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
“Old Testament Heretics”: Priebus And Republicans Will Continue To Base Social Policies On The Wishes Of The Religious Right
Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus sat down with USA Today around the same time marriage equality was being discussed at the U.S. Supreme Court, and the paper reported that the GOP’s “absolute opposition to same-sex marriage” is unchanged, though Priebus intends to “welcome” those who disagree.
“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform,” Priebus said in an interview Monday on USA TODAY’s Capital Download video series. “But it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party” who support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry.
“I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics,” he said, saying Republicans “have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”
I’m not sure Priebus is using “heretic” correctly. Was he trying to say Republicans don’t have to act like Old Testament absolutists? Purists? Literalists?
In any case, I find the RNC chairman’s larger point fascinating. On the one hand, Priebus is saying that Republicans will continue to demand that millions of Americans be denied equal marriage rights and be treated like second-class citizens. On the other, Priebus is also saying Americans who disagree should vote Republican anyway. Why? Because his party will treat LGBT Americans with “respect” while treating them like second-class citizens.
Republicans, in other words, will continue to base their social policies on the wishes of the religious right movement, but Priebus would prefer that voters not think of them that way — as if parties have a choice in dictating how they’re perceived by the public.
As for the bigger picture, the political winds are clearly shifting in a progressive direction when it comes to marriage rights, but at the Republican National Committee, the only apparent change is in tone.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 27, 2013
“Stuck With Each Other”: The Religious Right Can’t Get Away From The GOP, And The GOP Can’t Get Rid Of The Religious Right
Imagine you’re a religious right activist, used to being a serious player within the Republican party, the kind of person candidates court and party chieftains huddle with. You’ve done well at making sure that just about every politician in your party has the right position on your issues. You may not always get everything you want as quickly as you want, but you know that you don’t have to waste energy fighting rear-guard actions within the GOP.
But then bad things start to happen. We spend a couple of years talking about nothing but the economy and budgets, ignoring your favorite issues, and some in the party suggest that the real culture war isn’t your culture war, it’s an economic one. A couple of your favorite candidates get a little too candid with their views on rape, and end up losing at the polls, leading some influential strategists to suggest that the party needs to shift its focus away from your issues. Then one of your party’s senators comes out in support of same-sex marriage, and even though it’s only one senator, all the pundits agree that he won’t be the last, and it’s only a matter of time before your party abandons its insistence on “traditional” marriage entirely. Then some party bigwigs come out with a report on how the GOP can win future elections, and it says nothing about you and your issues. There’s talk about how libertarian the party should become and how it can appeal to minority groups, young people, and women, but all that makes you feel pretty left out.
As McKay Coppins reports, that’s leaving religious right activists more than a little peeved. But he puts his finger on a big reason that some in the party feel free to encourage a move in a leftward direction:
If Republican officials feel confident that they can soften the party’s stance on social issues without any real risk of losing their religious base, it may be because the Christian right hasn’t presented a united front in nearly a decade. Not since 2004, when Evangelicals swarmed to the ballot to support a marriage amendment in Ohio, and re-elect George W. Bush, have those voters managed to coalesce around a winning presidential candidate.
In the 2008 Republican primaries, they were split between a culture-warring Mitt Romney and the insurgent Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, and neither won. Then, in 2012, conservative Evangelicals vacillated between a bevy of Republican candidates, allowing the well-financed Mormon guy — who had dropped the social agenda rhetoric and was now just talking math — to navigate his way around them and grab hold of the nomination.
You can get a religious right leader to threaten that his people will stop voting unless they get what they want, but nobody believes that. There’s no question that the religious right is still a core part of the Republican coalition, but the problem they face is that national Republican leaders aren’t afraid of them anymore, or at least those leaders are less afraid of them than they are afraid of continuing to alienate young people and minorities.
