Despite recent suggestions from some GOP leaders that Republicans should distance themselves from Religious Right ideologues, the decades-long marriage between the two doesn’t seem to be headed for the rocks anytime soon.
Last week, NBC News reported that the heads of thirteen Religious Right groups and their allies, including the Family Research Council, American Values, American Family Association and the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, warned Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in no uncertain terms that “an abandonment of [Republican Party] principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.”
NBC said the letter focused on marriage equality, and urged the GOP to reaffirm its opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.
The letter also acknowledged that the GOP needs to broaden its base if it hopes to find greater electoral success, but claimed that the best way to make inroads with groups like Latinos is through houses of worship.
“It is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support in these groups,” the letter said, according to NBC. “Going ‘vanilla’ or even changing long held positions would quickly end this opportunity.”
That letter apparently had an immediate impact. At a meeting in Los Angeles on Friday, the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to retain its position against gay marriage, Politico reported.
A spokeswoman for Priebus didn’t comment specifically on the Religious Right or gay marriage, but said Priebus is committed to conservative principles.
“Chairman Priebus agrees that we must stand up for our conservative principles while we work together to grow our party and win elections and has been traveling the country with that message,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski told NBC.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: the GOP made a Faustian bargain years ago, and now it’s wrestling with the consequences of that decision. Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and party operatives welcomed the Religious Right into the fold in 1980. The Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition and other fundamentalist Christian outfits have delivered a large bloc of voters during each election cycle since then, and now that theocratic faction is demanding its payback.
This also raises a question: Where have you gone, Barry Goldwater? The GOP needs someone like Goldwater, a staunch conservative who had no use for the theocratic Religious Right, to step up.
Goldwater, nicknamed “Mr. Conservative,” fought to break the power of unions, hated the former Soviet Union and opposed the concept of a welfare state.
He also wasn’t shy about expressing his disdain for the Religious Right. When Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell once said “every good Christian” should be concerned about the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, Goldwater quipped, “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.”
But when the GOP partnered with the Religious Right in the 1980s, Goldwater became an outsider.
“When you say 'radical right’ today,” he told The Washington Post in 1994, “I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
In 1996, he joked with then-Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole: “We’re the new liberals of the Republican Party.”
It was true, and since the GOP continues to wilt every time the Religious Right gets upset, a change isn’t likely anytime soon.
Republicans are finally learning that breaking up with the Religious Right is very, very hard to do, so don’t draft those divorce papers just yet. Theocrats are going to remain entrenched in politics for many years to come.