The Republicans Need This Woman’s Voice

Mike Huckabee, a lifelong Republican very close to me once intimated, would be the death of the Republican party.  The rationale behind this statement was simple; Huckabee’s presidential campaign was forcing the party to be even more in the thrall of Religious conservatives without making concessions towards actual governance or even towards winning elections.

And yet this very same Republican fell in love with Sarah Palin, despite the fact that she represented much of what Governor Huckabee represented just at a different point in the presidential election timeline.

It is the truth that in this country, people are free to use whatever criteria they choose when casting their vote for elected officials.  It’s equally true that candidates have a very broad latitude in how they ask the electorate to vote for them.  While there are plenty of guidelines telling us how to run the country, we are remarkably free in the way we go about selecting those people to actually run it.

As a result, there’s nothing inherently wrong with people using their faith to decide for whom they would like to vote.  Things are a little sketchier when it comes to politicians, but they are free to say they are the candidate of God, or whatever they think will do the trick.

But just as people are free to vote as Christians, and to run as fundamentalist Christians, they are also free to lose; lose political power, and lose elections.  The question facing Republicans today is this one; over the course of the past thirty years the GOP has moved closer and closer to the increasingly powerful religious-political epicenters of this country, but are they really willing to follow this trend right over a cliff?

What has happened is that the Republican party is growing more radical, seemingly with each election cycle.

Which is itself another truth in American politics; things change.  There’s a natural progression for this sort of thing, first something is thought of as radical, than it builds steam, breaks through, and becomes mainstream.  And just as new ideas become old and comfortable, old ideas fall out of favor, become discredited, and themselves become radical.  Think on it for a moment, a hundred and fifty years ago, equal voting rights across the board for black people would have been radical, unthinkable even.  Now, the exact opposite is true; it is the norm that black people can vote while those who think otherwise are relegated to extreme communities, ostracized from the sphere of rationality in the American debate.

This is not to imply that eventually people of faith will become intellectual outcasts, or even that they should be, they shouldn’t.  But it is to say that while the Republican party remains beholden to this one wedge of political power, the rest of the country is moving on, and if social trends continue as expected, in a generation or two the entirety of the socially conservative agenda will be toxic in most places save some regions.

And after so much attention has been lavished upon them, religious conservatives have gotten greedy; they want to see their agenda make that move from divisive issues in debate to being actually enacted by law.  In so doing, they are essentially alienating themselves from relevence, they are isolating themselves from being able to appeal to and compromise with a growing portion of the country that is not itself religiously conservative.

Thirty years ago, the Religious Right was a Godsend; in today’s political climate, and in the political climate of the future, the Religious Right looks more and more like a poison pill.

Sadly, my opinions on the matter aren’t likely to change many minds, especially not those minds that really matter, me being the Democrat that I am.  No, the Republican Party needs a wake up call, and they need it from one of their own.  Kathleen Parker provides such a summons to good sense:

Here’s the deal, ‘pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

It isn’t that culture doesn’t matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party — and conservatism with it — eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one’s heart where it belongs.

Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they’ve had something to do with the GOP’s erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identifiedby Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can’t have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

The sad thing is that I don’t think many will listen; since Parker criticized Sarah Palin she has been treated like a traitor to the Republican faith, cast out from NRO and forced to join a small but growing club of Republican “elitists” who have taken to shaking their heads and wondering what the hell happened to their party.  It’s almost exactly the way they treat patriotism; if you don’t agree with them, you aren’t just wrong, you’re unAmerican.  If you don’t agree with the stranglehold the Religious Right holds on the Republican party, you’re not only wrong, you’re unRepublican.

It’s a shame, really, because voices of dissent make any organization stronger, especially when those voices of dissent are dead on.  The Republicans will likely continue to flagellate Parker for not toeing the party line, when in truth the Republicans need her voice, and need to take to heart the things she says.

Not that I care that much, really; it’s not my party.

2 Responses to “The Republicans Need This Woman’s Voice”

  1. Ace Armstrong says:

    The religious right has never been a godsend. Their agenda is essentially to create a theocracy that is ruled by an abstract notion of the Ten Commandments.
    The founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not come to the shores of America to create a pluralistic religious society but rather to establish a theocracy based on their concepts of the reformation of christianity.
    When the elephant boys launched their ‘southern strategy’ to capture those american whites dissatisfied with the Civil Rights Movement they inaugurated their own undoing. To wit, they proposed to unify christians with the most unchristian position possible – hate and envy.
    Anyone who has seriously studied the teachings of Jesus Christ will tell you it’s about inclusion, love and consciousness of social responsibility.
    The politics of division and exclusion is no more christian than the man in the moon. It’s more about selfrighteousness and domination. Compassionate conservatism is an oxymoron and failed social notion. We have endured a period of political and economic theories gone awry.
    And the goofiest part of all is the notion that McCain/Palin would have prevailed if the economy hadn’t crashed. But no mention that the economy crashed because of conservative republican theories put into action. Kind of like saying the car wouldn’t have gone over the cliff if it didn’t have wheels.
    The evangelical right wing christian movement is a standard of Christ in name only.

