There have been several articles in recent days from conservative Republican and Religious Right leaders arguing about how the GOP can re-establish itself as a viable force in American politics after getting thumped in the last two elections. Immediately after the election, some voices emerged suggesting that the only hope was for the party to throw the right-wing elements overboard, a suggestion that was not surprisingly met with outrage by the leaders of that section of the base.
Now it seems as if the GOP’s “culture warriors” have found their voice and decided to fight back on their own terms. Thus, you have Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina arguing that what the party really needs is to establish tighter control over its “franchise” and just who had the right to call themselves a “Republican” because the party’s “tent cannot be so big as to include political franchisees who don’t act on the core tenets of conservatism.” And you have Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and RNC Chairmanship hopeful, calling on the GOP to “renew our commitment to our Party’s timeless principles…by reconfirming our commitment to be the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, strong national security, respect for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, the importance of family and the exceptionalism of America.”
Along the same lines, you have Rod Dreher arguing not only that the social conservatives were in no way responsible for the GOP’s current plight, but that they offer the only route to political salvation for the party:
[W]as it the religious right that conceived and executed the disastrous Iraq war? Did preachers deregulate Wall Street? Did evangelical leader James Dobson screw up the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina? Jack Abramoff — did he concoct his crooked lobbying schemes during long protest vigils outside abortion clinics? To be fair, religious conservatives didn’t stand up to any of this. We own a share of the GOP’s failure. But to scapegoat us for the Republican implosion is preposterous … far from being the demise of the GOP, the coming generation of evangelicals, Catholics and fellow travelers can be the seeds for the conservative movement’s intellectual rebirth.
In case they weren’t being clear enough, the Right is making sure that its place in the party is clearly understood:
“People are trying to rebrand the GOP; they’re trying to find a course for the future. They want to get back in power, and many of the voices that the GOP is listening to are telling them we need to be moderate, we need to jettison the social conservative issues, we need to not talk about life or marriage,” [David Nammo, executive director of Family Research Council Action] contends. “And if that is what the direction of the GOP is going to be, I think they’re going to find themselves in the minority party for many years to come.”
Even James Dobson has gotten in on the action, personally penning a response to Kathleen Parker entitled ‘”We Won’t Be Silenced”:
[W]e don’t need an embossed note from Ms. Parker — or anyone else — to take part in the political dialogue — of either party. Our invitation to engage the process comes straight from our Founders. We will continue to stand up for the sanctity of human life, the sacredness of marriage and the right to have a say in the principles that will continue to guide this nation founded on biblical principles. Where Ms. Parker gets it most wrong is in writing that socially conservative Christians are an “element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.”
We’ve never been that marginalized in our culture and government — and won’t be anytime soon, the efforts and epithets of big media notwithstanding.
If the moderate elements in the Republican Party thought they could just re-brand the GOP by dumping the Religious Right base, that base has now made it abundantly clear that any effort to that will result in an all-out war for control of the party that will likely doom it to minority status for years to come.