Political parties are dependent on various support groups with members providing various types of help beyond campaign donations to advance a shared agenda to develop policies in the groups’ best interests. Republicans depend on a consortium of corporations and social conservatives to garner both money and votes, and they have depended on and rewarded both for over thirty years. However, their support from religious conservatives is in jeopardy as Americans, even Republicans, are accepting the idea the gay community deserves the same right to marry as heterosexual couples, and as marriage equality gained favor, a rift developed between the religious right and Republican Party.
Last week the Republican National Committee held their spring meeting in Los Angeles, and despite an earlier conclusion that Republicans needed a more inclusive message on social issues, the party officially decided to buck popular opinion and oppose marriage equality. On Wednesday, a resolution was introduced arguing that “the institution of marriage is the solid foundation upon which our society is built and in which children thrive; it is based on the relationship that only a man and a woman can form. The Republican National Committee affirms its support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Interestingly, the resolution passed without discussion or debate, and it informs that the religious right still wields power over the RNC rivaling the oil industry, and confounds an earlier RNC report advising a more inclusive stance on social issues to garner electoral support.
In December 2012, the official RNC stance was that the conservative movement’s position on the treatment and the rights of gays turned off younger voters, and that since “these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be, and if our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.” Apparently, the religious right disagreed and after exerting their will through threats by several evangelical organizations, the party decided it was better to lose “young people and increasingly other voters” than risk alienating the bible crowd.
Early last week, the Family Research Council urged supporters to withhold financial support from Republicans if they failed to “grow a backbone,” “stand strong,” and “take guidance” from the religious right and escalated their threats warning that they would not only withhold donations, but would go it alone and form a third party. The head of the FRC, Tony Perkins, sent a letter to the RNC warning leadership “that abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support” and said it would be a “historic mistake” to “marginalize social conservatives.” To show obedience to the religious right, the RNC reaffirmed their 2012 official party platform with a second resolution that said, “WHEREAS, the 2012 Republican Platform states, ‘We believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.’” The idea of governing marriage pushed by the religious right is not confined to America, and the same “family values” groups leading the opposition to same-sex marriage in the United States are pushing their extremist agenda in Europe.
France’s anti-gay religious right, with close ties to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), promised over the weekend to “spill blood” if the French government goes forward with a law legalizing same-sex marriage in France. The anti-gay movement in France is, like in America, a religious right movement incensed their “family values” are not being embraced and legislated by politicians, and is using same-sex marriage as a rallying cry to unite the right-wing in France in spite of 63% of French voters support for gay marriage. If the Republicans think adopting the NOM, FRC, and religious right’s extremist views is going to unite conservatives as a group, they are making the same mistake they made in 2012 when they allowed evangelicals to insert their extremism into their official platform. On Friday, their resolution re-affirming fierce opposition to marriage equality informs it is a mistake they are willing to make although it may be too late to prevent a divisive third party to siphon off votes from Republican candidates.
Despite the RNC’s official opposition to marriage equality, it is likely the religious right will explore starting a third party to promote biblical values, because the Republican Party can ill-afford to continue opposing the will of the people and exist as a viable party at the national level. However, the fact that they officially embraced the evangelical position after the 2012 general election speaks volumes as to their perception of the religious right’s power and influence. The RNC is foolish to think they will attract voters when Republicans in the House and Senate have come out in support of marriage equality as a means of electoral self-preservation, but the allure of the bible crowd’s support is too appealing.
Republicans are facing an existential threat as the people realize they are out of touch with social values as well as their economic policies heaping the nation’s assets on the richest Americans and their corporations. It is true social conservatives are a mainstay of Republicans’ base, but the majority of Americans, even most conservatives, want jobs, healthcare, and an thriving economy Republicans are loathe to help create, and maybe their acquiescence to evangelical fanatics is meant to shift attention away from their economic incompetence.
The RNC may have staved off an all-out rebellion by the religious right by officially remaining the party of intolerance and theocratic directives, but in doing so, they further cemented themselves as out of touch with the will of the people, and after the 2012 electoral defeat, it appears they did not learn anything. However, it is just as likely the GOP is not pandering to the religious right and, except for a few outliers, agrees with organizations like NOM, the Family Research Council, and extreme social conservatives across the nation. Based on religious legislation being implemented in states by Republicans, there is a good chance evangelicals did not exert much pressure on the RNC to officially oppose equality, because two anti-same sex marriage resolutions passed without discussion, debate, and dissension reveal that Republicans are not reverting to their same extremist positions, they never abandoned them.