  2. BH says:

    Kyle, let me attempt to address the conundrum of your Republican friend who agrees that the religious right is one of the problems with the Republican party, but who has also fallen in love with Sarah Palin. Is it so difficult to comprehend that he may not have been merely smitten by her good looks, but intellectually concluded that she does not represent the religious right at all? And could that also explain why there were so many energetic young people at her rallies, fans who would not have attended a speech by Dobson or Wildmon if they were paid for their time?

    Let’s look at a few facts that, although they may draw on some of the standard excuses used by the Republicans for their loss, may also be dispositive of the legitimacy of an alternative view of Sarah Palin.

    One, while it is established that her role (determined largely by the retread Bush/Rove handlers assigned to her) was to shore up the crumbling support of the Republican right, it was soon apparent that she was not comfortable or had become increasingly uncomfortable with that role. Ergo, the sniping from that camp that she was going “rogue.” What exactly does that mean? I heard the term used frequently, but I never heard an adequate definition. Could it be that she was not as evangelical, religiously or politically, as her handlers had expected?

    Two, is there any doubt that the Mainstream Media vilified her from the start, largely because of that role? She was the visible symbol of all that was wrong with the country and, by extension, the Republican party since it had been in power for eight years; we would wind up with a theocracy if we elected another Republican. That remains one of the true nightmares of the far Left (although Whoopi Goldberg may have lost more sleep wondering what position on the plantation she would be assigned to). While talking heads were not ready to sign on to the Bill Mahr school of direct “religulous” confrontation (news producers can afford to offend only so much of their viewship before advertising revenues tank), it was relatively easy to snipe at her from every other angle. The strategy was clear: denigrate her and denigrate her message for free. Her language, her preparation, her associations, and even her family were fair game.

    However, unbiased viewers began to see a different Sarah Palin than the caricatures so gleefully presented by her enemies in the media. They began to note that she indeed may be unlettered, at least in the ability to spout arcane and polysyllabic words to the satisfaction of Hitchens or Brooks. Because she was a populist (the term is used deliberately) governor as opposed to an ossified senator, she may be unschooled in finer arts of diplomacy, at least to Colin Powell’s satisfaction. And she might have been unprepared for the endemic treachery of DC and its labrynthine stratifications, but her supporters could easily dismiss all that. They do not live in DC or Silver Springs. What they recognized and what ultimately became the only thing that mattered was that she was not unprincipled.

    The two essential tenets of the religious right have been opposition to Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. Show me one instance where she demanded the overturn of Roe v. Wade or where she said she would appoint Supreme Court justices from the pool of what the religious right euphemistically refers to as “strict constructionists.” The term is a misnomer; in the most literal sense, Roe v. Wade was mandated by a strict constructist point of view. And here’s a news flash: Roe v. Wade will never be overturned. You would be surprised at the number of Republicans who have long ago accepted that, but then you might also be surprised at the realism of those same Republicans.

    Sarah Palin has clearly identified herself with the choice of eschewing abortion, but she has also said (since her release from the Bush/Rove incarceration of the campaign) that she would seek common ground with pro-choice advocates. I cannot help but sense that such a meeting would produce an echo of Bill Clinton: “abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”

    As for gay marriage, isn’t it interesting that the MSM never reported in any detail the tiny fact that as governer Sarah Palin vetoed a bill in the Alaska legislature that denied medical benefits to gay partners because it was unconstitutional? There was an unholy alliance at work in ignoring her actions: the religious right was certainly uncomfortable with it and the MSM obviously had no interest in noting it, albeit for different reasons. I suspect Governor Palin chafed at that restriction.

    Finally, I suspect your Republican friend may just represent a larger swath of his party than the fanatics of the left or the right would want to admit. Both extremes, proselytizers that they are, are unattractive to him, as I also suspect they are to the same raucous crowds that came out for Sarah Palin.

    You may still be puzzled that your friend and many others would not have been anguished had the election gone the other way and Sarah Palin would have been only a heartbeat away from the presidency. (You may also be puzzled that President-elect Obama’s recent cabinet appointments hardly reflect the “change” that was his message.) In fact, why was there never mentioned a “platform” in either campaign? Was this election truly based on any kind of philosophy, other than the fact that both campaigns wanted to sweep away any trace of Cheney/Bush (the juxtapositon is deliberate)?

    Here’s a final news flash: the Democrats did not defeat McCain/Palin; the Republicans did. The failure of the Republican right to come out in force was the diluting factor in McCain’s numbers. How does one reconcile the paltry efforts of the Far Right with the appellation of Sarah Palin as the darling of the Far Right?

    Give your buddy a break; he may be on to something.

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