Washington Post Reports On Support For Legalization of Marijuana

The Washington Post is running a story entitled  Support for legalizing marijuana grows rapidly around U.S:

The same day they rejected a gay marriage ballot measure, residents of Maine voted overwhelmingly to allow the sale of medical marijuana over the counter at state-licensed dispensaries.

Later in the month, the American Medical Association reversed a longtime position and urged the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin.

A few days later, advocates for easing marijuana laws left their biannual strategy conference with plans to press ahead on all fronts — state law, ballot measures, and court — in a movement that for the first time in decades appeared to be gaining ground.

“This issue is breaking out in a remarkably rapid way now,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Public opinion is changing very, very rapidly.”

The shift is widely described as generational. A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana — a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, “the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years.”

A 53 percent majority already does so in the West, according to the survey. The finding heartens advocates collecting signatures to put the question of legalization before California voters in a 2010 initiative.

At last week’s International Drug Reform Conference, activists gamed specific proposals for taxing and regulating pot along the lines of cigarettes and alcohol, as a bill pending in the California Legislature would do. The measure is not expected to pass, but in urging its serious debate, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) gave credence to a potential revenue source that the state’s tax chief said could raise $1.3 billion in the recession, which advocates describe as a boon.

The rest of the article is much like this. The point is not that there is any major news on the subject but that this summarizes the recent trend towards increased support for legalization. Having stories such as this in major newspapers does help to make support for legalization appear more respectable and does probably help this trend continue.

Republicans Supporting Health Care Reform

Republicans currently in Congress are determined to prevent the Democrats from having a political victory by passing health care reform, regardless of how much this is needed or how much better off the country would be. In contrast to those currently in Congress, many other Republicans are backing health care reform ideas similar to the current Democratic plans.  Arnold Schwarzenneger is the latest Republican to support health care reform, issuing this statement today backing a national push for health are reform:

For Immediate Release:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on National Push for Health Care Reform

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement urging the passage of health care reform at the national level:

“As Governor, I have made significant efforts to advance health reform in California. As the Obama Administration was launching the current debate on health care reform, I hosted a bipartisan forum in our state because I believe in the vital importance of this issue, and that it should be addressed through bipartisan cooperation.

“Our principal goals, slowing the growth in costs, enhancing the quality of care delivered, improving the lives of individuals, and helping to ensure a strong economic recovery, are the same goals that the president is trying to achieve. I appreciate his partnership with the states and encourage our colleagues on both sides of the political aisle at the national level to move forward and accomplish these vital goals for the American people.

Earlier in the year, former Republican Senate leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker backed ideas similar to the current health care reform legislation. Bill Frist also agreed recently. In many ways the current Democratic proposals are like Mitt Romney’s plan, with ideas on financing coming from John McCain.

Even Bobby Jindal supports the ideas in the current health care proposals, even if he isn’t bright enough to realize it. In yesterday’s Washington Post, Bobby Jindal wrote a bizarre op-ed in which he claimed, “The debate on health care has moved on. Democratic plans for a government takeover are passé.” Jindal showed he doesn’t really understand what is in the Democratic plans, such as with his false characterization of them as a “government takeover.” Jindal then proceeded to lay out what he considered Republican ideas for health care reform, and they wound up being fairly close to the current Democratic ideas which he claims are passé. The difference is that Jindal just provided general principles without any concrete mechanism to put these ideas into practice–such as those present in the Democratic health care proposals.

Liberty Counsel’s Program to Pray For Liberals

You just can’t make up stuff stranger than what is coming out of the right wing. The Liberty Counsel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, has started a program to adopt a liberal and pray for them:

Since the landmark 2008 general election, there can be no doubt that a very large percentage of our Nation’s leaders have a liberal mindset. The undeniable fact is that the 111th Pelosi-Reid Congress and the Obama Administration demonstrate a far left political philosophy. And since the President nominates federal judges and Justices of the United States Supreme Court, the judicial branch of government could take on a decidedly more liberal bent as the Obama Administration wears on.

Liberty Counsel has therefore named this special new prayer-in-action program Adopt a Liberal. And that’s exactly what we invite you to do — adopt a liberal who is in authority for regular, intense prayer in accord with St. Paul’s admonition to his disciple, Timothy. In fact, we expect that many of our friends and supporters will choose to adopt many liberals as subjects of regular prayer!

Pick one or more of the liberals from the list we have posted online at www.LC.org, or choose your own liberal(s) to adopt. If you are led to choose one or more of the liberals we have selected for consideration, please read their brief biographical statement, including the reasons they stand in need of prayer.

