Heresies and Other Truths
by Kathleen Parker
WASHINGTON -- As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.
Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.
I'm bathing in holy water as I type.
To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.
Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.
The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it. But they need those votes!
So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.
Short break as writer ties blindfold and smokes her last cigarette.
Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.
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 identified by 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.
With the exception of Miss Alaska, of course.
Even Sarah Palin has blamed Bush policies for the GOP loss. She's not entirely wrong, but she's also part of the problem. Her recent conjecture about whether to run for president in 2012 (does anyone really doubt she will?) speaks for itself:
"I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. ... And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it's something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."
Let's do pray that God shows Alaska's governor the door.
Meanwhile, it isn't necessary to evict the Creator from the public square, surrender Judeo-Christian values or diminish the value of faith in America. Belief in something greater than oneself has much to recommend it, including most of the world's architectural treasures, our universities and even our founding documents.
But, like it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.
Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.
The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won't get whiter. And the nonreligious won't get religion through external conversion. It doesn't work that way.
Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base -- or the nation may need a new party.
I think Kathleen Parker should keep it up. No, really! Cal Thomas too! David Brooks, all those "Conservative intelligensia" that write so eloquently from within the Beltway -- or at least from wannabes who wish they rated that.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan united the "old gaurd" Conservatives previously represented by William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater in his younger years, and the newly emergent "Moral Majority" -- predominantly Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians, and not a few blue collar Catholics -- who brought concerns for social issues such as abortion, the homosexual agenda, prayer in schools, and so forth. The "old gaurd" generally were blue bloods and traditional Republican types -- anti-communist, pro free trade, leaning toward libertarianism on some social issues. The Moral Majority was also anti-communist, pro-American, but were mostly blue collar suburbanites who wanted to see God represented again in a Government that had happily left Him out of the process for decades.
The formula was a winner for Ronald Reagan. Since Ronald Reagan, the angst and internal conflict between the "old guard" and the "moral majority" have steadily increased. With the exception of 1994, when Republicans recaptured the Legislative branch for the first time in 40 years as the foils of Bill Clinton, the emergence of the modern Conservative Movement has been slowly regressing.
The regression from victory to exile in the American political wilderness has come about for several reasons. Among the most important are the changing threats faced by the United States, the relentless campaign in popular entertainment and the mainstream media to advance secularism and to marginalize (or demonize) religion in general and Christianity in particular, and the seething hatred of many of the blue-bloods among Republicans for the poor, stupid bumpkins and Bible-thumpers they wish they'd never allied themselves with to win elections. Add to that a more than generous portion of Evangelical self-loathers who wish to return their faith the the quiet days following the Scopes Monkey Trial (to the joy of the blue-blooders) and you have the circumstances Conservatives find themselves in today. Defeat. Retreat.
When Ronald Reagan built his Conservative Coalition, The Communist threat posed by the Soviet Union was at its greatest apex in three decades, having captured several nations in Central and South America, Africa and Asia in just the previous four years. The Reds were encroaching upon our territory, too close to out borders, threatening our friends and interests. This motivated both the blue bloods interested in advancing business and economic interests, and those concerned with advancing the Christian faith in other areas of the world.
Now, consider popular media. Remember when an episode of Welcome Back Kotter was almost banned in the 70’s – and warnings were broadcast at each commercial break – due to “mature content?” The content? A girl in Kotter’s class claimed that one of the “Sweathogs” got her pregnant. Turns out, no one did anything with anyone in the storyline. Remember when NYPD Blue debuted in the 1990’s? The vulgar language and bare backsides were roundly condemned by cultural critics, but the series remained on for years, opening the way for even more questionable and troubling programming on the major networks, not to mention cable or premium channels. And, how are Christians generally portrayed on popular media today? They are buffoons. They are hypocrites. They are crooks. They are thieves. They are deviants or deceivers. They are the objects of comedy and ridicule, even by cartoon characters like The Simpsons and SouthPark.
It goes without saying – and no one can legitimately nor credibly challenge the fact – that the mainstream media, is not “objective,” is very liberal and supports their agenda and the candidates who champion that agenda. Don’t waste your time denying the facts. It’s been going on for decades, they can just come out a little more about it now, because their views are on the cusp of absolute victory. I mean, it is common knowledge among the “media elite” that supporters of such ministries as The 700 Club “are poor, uneducated, and easily lead.” No bias there.
And lately, the fault lines that run through the former Reagan Coalition are evident. Losing a big election tends to highlight such fissures. Faceless McCain aids immediately blame Sarah Palin for the election loss to Obama/Biden. “Conservative intelligentsia,” in an apparent effort to “triangulate” their views so that they are acceptable in the new political atmosphere, have blamed Conservative candidates (WHO, beside Sarah Palin?), Christians as a Conservative constituency, and now, G-O-D Himself. Oh for [He who shall not be named] sake!
This election cycle, the Blue-bloods actually got what they wanted. John McCain, the ticket topper, was one of their own. He ran a campaign built on his tradition of “reaching across the aisle.” His advisors at least did their best to run to the middle, to hide the “ugly duckling” Christian Conservatives unless and until McCain needed their vote. They obviously deplored the choice of Governor Sarah Palin – she of Christian faith, she who proved that abortion isn’t the answer to children with disabilities, she who was not educated in an Ivy League school, she who was from WAY outside the Beltway. No wonder they hated her. No wonder they hate her supporters.
What was the result of the great “middle way?” Republicans got trounced. They are in the worst shape they’ve been in since 1976. Standing for nothing gets you nowhere – fast. Trying to walk the “middle of the road” gets you run over – dead. And where were these so called “moderate Republicans” who’ve been screaming for a “reach across the aisle” candidate? William Weld supported Barack Obama. Chuck Hagel supported Barack Obama. Even someone from the fine stock of William F. Buckley – his son Christopher – supported Barack Obama. “If he goes all wacky socialist on me I’ll be disappointed,” said he. The apple DOES fall far, far from the tree.
Then one has to read Christians like Cal Thomas bad mouthing Christians active in the civic and political life of the nation? One has to be told they are peddling a bastardized “politico-theology” if they speak out on issues they understand are vital to the nation? One must endure the “neo-separatists” who have decided, as did their Fundamentalist forefathers, that if one could not be of the world, why be in it? If one could not transform the world, why would they want to be salt and merely “preserve” it? Why not just be “light?” Why not just partially obey Jesus?
Enough. The blue bloods in the Republican party need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting – in more ways than one. They were trapped in a pit constructed from a permanent 40 year minority. Then Ronald Reagan brought a new day. Those new voters who emerged from the “Moral Majority” wing pushed Reagan Conservatism into the majority. Only those voters – and the principles they stand for – will return Republicans to the majority.
The real “problem” that blue blood and country club Republicans face is that they would rather join Liberals than agree to really accomplish some of the social goals that Christian citizens want to see. They were in the minority, and they liked it! When winners came in, they had more responsibility. They had to keep promises. They had to DO things. They didn’t want to.
If Republicans want to return to the majority again, they’d better RUN back to the principles of Reagan Conservatism – INCLUDING the social agenda of the people of faith that have for so long formed their base. If not, if they are content in the minority, then perhaps traitors to the Conservative cause like Kathleen Parker are right. Perhaps it’s time for a new party, and a funeral for the Republicans.
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