For several years now, there has been a tension in the Republican Party between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives that has only become more pronounced in the wake of their string of electoral losses.
When the GOP was winning elections, these differences were easily papered over but now that the movement finds itself in the wilderness, these differences are coming more to the forefront as both wings try to remake the GOP in its preferred image and potential for disaster has sparked efforts like the one Newt Gingrich has launched to bring both groups together under a common banner.
The reasons for this tension are myriad and complex, but Ken Blackwell doesn’t see it that way. In fact, he’s got a rather simple explanation – it all the left’s fault:
Part of this divide between conservatives is due to the sanitizing of the public square of references to God. Not many years ago, there was no dispute between conservatives over basic talk about faith. People were not necessarily more religious. There was just a comfort level with general expressions of common faith, such as prayer, signs of the Ten Commandments, or referring to school vacation in December as Christmas Break, instead of Winter Break.
But years of enforced and increasing secularism has left people of faith to their faith, but non-religious conservatives to become increasingly squeamish over even basic expressions of faith. All conservatives believe in the primacy of the individual, but such conservatism must also be rooted in the truth that the individual does not live for the state, and does not receive what is most important from the state.
Blaise Pascal once said that everyone has a God-shaped hole in them. Human beings are designed with a void that only the Creator can fill. Without the Creator, people seek out things in their lives in which to put their truth and to which to give their reverence and adoration. While many secular conservatives do not agree with religious conservatives as to the nature or character of the source of our rights, they all agree that the source is not government. And it’s essential that they recognize there are those on the left seeking to drive a wedge between them.
Apparently, everything was fine with the various factions of the GOP’s base until the left started driving a wedge between them by making “non-religious conservatives … increasingly squeamish over even basic expressions of faith.”
This sounds a lot like the recent complaint from leaders of the Religious Right when they were telling everyone to stop calling them the “Religious Right” because that term carries negative connotations. As we noted then, the reason the term “Religious Right” has negative connotations stems largely from the fact that representatives of the Religious Right regularly say and do things that cause people to dislike them.
The same goes for the “non-religious conservatives” – they’d be more than happy to align with social conservatives if the social conservatives would stop behaving in ways that give the entire conservative movement a bad name. But nobody wants to be associated with a group of people who keep going out and saying that the Constitution has to be amended to adhere to God’s standards, or that gays have no morality and constitute the single greatest threat to our nation, or that President Obama is the Antichrist and that people will go to hell for voting for him.
It is not “the left” that is making secular conservatives uncomfortable with religious conservatives – religious conservatives are doing that entirely on their own.