In the wake of the party’s election setbacks last year, the Republican National Committee has focused on outreach to a variety of constituencies that have been turning towards Democrats: Latinos, African Americans, younger voters, women, etc.
But it’s against this backdrop that we also see the RNC boosting its outreach efforts to a group of voters that ostensibly represents the party’s existing base.
The Republican National Committee has brought on a director of evangelical outreach to massage the party’s complicated relationship with religious conservatives, GOP sources told CNN on Saturday.
The party organization has hired Chad Connelly, a consultant and motivational speaker who, until this weekend, was the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.
Connelly resigned from that job Saturday and informed members of the state party’s executive committee that he will be taking a job at the RNC…. Connelly, a Baptist, has told multiple South Carolina Republicans that he will be steering the national party’s outreach to faith-based groups.
There are two broad questions to consider. The first is, who’s Chad Connelly? The Republican is far better known for his work leading the South Carolina GOP than engaging in faith-based activism. Upon taking over the state party two years ago, Connelly vowed to become President Obama’s “worst nightmare,” and then largely faded from the national scene.
That said, Connelly wrote an 80-page book in 2002, called “Freedom Tide,” which made a series of ridiculous claims about the United States being founded as a “Christian nation.” The book was panned for its inaccuracies and wasn’t exactly a best-seller
But the other question is, why in the world would the Republican National Committee have to focus on evangelical outreach right now?
The answer, I suspect, has something to do with the fact that the religious right movement isn’t nearly as pleased with its RNC allies as one might assume. As we discussed in April, many of the movement’s most prominent leaders and activists publicly threatened to abandon the Republican Party altogether unless it continues to push — enthusiastically — a far-right culture war agenda.
The threats coincided with a call from Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, that social conservatives stop contributing to the RNC until the party starts “defending core principles.”
That might help explain why the RNC hired Connelly, but as we talked about at the time, it’s not at all clear what more the religious right community seriously expects of the party.
After all, Republican policymakers are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven’t pushed the culture war enough? Why, because the RNC hasn’t officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?
Presumably, it’s now up to Connelly to help make this clearer to the party’s evangelical base.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2013
If the pending legislation intended to prevent gun violence is as awful as critics claim, they should, in theory, have a fairly easy task ahead. After all, they simply have to point to the legislation’s many flaws, and watch it crumble under the weight of its own futility, right?
But that’s always been the funny thing about demagoguery — it’s what desperate people rely on when they can’t win a debate on the merits. If accurate talking points are ineffective, just make stuff up, scare the bejesus out of people, and hope fear triumphs in the end.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, published this tweet over the weekend, warning of a “national gun registry.” As a factual matter, is there a “national gun registry”? No. Has anyone proposed a “national gun registry”? No. Would the pending legislation lead to a “national gun registry”? No.
Does the bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks explicitly rule out the possibility of a “national gun registry”? Yes.
But it doesn’t matter. Either Ted Cruz has created a fantasy world in which legislative details are the opposite of reality, or Ted Cruz assumes his far-right allies are easily fooled into believing nonsense. Either way, by counting on paranoia to rule the day, the Texas Republican — a U.S. senator, not some random media personality — has no qualms about promoting a ridiculous message like this.
Similarly, in recent days, Red State blogger and Fox News contributor Erick Erickson argued that “believing in a resurrected Jesus” will make you ineligible for gun ownership in five years under the bipartisan background-check compromise. Why does Erickson believe such silliness, and feel the need to share this nonsense with others? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
I do know, however, that it’s spreading — as we talked about over the weekend, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council also argued that Christians may be prevented from buying firearms.
None of this relates to our version of reality in any way, but for the right, real-world arguments are apparently unpersuasive, creating a demand for garbage.
The politics of paranoia are apparently all conservatives have left.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 15, 2013
Social conservatives are threatening to revolt against the the Republican Party, in the latest sign that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” has little to no chance of success.
The latest Republican to strike a blow against the RNC’s rebranding plan is Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council. When it’s not pushing absurd conspiracy theories about ACORN and Obamacare, the FRC keeps busy by using pseudo-science to link homosexuality and pedophilia, and endorsing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill, among other fringe right-wing activities. So naturally, Perkins isn’t thrilled with the RNC’s directive that “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and indeed be inclusive and welcoming.”
Perkins has responded to the GOP reboot by directing his supporters to cut off their financial support for the party.
