BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
After reading the recent report – “autopsy” – issued by the Republican National Committee, some conservative Christian leaders are wondering if the GOP is ”throwing the party’s social conservatives overboard.”
When the Republican Party suffers a resounding electoral defeat, as it did in November, you can pretty much count on the mainstream media to re-up its flirtation with the notion that the Christian Right is dead. Anyone who has watched the growth, development and ebb and flow of this movement over the past four decades, knows that its demise has been grossly exaggerated. Regardless of whatever defeats it may encounter, its well-lubricated infrastructure remains pretty darned solid.
That being said, however, after November’s electoral defeat -- making it 5 of the last 6 national elections in which the GOP lost the popular vote -- Republican Party leaders appear to be distancing themselves from what was once its core constituency. Even more importantly, the GOP appears to be distancing itself from the decades old “culture wars.”
The Republican National Committee’s recently issued 98-page post-election report blames the GOP’s defeats at the polls on a perception on the part of some voters that the party is “scary,” “narrow-minded” and “out of touch,” and that it’s a party of “stuffy old men,” the Huffington Post reported. Most of those assessments can be laid at the feet of GOP candidates whose main concerns – and thoughtless rhetoric -- was steeped in deeply divisive social issues.
The report also acknowledges that it was clearly out-organized by the Democrats, that the Party was technologically challenged, and that its messaging was inadequate.
The “autopsy” report -- officially titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” and authored by Henry Barbour, Ari Fleischer, Sally Bradshow, Zori Fonalledas, and Glenn McCall – was aimed at providing a seamless segue between the Party’s 2012 electoral disaster, and a pathway for regrouping, rebuilding and rebranding.
On the issue of gay marriage, the RNC report recognizes there is "a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays – and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway to whether the party is a place they want to be."
Interestingly, while charting ways to reach out to minorities (largely Hispanics), younger voters and women, and expand its electoral tent, the report leaves out any mention of the folks who for decades brought Republican Party elected officials to the dance, using its grassroots muscle and unswerving loyalty to keep them in office; conservative Christian evangelical “value voters.”
“Specifically,” BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins recently pointed out, “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.”
"The report didn't mention religion much, if at all," said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, a longtime traditional values group founded by his father Donald Wildmon. "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 “should be deeply concerned they're going to be alienating their base.” She added: "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."
Conservative Christian weren’t being dissed, said Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC: "They are a critical part of our party, and moving forward, they have to continue to play that essential role. The goal of the report was to look at areas where we could do much better, and in areas that needs that substantial improvement [working with conservative Christians] may not be at the top of the list because they've always done a fabulous job."
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins maintained that the report “calls for throwing the party’s social conservatives overboard.” If the GOP abandons traditional marriage, “evangelicals will either sit the election out completely, or move to create a third party.”
In a recent fundraising letter, Perkins expressed alarm that the reelection of President Obama not only had seen the liberal media’s “complete submission to his anti-freedom, anti-Judeo-Christian agenda,” but “we have also seen the refusal of even the conservative media to adequately address social issues or consider the spiritual damage of the Left's escalated attacks.”
“I'm afraid the conservative media generally refuses to discuss the great moral issues of the day while President Obama pushes full steam ahead fundamentally transforming America's moral landscape,” Perkins added.
Generally, the conservative media (not including Religious Right websites, blogs, and radio and television talk show hosts) airs what’s on the minds of GOP leaders. And making sure that GOP-sponsored candidates do not espouse scary social memes is one of the things the Party hopes to avoid. Reagan’s three-legged stool – foreign policy hawks, economic conservatives, and “values voters” – is resting on wobbly legs.
(Photo: Republican Party)