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Political heresy as religious heresy

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Has Dick Morris suddenly become a non-person to Republicans?

I noticed his absence at the usual places which once carried his column, so I’m just wondering….

Then I happened to catch this. Morris recently advised the Republican Party to “terminate” the Christian right. What fascinated me the most was his contention that religious conservatives have what amounts to veto power:

the Republican Party has paid the price for its coalition with the advocates of bedroom regulation. The Christian right has so alienated women that it has opened up a gender gap that often swells to more than 20 points, crippling Republican candidates.

The upset victory of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California shows what the Republican Party could do if it broke with the pro-lifers and abandoned their intrusive efforts to regulate private behavior. Moving to the center on the social issues, demonstrating a libertarian commitment to privacy, the actor/governor held the gender gap to less than 10 points, winning 43 percent of the female vote. Schwarzenegger won the top job in the solid Democratic state of California by carrying the women’s vote, a feat that would have been impossible had he embraced the social agenda of his party.

It is about time that the Republican Party realizes that the Christian right is doing to it exactly what the radical black Rainbow Coalition of Jesse Jackson did to the Democratic Party in the ’80s — making them unelectable. Their embrace is the kiss of death. It is not that the religious right is wrong. Right or wrong, it gets in the way of so much good that the Republican Party could achieve if it were not in the Christian right’s grasp.

Will the Republican Party escape from the embrace of the pro-lifers so that it can nominate candidates like Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice? Likely not. Those who see each election as an opportunity to hold candidates to litmus tests on key social issues are not likely to relinquish their hold or relax their vigilance.

Is this true? Does the conservative fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party have what amounts to veto power?

The large-margin Schwarzenegger victory must have come as a serious shock to the Republican leadership — whose party, it should be remembered, barely won the last presidential election, and whose majority in Congress is razor-thin. That Schwarzenegger did so well with women despite the “groping” charges must especially irk moral conservatives, because it was one of the few times they joined the chorus of “feminazis” and agreed upon something, yet the alliance failed.

The McClintock forces (dominated as they were by radical Christian Reconstructionists) also formed an unholy alliance with the left by urging a “No” vote on the recall itself — placing both McClintock and Bustamante in the odd position of running in an election they opposed “in principle.” I think California voters demonstrated that they are capable of seeing past such shenanigans.

As I noted previously, Lou Sheldon’s outfit (the name of which tends to whitewash ancient history) went all out to stop Schwarzenegger:

born-again Christian conservatives are mortified by the actor’s liberal views on abortion and homosexuality and wary about allegations of drug use, infidelity and juvenile sexual antics. The Rev. Louis Sheldon, head of the ultra-right Traditional Values Coalition, warned in a statement last week of a “moral vacuum” in Sacramento. “It is hard to imagine a worse governor than Gray Davis,” Sheldon said, “but Mr. Schwarzenegger would be it.”

Sheldon’s group has launched an anti-Arnie project called Californians for Moral Government. James Lafferty, a consultant for the group, said its work is just the first rumbling of an earthquake to come.

NOTE: Readers having difficulty getting the entire Salon article cited above can read the rest of the text here.

Naturally, this made me love Arnold all the more, and I think it brought the guy a lot of voter sympathy.

In other words, a voter backlash.

Such a phenomenon is nothing new; the Democrats have tried to capitalize on it for years. What is truly remarkable is that here, the same voter backlash helped elect a Republican. It is equally remarkable that even a double digit McClintock vote failed to thwart the overall will of the voters — something which must strike terror into the hearts of people whose arrogant assumption has long been along the lines of: “Republicans can’t win with us, but we’ll show them they can’t win without us!”

In the future, the Democrats cannot count on automatically getting the votes of ordinary voters who fear political dominance by religious theocrats. These voters are smart enough to spot a con game by either side.

It also means that the Republicans need to be very careful.

Morris asks,

Will the Republican Party escape from the embrace of the pro-lifers so that it can nominate candidates like Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice? Likely not. Those who see each election as an opportunity to hold candidates to litmus tests on key social issues are not likely to relinquish their hold or relax their vigilance.

Hillary Clinton is counting on Dick Morris being right.

Of course, no one is suggesting that Republicans kick religious conservatives out of their tent or in any way disrespect them. But showing others respect does not mean obeying all their demands. Inclusion in a Big Tent does not mean being its gatekeepers. And as I keep saying, disagreement is not disrespect.