That isn’t to say, though, that the religious right won’t continue to wield great influence. Just as they don’t have the ability to move en masse, the party leadership can’t just snap its fingers and change the party’s image. A national party is made up of thousands of people with their own agendas and ideas. Karl Rove can say, “No more Todd Akins,” but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more Todd Akins, spouting off retrograde ideas and getting lots of attention for them, because there probably will. Reince Priebus can say, “Let’s chill with the anti-gay stuff,” but that won’t stop Rick Santorum from running for president again if he wants to. The party can try to move away from the religious right, but the religious right is woven so tightly into the party at every level that it will be almost impossible to do.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 20, 2013
The Republican National Committee is out with what is being billed as an introspective look at what went wrong for the party in 2012. Maggie Haberman reports at POLITICO:
The Republican National Committee concedes in a sprawling report Monday that the GOP is seen as the party of “stuffy old men” and needs to change its ways.
Among the RNC’s proposed fixes: enacting comprehensive immigration reform, addressing middle-class economic anxieties head on and condensing a presidential primary process that saw Mitt Romney get battered for months ahead of the general election.
The committee also proposes major improvements to the party’s voter database and digital technology, which paled next to that of the Democrats and contributed to the party’s losses last year.
The suggestions are among dozens the committee makes in what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has dubbed an “autopsy” of the party’s 2012 failures and a roadmap forward. Priebus is scheduled to unveil the 98-page report at a news conference Monday morning at The National Press Club.
“There’s no one reason we lost,” Priebus plans to say, according to prepared remarks. “Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”
I took a quick look at the report this morning, with an eye towards what it might say about the party’s intertwined relationship with the religious right. And six words, so central to the religious right’s messaging and mobilization, and thus imperative to a Republican presidential hopeful’s lexicon, do do not appear at all in the report. Those words are Christian, religion, abortion, marriage, Jesus, and God. No Christian nation, no crucial role of faith in American public life, no shining city on the hill, no scourge of abortion, no need for prayer to save an unrepentant America from sin, no downfall of western civilization caused by the erosion of “traditional” marriage. No mention of infringements of religious freedom.
In fact, on matters of religion, the report sounds remarkably like an effort at Democratic faith outreach. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, Black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.” And “the RNC should consider hiring a faith-based outreach director to focus on engaging faith-based organizations and communities with the Republican Party.” Wait, doesn’t Ralph Reed already do that?
It becomes clear which faith communities those might be, just a page later:
President George W. Bush used to say, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande … and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child.” This tone, coupled with the longstanding relationship with Hispanics he built as governor, demonstrated to the Hispanic community that Republicans cared equally about all Americans. . . .
In addition, the RNC must improve how it markets its core principles and message in Hispanic communities (especially in Hispanic faith-based communities).
Several times the report recommends engaging Hispanic faith-based organizations and communities — but it doesn’t mention such faith outreach in connection with other demographic groups, such as Asian and Pacific Islanders and African-Americans. Or women! The section on women is particularly — what’s the right word? — amazing? “Too often, female voters feel like no one listens to them.” (Really?) “They feel like they are smart, engaged and strong decision makers but that their opinions are often ignored.” (Do you wonder why?)
The report, of course, is just spin, a carefully crafted campaign outside a campaign to try to tell voters the sky is green and the grass is blue, or that the Republican Party is different from the one on display during the 2012 campaign. The pitch for religious Latino voters, though, hints at what’s really at work on the religion front: that the party is trying to figure out a way to keep conservative, religious white voters energized without alienating a pluralistic electorate. Saying that they’re going to reach out to religious Latinos is the party’s way of saying that it hasn’t given up on the religious right’s issues, it just needs to emphasize them in a different way. This might ring true for religious conservatives who have long heard from leaders like the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez that Latinos’ views on social issues line up with theirs (although in reality they’re hardly a monolith). But with or without a new “faith-based outreach director” at the RNC, I suspect that the old lexicon will be back in fairly short order.
By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, March 18, 2013