“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money,” Perkins wrote in an email to supporters Thursday night. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action.”
Perkins went on to theorize that extreme right-wing social policies are not the GOP’s problem, but in fact the solution.
“Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters,” Perkins wrote. “There’s an entire group of ‘Countercultural Warriors’ full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage.”
Perkins’ boycott call comes just days after a group of 13 right-wing leaders (including Perkins) signed a letter warning the RNC that social conservatives will break away from the GOP if the party fails to reaffirm its 2012 platform, which calls for bans on gay marriage and abortion rights.
“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” the letter warns.
Striking a similar note as Perkins, the signatories speculate that “it is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support” among African-Americans, young voters, and other voter groups that have become reliable Democratic bases.
Perkins and his colleagues on the religious right pose a major problem for Reince Priebus and the Republican Party. Social conservatives still make up the majority of the party’s voter base, a fact that is not going to change anytime soon. But these voters are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country on just about every social issue. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, for example, that 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents support legalizing same-sex marriage — up 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from 2009. Only 27 percent of Republicans support marriage equality, however, up just 5 percent from four years ago.
There aren’t enough “Countercultural Warriors” in the world to make up for that kind of gap — nor is there any evidence that the GOP’s target groups would even be amenable to being lectured by the party’s right wing.
What’s worse for Priebus is that it’s not entirely clear what more the Republican Party can do to appease social conservatives. As Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen points out:
Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
Indeed, Priebus himself recently penned an op-ed for a right-wing blog accusing Democrats of supporting infanticide by refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. If that type of rhetoric isn’t extreme enough to appease Perkins and his cohorts, then it’s unclear what the GOP’s next step could be.
So the RNC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t afford to lose the support of its base, but the longer the likes of Perkins and Rick Santorum maintain control of the party’s public message, the harder it will be for Republicans to win national elections.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 12, 2013
While the more mainstream anti-government Tea Party movement faded from view as the GOP co-opted it in the past few years, the action has moved to the fringes, where the number of radical right-wing Patriot groups reached an all time high in 2012, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. What’s more, it’s the fourth year in a row that the record has been broken.
Conspiracy-minded Patriot groups first entered the public consciousness in the 1990s with the rise of the militia movement, and then the Oklahoma City bombing. Now, the SPLC is warning government officials that they see eerie similarities between the current era and that leading up to the bombing.
“As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns,” the group’s president, Richard Cohen, wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The number of Patriot groups peaked after the bombing in 1996 at 858, before falling off steeply and remaining low under George W. Bush. However, since the election of Barack Obama, the number of groups tracked by the SPLC has skyrocketed and continued to climb.
Last year, the SPLC found 1,360 Patriot groups in the country — up more than 500 over the ’96 peak — including 321 militia groups.
Meanwhile, the number of hate groups the group tracks — which includes some arguably mainstream conservative groups like the Family Research Council, in addition to more radical groups like white supremacists — remained over 1,000.
The SPLC blames the resurgence on the down economy (hate and radicalism always tick up when things seem desperate), along with the election and reelection of Barack Obama, a push on gun control, and racial tensions over immigration and the declining power of white America.
“Another factor driving the expansion of the radical right over the last decade or so has been the mainstreaming of formerly marginal conspiracy theories,” notes senior fellow Mark Potock. Indeed, one needs only watch Fox News for an hour or read a Dick Morris column to see that. And conspiracy theorizing seems to have reached new heights recently.
The big fear is that some of this will lead to violence — or rather, more violence. The incidents are too often ignored or viewed as isolated from each other, but there has been much more right-wing terrorism than most people probably realize, from the Sikh Temple shooting, the Holocaust Memorial shooting, the Pittsburgh police shootings, of any of the dozens of attacks on law enforcement officers.
But the people in the federal government responsible for stopping it are poorly equipped to deal with the threat. In part, that’s because Republican lawmakers, stoked by the Tea Party, neutered a Department of Homeland Security task force that was supposed to track homegrown radical groups. After a conservative uproar over a leaked report that warned about the rise of right-wing radical groups in the wake of Obama’s election, DHS relented. It repudiated the paper and dissolved the group responsible for it.
“DHS is scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counterterrorism, as is Congress,” Daryl Johnson, the man who led that task force, told Wired last year. “There’ve been no hearings about the rising white supremacist threat, but there’s been a long list of attacks over the last few years. But they still hold hearings about Muslim extremism. It’s out of balance.”
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 6, 2013