Pray earnestly and intensely for them! Pray that the Lord would move upon them and cause them to be the kind of leaders who will encourage others to lead “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We encourage you to seek the Lord’s guidance on how to pray for your liberal(s), always allowing Him to temper your prayer with His love and mercy.

Please pray daily for the liberal(s) of your choice, so each can become a good influence on our Nation’s culture. Prayer is powerful! It allows God to change the minds of those for whom we are praying. In fact, we fully expect that many of our adoptees will “graduate” from this prayer program with vivid testimonies of God having changed their lives and worldviews!

They even provide a list of names of liberals to pray for, including the “Unknown Liberal” for any additional liberals:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Congressman Barney Frank
Director John Holdren
Mr. Barry Lynn
Secretary Janet Napolitano
President Barack Obama
Senator Harry Reid
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Senator Olympia Snowe
The “Unknown Liberal”

Reading the warped descriptions of the views of the people on their list is also good for a few laughs.

(Hat tip to Amygdala and Andrew Sullivan)

The Triumph of the Independents Confirmed

Last February, when it appeared likely that the presidential race would between Barack Obama and John McCain, I called this a triumph for independents. Instead of each party following Rove-style politics and turning to its extremes, each appeared likely to nominate their candidate who most attracted independent voters. In several posts I saw the country as moving in a more socially liberal and economically conservative direction. I  described such economic conservatism as being pragmatic in support of generally free market principles, as opposed to following Republican economic policies of using the power of the state to transfer wealth to the wealthy, while continuing to support government action where necessary.

At that point in 2008 when few had heard of Sarah Palin, John McCain did appear to be a more moderate choice, even if I questioned whether he was really as moderate as his reputation. I also saw the predicted victory by Obama over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards as an example of victory for social liberalism combined with more free market principles over the populism of his opponents. Events have altered policy, hopefully for the short term, in requiring a more activist government on economic matters.

Looking at the long run, I still see Obama’s victory as a sign that the Democrats are moving in a more socially liberal and economically conservative direction. This is the direction which the country also is moving in, as demonstrated by a Pew Research Center Poll which shows independents to be at their greatest level in seventy years:

Owing to defections from the Republican Party, independents are more conservative on several key issues than in the past. While they like and approve of Barack Obama, as a group independents are more skittish than they were two years ago about expanding the social safety net and are reluctant backers of greater government involvement in the private sector. Yet at the same time, they continue to more closely parallel the views of Democrats rather than Republicans on the most divisive core beliefs on social values, religion and national security.

While the Democrats gained a sizable advantage in partisan affiliation during George Bush’s presidency, their numbers slipped between December 2008 and April 2009, from 39% to 33%. Republican losses have been a little more modest, from 26% to 22%, but this represents the lowest level of professed affiliation with the GOP in at least a quarter century. Moreover, on nearly every dimension the Republican Party is at a low ebb – from image, to morale, to demographic vitality.

By contrast, the percentage of self-described political independents has steadily climbed, on a monthly basis, from 30% last December to 39% in April. Taking an average of surveys conducted this year, 36% say they are independents, 35% are Democrats, while 23% are Republicans. On an annual basis, the only previous year when independent identification has been this high was in 1992 when Ross Perot ran a popular independent candidacy.

Independents now have a slight lead, approximately equal in support to the Democrats, with Republicans remaining in the low twenty’s as in several other recent polls. A look at the views of independents show their views to be much closer to Democrats:

The political values of independents are mixed and run counter to orthodox liberal and conservative thinking about government. Over the past two years, both Republicans and independents have become more wary of expanding the social safety net. However, most independents join with most Democrats in saying that a free market economy needs government regulation to best serve the public interest. In effect, the public’s two-mindedness about government is a product of the way that independents, not partisans, think.

But independents continue to be much closer to Democrats than to Republicans with respect to social values, religiosity and beliefs about national security. Indices measuring the relative position of Republicans, Democrats and independents in these three areas show that the views of independents and Democrats have consistently been aligned, while Republicans continue to take a substantially more conservative position.

Is is notable that while independents in general are more wary of expanding the social safety net, 85% of independents believe the government needs to do more to make health care affordable and accessible. Even most Republicans actually agree with this, while a larger percentage of Republicans than Democrats or independents also express concern that the government is becoming too involved in health care.

Independents remain supportive of Obama and the Democratic Party. I believe this is partially out of a realization that increased government economic action is necessary at the moment and a belief that this is temporary. While the Democratic Party in recent years has been becoming more fiscally conservative we cannot be certain that this trend will continue.

