Throwing the Right Overboard to Save the GOP?

Yesterday, I noted that Tony Perkins was declaring Sarah Palin the “future of the [Republican] Party.”  You know who will probably not become the future of the Republican Party?  Christine Todd Whitman, at least if the Religious Right has anything to say about it, because she says that Palin and people like Perkins are exactly what is causing the GOP to lose:

Following the conventional wisdom of the past two presidential elections, McCain tried mightily to assuage the Republican Party’s social-fundamentalist wing. His selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose social views are entirely aligned with that wing, as his running mate was clearly meant to demonstrate his commitment to that bloc. Yet while his choice did comfort those voters, it made many others uncomfortable.

Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment’s notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party’s consent.

In the wake of the Democrats’ landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn’t support him. They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don’t find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders.

Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It’s long past time for the GOP to do the same.

You know who else probably won’t become the future of the GOP? Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander, or Peter King:

As Congressional Republicans lick their political wounds and try to figure out how to bounce back in 2010 and beyond, they might want to consult with Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander and Peter T. King.

Senator Collins, Senator Alexander and Representative King were among Republicans who defied the odds in a terrible year for their colleagues. Their re-elections provide a possible road map for how the party can succeed in a challenging political environment. The answer, the three veteran politicians agreed, is not to become a more conservative, combative party focused on narrow partisan issues.

“What doesn’t work is drawing a harsh ideological line in the sand,” said Ms. Collins, of Maine, who early in the year was a top Democratic target for defeat but ended up winning 61 percent of the vote while Senator Barack Obama received 58 percent in the presidential race in her state.

“We make a mistake if we are going to make our entire appeal rural and outside the Northeast and outside the Rust Belt,” said Mr. King, of New York, who easily won re-election in a region shedding Republicans at a precipitous rate.

“We can stand around and talk about our principles, but we have to put them into actions that most people agree with,” said Mr. Alexander, of Tennessee, a self-described conservative who was able to attract African-American voters.

As much as I would love to see the GOP dump the Religious Right, I don’t have much faith that it will actually happen.  In fact, the best chance the party had to do so was with John McCain, but instead of standing by his infamous “agents of intolerance” remark, the “maverick” utterly caved and capitulated to the Right.

Until the GOP can nominate a presidential candidate who openly eschews the Religious Right and still wins the election or the Right gets a dream nominee, someone like Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin, who makes the right-wing agenda the centerpiece of their campaign and then gets utterly destroyed at the polls, the Religious Right and the Republican Party are going to be stuck with each other for the foreseeable future, whether they like it or not.