Silencing speech is.

And some of the religious conservatives have demanded that people who disagree with them be silenced — and not spoken to at all. According to this view, dissenters on abortion or gay rights do not even belong in the Republican Party. And, if Republican leaders even meet with them, speak to them, or have them on their staffs, there’ll be hell to pay. Not long before the Schwarzenegger victory, a dire threat was directed to to the White House after RNC Chairman Marc Racicot dared to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans:

Social conservative leaders told Mr. Racicot they had been pleased generally with Mr. Bush’s words and actions on social-policy issues but couldn’t assure that their rank-and-file members would retain the same degree of enthusiasm for Mr. Bush if the president and his party appeased the homosexual lobby.

“If the Republicans continue to drift in that direction, we will walk,” the Rev. Donald Wildmon, president of AFA, told Mr. Racicot. Mr. Wildmon’s AFA owns and operates about 200 radio stations across the country and provides programming to about 20 affiliated stations.

Well, that was the threat. Were President Bush politically astute enough to call him on it, and if Wildmon really made good on it, the Schwarzenegger equation would likely mean a net Republican gain.

According to this conservative analysis,

[A] welcoming attitude toward gays can be a winning strategy since almost 9 out of 10 Americans agree that homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities.

Also, exit polls showed 4% of voters in 2000 self-identified as gay or lesbian (and nearly 75% voted for the Democratic Gore-Lieberman ticket). Exit polling in congressional elections have showed a gay electorate of more than 5%. That’s a larger demographic than the Jewish vote. Even shaving just a small slice away from Democrats could prove pivotal to cementing the GOP’s status as the majority party. Moreover, many independents are turned off by anti-gay rhetoric, negatively viewing it as a broader barometer of intolerance.

Yet the FRC spent a week recently using its website to expose the Bush administration’s ties to the “homosexual agenda.” One online installment was “Homosexual Lobby: Follow the Money” — which, apparently, leads to Republican coffers. What better example of how the religious right’s paranoia mirrors the gay left’s dementia?

It remains to be seen if the White House can continue to reach out to gays, however tepidly, without making the religious right even angrier.

NOTE: I left in the above link to illustrate another example of a pattern by anti-homosexual activists. They apparently don’t want people like me to be able to read or cite their links — a phenomenon noted by Mike Silverman earlier.

Why would any organization be afraid of its own words?

For the same reason that some Republicans are now afraid of Dick Morris’s words, perhaps?

NOTE: The above essay can also be read at my blog.

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About Eric Scheie

  • Actually, the religious right probably isn’t nearly so troublesome to the Republicans as black groups are to the Democrats. The religious right generally are not necessarily more moderate than the black groups, but considerably more pragmatic.

    Black interest groups, having gotten pretty much every possible reasonable concession, have gone to demanding reparations, and other such utter nonsense.

    Religious conservatives on the other hand are content to get half a loaf. They will be well satisfied with the widely popular partial birth abortion ban, and not push at this point for an overall legislative or constitutional ban on all abortions, for example.

  • Dan

    It’s always seemed to me that Democrats are hell bent on having the biggest tent, and less concerned with stuff like principle, integrity, or Constitutional adherance. Naturally they would have more uneasy alliances than the Repubs.

    I do love those log cabiners. (in a strictly generalized way of course) They seem principled just for resisting the shameless divisive pandering of the left. Same goes for conservative minorities.

    In my fantasy Country, the Republicans win the pandering battle, the Democratic Party dries up. All the ultra-lefties move to France. Then a rainbow coalition of Constitutionally enlightened constituents challenges the Republicans for the allegiance of all the folks who have had to hold their nose while they voted Republican.

    Now that would be progressive! Or in a sense, regressive.

  • I and many other Californians did not see the recall issues as choices of gay or Gray or Jesus.

    The major issues were the fiscal crisis and the pay-for-play state Democrats. Gray was recallable so he was recalled. In the next election, we’ll work on the equally-culpable Democratic legislature (which will be tougher because of the 2001 redistricting pact between the Dems and the Reps).

    Arnold was the second-best outcome for us, but a step in the direction of the fiscal conservatism McClintock represented, with no ties to special interests (yet).

    Although Arnie’s decision to investigate himself on the groping charges is making me start to wonder:
    “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, did I grope anyone at all?” 🙂