It is unlikely that one political party will be able to please such a high percentage of voters for long. The question is what happens when more independent voters begin to look for an alternative to the Democratic Party. In the past we would see the pendulum shift from one party to the other. I am not certain that this can happen again. The Republicans are suffering from delusions that they lost because they are not conservative enough, and are even writing moderate Repubicans such as Gerald Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Colin Powel out of the party.  The Republicans are losing support from virtually every demographic group except for those who attend church frequently. While they might still turn it around, at present the Republican Party is  turning itself into a party dominated by less-educated religious voters of the South and Mormon belt of the west. This is hardly likely to encourage independents who left the GOP to consider returning.

With independents even outnumbering Democrats at present, I wonder if we will see the Republicans go the way of the Whigs and be replaced by a new party. Ross Perot might have won in 1992 with his support from independents if not for his own erratic behavior. While the two major parties have a tremendous institutional advantage, the internet provides a somewhat more level playing field. If the Democrats should follow Obama with someone from the Clinton or Edwards wings of the party it is conceivable that they will be successfully beaten not by a Republican but by an independent or member of a new party.

Colin Powell versus Limbaugh and Cheney On The Future of the GOP

As some Republicans work to build a smaller and smaller tent, there are rare moderate Republicans fighting back. Colin Powell has responded to recent comments from both Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney that he doesn’t belong in the Republican Party:

“Rush Limbaugh says, ‘Get out of the Republican Party.’ Dick Cheney says, ‘He’s already out.’ I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there’s another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again,” Powell told the crowd.

Rush Limbaugh responds to criticism that he is building too small a tent by making the tent even smaller, now excluding Gerald Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“The version of the party that he’s waiting to emerge is not the Reagan wing of the party. Does Powell have the pulse of the Republican Party, folks? He’s for more spending. He’s for higher taxes. He’s against raising the social issues. He’s for affirmative action. He’s for amnesty for illegals. He endorsed Obama.

“And now there’s an agenda — an emerging agenda — that he’s waiting for for the Republican Party? The only thing emerging here is Colin Powell’s ego. Colin Powell represents the stale, the old, the worn-out GOP that never won anything. The party of Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Scranton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and those types of people. Has anybody heard Colin Powell say a single word against Obama’s radicalism — or Pelosi or Reid, for that matter? Maybe he has but his fawning media sure hasn’t reported if he has said it.”

He sure doesn’t leave much room for a national political party. No wonder the Republicans are losing support from virtually every demographic.

Republicans Need Constitutional Amendment To Expand Presidential Choices

The Republicans have two problems with regards to finding someone who sounds rational to take the 2010 nomination. First the two Republicans who have made the most sense lately are unlikely to win the nomination and secondly neither is constitutionally eligible.

I”ve already noted sensible comments from Arnold Schwarzenegger in posts such as here. These ideas make it unlikely he could win the nomination. He might have a shot due to his celebrity status except he is note eligible due to not being a natural born American citizen.

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While I’m not seriously proposing her as a candidate, Meghan McCain is also making far more sense than most of the Republicans around. Even if the Republicans would nominate her, which is far less likely than Schwarzenegger, she is too young to be eligible. She was interviewed by Larry King. Here’s a portion:

King: Do you consider yourself a moderate? Are you moderate liberal?

McCain: I consider myself a progressive Republican. I am liberal on social issues. And I think that the party is at a place where social issues shouldn’t be the issues that define the party. And I have taken heat, but in fairness to me, I am a different generation than the people that are giving me heat. I’m 24 years old. I’m not in my 40s, I’m not in my 50s and older.

King: Therefore, you must, based on what you said, disagree with your father? … Do you discuss it?

McCain: We have a very big generation gap between me and my father. Yes, we discuss them. He’s very open-minded. I was raised in an open-minded home. I was raised a Christian, but I was raised open-minded Christian — one to accept people, love people, not pass judgment. …

I believe in gay marriage. … I personally am pro-life, but I’m not going to judge someone that’s pro-choice. It is not my place to judge other people and what they do with their body.

I do give Meghan some slack for her presidential vote in 2008. We really can’t expect her to have supported anyone other than her father, and she did back John Kerry in 2004. Still, I wish she hadn’t ended the interview by attributing some of her attitudes to “having a maverick as a father.”

A Positive Republican View of Obama’s California Trip

While many conservatives and Republicans are dwelling on a single gaffe during Barack Obama’s California trip, there is at least one Republican who shows signs of rationality. From the Republican Governor of California:

When have you ever seen a president be that out there?”

That was a mesmerized Arnold Schwarzenegger after Obama’s town hall meeting.

“I’ve never seen that,” Schwarzenegger said to a couple reporters as he and his wife, Maria Shriver, tried to make an exit. “Usually people are so guarded. The aides are always so guarded. They’re so afraid that you will blow it or that you will make news that’s unintended and all those things.”

