The religious right takes notice

THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT TAKES NOTICE…. When the National Council for a New America, the Republican rebranding initiative, unveiled a list of broad policy priorities last week, it left out cultural and social issues altogether. Nothing about abortion, gays, state-sponsored religion, etc. It suggested a subtle realization — the GOP won’t get back on track fighting the losing side of a culture war.

The party’s religious-right base, however, isn’t pleased about the prospect of being left behind by their political party. After all, conservative evangelicals are often the foot-soldiers for Republicans, and they’re not about to compromise on the only issues they truly care about.

Yesterday, the Family Research Council, arguably the religious right movement’s most powerful and politically relevant organization, blasted their Republican allies for considering a vision for the future that is “devoid” of “values.”

The [NCNA’s] priorities, which were unveiled at a pizza parlor press conference, include the economy, health care, education, energy, and national security. Notice anything conspicuously absent? Former Gov. Jeb Bush explained the values void by saying it was time for the GOP to give up its “nostalgia” for Reagan-era ideas and look forward to new “relevant” ideas. (Yes, because that worked so well for Republicans in 2006 and 2008!) Bush ignored the fact that abandoning the array of principles that Reagan espoused is exactly what got the GOP into this mess. […]

Too many Republicans leaders are running scared on the claims of the Left and the media that social conservatism is a dead-end for the GOP. If that were the case, why are pro-family leaders like Mike Huckabee creating such excitement in the conservative base? The Republican establishment doesn’t draw a crowd. Governor Sarah Palin does. Also, take a look at the recent Pew Research poll, which showed overall support for abortion in America has dropped eight percentage points in the last year and support for it among moderate and liberal Republicans has dropped a whopping 24%. Based on that, how can the GOP suggest that life is a losing issue? If there were a road sign for the GOP on this new journey, it would read: Welcome to the wilderness. You’re going to be there for awhile.

I can only assume this kind of talk will become louder and more prevalent, because the religious right no doubt realizes they’re losing clout. The NCNA ignored culture/social issues, as did the “Resurgent Republic” project and most of the “Tea Party” rhetoric. There’s no shortage of talk from Republican leaders — on the Hill, on Fox News, within the RNC — and practically no one is out there arguing that bashing gays and limiting reproductive rights should be the basis for a GOP comeback.

The more the religious right movement feels ignored, the more it’s going to rebel. And the more the movement gets noticed, the more Republican leaders will be put in a bind — embrace intolerant culture warriors stuck in the past, or distance the party from a large part of its base?

What I suspect will happen is that Boehner, Steele, and others will start quietly telling religious right leaders, “Don’t worry, we’re still with you. We’re not talking about your issues, but this is just p.r.”

Except, that won’t work for groups like the Family Research Council and their ilk. The whole point of a culture war is to take the religious right’s issues to the public and put “the family” up front and center.