Extremist Views Doomed the GOP

Ross Douthat joins the ranks of Republicans who think they can remain a viable national party in the 21st century while embracing the mind set of the middle ages. He takes offense from the advice of Republicans who reject the social conservatives:

Pro-choice Republicans, in particular, know exactly whom to blame for their party’s showing. As Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and Bush administration E.P.A. chief, explained after the election, it lost because “the party was taken hostage by ‘social fundamentalists,’ the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion.” The conservative columnist Kathleen Parker made the same point more vividly: “The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the G.O.P. is what ails the erstwhile conservative party.” The neoconservative writer Max Boot was diffident about the matter (“I don’t think Republicans need to panic,” he wrote, but “one area where I do see some room for adjustment is on the issue of abortion”) and the right-wing humorist P. J. O’Rourke was blunt (pro-lifers should “give the issue a rest”). The message is clear: If the Republican Party would only jettison its position on abortion, it would be back on its feet in no time.

Maybe they wouldn’t be back on their feet very quickly considering how many ways the Republicans screwed up the country while in power, but their association with the religious right will make it much harder for them to ever recover. The views of the religious right are increasingly making the Republicans an unacceptable choice to affluent educated voters as well as the young, making it very hard for them to win a national election in the future. Their views on abortion are a part of this, but the problem goes beyond abortion. Douthat fails to give enough consideration to the problems faced by the Republicans due to their overall opposition to science and reason, including the belief of many in creationism and the manner in which they allow their ideological views to lead them to denial of the scientific consensus on climate change.

Douthat tries to portray opponents of abortion rights as being fair minded people willing to compromise. They have even stopped trying to kill those who perform abortions, after all! Such willingness to compromise was not seen when Sarah Palin opposed abortion under any circumstance, or when John McCain mocked the very idea of allowing abortion to save the life of the mother during the third presidential debate. Nor does the right wing appear willing to compromise when they oppose also oppose contraception and embryonic stem cell research. Nobody with any real understanding of the science will buy Douthat’s claims that those on the right are more knowledgeable on the subject because of their support for adult embryonic stem cell research. This is no replacement for embryonic stem cell research.

Douthat sees overturning the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as being the “very purpose” of the conservative movement. As long as they define their movement in terms of such a return to the past they are not likely to regain power nationally. While there have been periods of back sliding, the general trend of our history has been to enable greater individual freedom. A movement which opposes this, along with embracing ignorance and opposition to science, is doomed to becoming a relic of the past.

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