostly drawn from interviews with Republicans—particularly younger Republicans—themselves. But his basic premise is that GOPers are becoming “obsolescent,” either because they are technologically inept, or don’t “get” young people or minorities (or unmarried women), or can’t get over stances on social issues that violently repel people who might otherwise vote for them, or let people like Rush Limbaugh define them, or are in denial about some or all of the above problems.

Because Draper quotes some reasonably well-known people (e.g., S.E. Cupp and Patrick Ruffini) sharing in elements of this indictment, it could cause a few days of rain on the parade of GOPers congratulating themselves for the “reinvention” they’ve already achieved by talking about immigration reform and cheering up-and-comers like Jindal and Rubio or even Rand Paul. The whole issue of the technology gap Democrats have opened up—which takes up a big chunk of Draper’s article—may be paradoxically reassuring to the conservative ideological mandarins of the GOP, since that’s something they probably figure they can just go out and buy.

But if you had to choose one theme that underlies the arguments Draper’s hearing from the cool kids of the GOP, it’s that the Christian Right has gotta go. It will be interesting to see if the leaders of that very important Republican faction—who have generated more Republican votes and dollars than all the hip libertarians ever born—realize they are once again being shown the door.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • K in VA on February 14, 2013 1:03 PM:

    There is no GOP without their christianist base. That means that Republicans will continue to repel most other Americans by catering to the fundagelicals.

  • Josef K on February 14, 2013 1:21 PM:

    I'd maintain its more the extant Christian Right leadership being told to go to sit at the back of the campaign bus. After all, its not like they're going to go voting Democratic, and gods know they're too savy to think they can form a third party all on their own.

  • bobbo on February 14, 2013 1:40 PM:

    I have no love for the "Christian" right, but it's kind of hilarious to hear Republicans scapegoating them, as if they are the only problem.

  • Keith M Ellis on February 14, 2013 1:53 PM:

    The modern GOP has always been the plutocrat party that plays the cultural conservative christians like a banjo to produce a populist fanfare with a hint of the ding of a cash register.

    More to the point, the Christian conservative leaders are aware of this and find the resulting access and money to be quite welcome, even addictive. The Christian conservative rank-and-file know this or at least guess at it, but feel (correctly) they have nowhere else to go.

    Thus: nothing will change. People keep predicting a divorce of this marriage, but it keeps not happening because there's no suitor available to successfully woo one of these parties away from the GOP. This is also why the Democratic Party remains a coalition of Everyone Else, even though it's often uncomfortably diverse with interests that often clash. (And it's the secondary party of the plutocrats, an arrangement the plutocrats like just fine.)

  • Peter C on February 14, 2013 1:53 PM:

    I've long considered the Republican Party to be made up of the rich, the evangelicals and the libertarians. The rich provide the money, the evangelicals provide the fanatical base and the libertarians provide the policy 'theory' (which never seems to be backed by any data).

    How funny that the libertarians consider themselves the 'cool kids'. Those are obviously the rich. The libertarians are the geeky nerds. Well, at least they've got 'self-delusion' going for them; that's seems to be a core skill in the Republican Party.

  • Elie on February 14, 2013 2:07 PM:

    The Republican party representing the rich made "deals" with the religious right, and libertarians to help them get over on the voters. Their thought was that these affiliations would be ok because both could be "controlled" by the needs of the wealthy faction and would know when to shut up. They were wrong, and now the religious and crazee libertarians are running the party against the better interests of the rich winning their rightful place to run the country. There is no for any of these factions to even get close to any numbers without each other but its a partnership that will be destructive to the end of having their leadership accepted by the country as a whole. No one will follow these people. No one even LIKES these people. They are stuck. My guess is that the rich folks would like to jettison these guys but don't have enough moderate republicans around to band with (since they were all purged). Let me take it back -- the moderate republicans may need time to re-emerge in enough numbers and visibility to allow formation of such a coalition. So far, don't see anyone leading that charge.

  • BillFromPA on February 14, 2013 2:07 PM:

    I think the GOP's greatest problem is that many of their scattered base 'sub-groups', such as christianists, racists, nativists and other Luddities are through being 'played', as some here have termed it. They're through with the back of the bus, the teabaggers have enjoyed their time in the driver's seat and any notion that any of these groups will fade to the shadows but still vote repug is a dream. These are ths sort of people who will sit out elections to make a point and the GOP can't afford to offend any of them. They're truely screwed by their own Frankenstein.

  • Anonymous on February 14, 2013 2:35 PM:

    They're truely screwed by their own Frankenstein.

    Bingo. They thought they could buy off the various factions with a few platitudes and minor changes, but when these groups began making bigger headlines they tanked the Republican's reputation.

  • merciless on February 14, 2013 4:38 PM:

    Part of the article talked about the abysmal failure of traditional republican talking points with young people, it's true, but to me the more interesting feature was the utter frustration of young republicans with their elder's lack of internet savvy.

    According to the article, the tech people were frozen out of the process, in favor of the more old-fashioned mailing lists-teevee advertising people. Of course those businessses are all run by the same people (hello, Karl!) who made a fortune on their losing candidates.

    The old white guys don't use the internet, don't understand it, and don't intend to let the whippersnappers upset their grift, I mean, their traditions. And so they will keep losing profitably until the money dries up.

  • Peter C on February 14, 2013 5:46 PM:

    Yet, it’s not that they’ve created a Frankenstein monster which has turned on them. There still is not much disagreement among Republicans about their core ideology. The Evangelical base has not decided that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. They have not decided that the oil companies aren’t the best stewards for the earth. No, they are happy to shout ‘Drill, baby, Drill!’ along with the Koch brothers.

    No, the problem for Republicans is that their monster is really ugly. Even with their coalition intact, they are not numerous enough to win elections with an ugly candidate. And most of the candidates in their pipeline are ugly Frankensteins who don’t realize they are monsters and insist on competing in their speedos rather than covering up their self-perceived awesomeness with a well-tailored suit (it worked so well in the primary!). They’re all like Tom Delay in his hot tub – loud and proud – and they can’t imagine why America sees them and thinks, ‘eeeeew’.

    Can you tell that I've recently invested in an eye-bleach company?

  • Rich on February 14, 2013 10:22 PM:

    The Christian Right is integral to the current GOP. It's a big part of their sunbelt and exurban base. It's also itegral to the kind of backward looking, hierarchical feudal world view they're pushing. The idea that the GOP is against scientific progress un less it involves entrenched extractive industry would be more obvious otherwise. technology is wired into the forward movement of culture. Yes, evangelicals do computer dating and own Iphones, but they're not the early adopters or they adopt to maintain their culture (e.g., Christian Mingle). The libertarians in Silicon Valley are not enough, nor loyal enough to propel the GOP forward.

    None of this should distract from the reality of a GOP that knows its dying but will do anything possible to pull the drawbridge closed to anyone else.

  • Kenneth Almquist on February 15, 2013 3:52 PM:

    The article quotes a number of Republicans complaining about how Republicans run campaigns, but none of them suggest that Republicans need to get better at running government. They complain about folks like Karl Rove and Zac Moffatt, who at least have a fair amount of experience in campaign management. If any of them had a problem with Michael Brown running FEMA, the article doesn't mention it.