Schwarzenegger continued to gush about Obama.

“But I think he’s so smart,” he said. “He’s so clear with his thinking and he’s so well informed and has been dealing with policy in all this and is also very philosophic it’s almost like. I think he’s just like – I think it’s beautiful.”

Asked how he feels about supporting a stimulus package most members of his party did not, he said. “You know me. I don’t look at things as a Republican. If it’s good for California, it’s good for me.”

Obama Lifts Ban on Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The long awaited for executive orders came earlier today and, after eight years of quasi-theocratic rule, the United States is now fully prepared to enter the twenty-first century.  One of the most outrageous policies of the religious right, restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research, has been lifted and the United States government has firmly stated its intention of basing scientific policy on actual science. It is regrettable that such a policy even needs to be announced.

Barack Obama began his statement with a discussion of stem cell research:

Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.

At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them.

But that potential will not reveal itself on its own. Medical miracles do not happen simply by accident. They result from painstaking and costly research – from years of lonely trial and error, much of which never bears fruit – and from a government willing to support that work. From life-saving vaccines, to pioneering cancer treatments, to the sequencing of the human genome – that is the story of scientific progress in America. When government fails to make these investments, opportunities are missed. Promising avenues go unexplored. Some of our best scientists leave for other countries that will sponsor their work. And those countries may surge ahead of ours in the advances that transform our lives.

But in recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.

After further discussion of stem cell research, Obama discussed his Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity to the policies of the United States government:

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

By doing this, we will ensure America’s continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

It might be years before we fully see the benefits of embryonic stem cell research. In addition to the expected benefits of funding embryonic stem cell research, there are also downsides. It appears that approval of such funding can cause (or actually exacerbate pre-existing) insanity. That is the only explanation for this reaction by Glenn Beck:

BECK: So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research, and then some, fundamentally changing – remember, those great progressive doctors are the ones who brought us Eugenics. It was the progressive movement and it science. Let’s put science truly in her place. If evolution is right, why don’t we just help out evolution? That was the idea. And sane people agreed with it!

And it was from America. Progressive movement in America. Eugenics. In case you don’t know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. …. The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening. So I guess I have to put my name on yes, I hope Barack Obama fails. But I just want his policies to fail; I want America to wake up.

Of course stem cell research is not at all about eugenics or developing the master race. Fortunately not all Republicans have been driven to insanity by stem cell research. Here are some other responses:

FORMER FIRST LADY NANCY REAGAN: “I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them, and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers. Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases — and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.

CA GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: “President Obama’s executive order is a huge win for the millions of people who suffer from spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and many other illnesses. Californians were the first in the nation to support and fund embryonic stem cell research and we are big believers in the power of this revolutionary science to not only improve but to save lives. Because of the federal ban, Californians world-renown research facilities have had to have separate areas for the federally-funded and the non-federally funded programs, causing duplicative efforts. I applaud President Obama for removing this barrier which allows California to maximize critical research funding so we can continue to lead the world in stem cell research.”

A Republican at HHS?

At present there are three Republicans confirmed or being considered for Obama’s cabinet and now there is speculation that a Republican might be chosen to replace Tom Daschle at Health and Human Services. Marc Ambinder and Karen Tumulty suggest Mitt Romney.

Romney’s name came up because of the attempts at developing a universal health care plan in Massachusetts, but problems with the plan might make his name less attractive. Having a Republican involved in promoting Obama’s health care plan might provide some political cover. Far right Republicans would still object, but more moderate Republicans (if there are any left) and independents might be less likely to see a plan with Republican involvement as an over-extension of government.

Besides the problems with Massachusetts’ plan, Romney’s opposition to abortion rights could be a serious problem (assuming he doesn’t flip back to his earlier pro-choice views). His views on abortion and contraception could create problems at HHS, even if Romney was the right person to oversee expansion of health care coverage.

Many like the idea of a governor running HHS  both due to the administrative skills needed for such a massive bureaucracy and due to the experience governors have with Medicaid. Medicare is a totally different beast than Medicaid, perhaps making governors somewhat less qualified than proponents of appointing a governor believe.

Jonathan Cohn suggests some governors and does point out that the more socially liberal Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a far better choice. Cohn fears Arnold would be “too toxic on the left” but I’d find him far preferable to Romney. Besides, Arnold has shown himself to be one of the more rational (and less toxic) Republicans still holding office.

The Republican Party and Ideas

Late last week an internal Republican National Committee memo leaked out which shows that at least the Republican leadership acknowledges a problem I have been writing about for a while–the lack of ideas being promoted by the party. As Steve Benen points out, admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery. The memo states:

Republicans have grown accustomed to having our party recognized as the “Party of Ideas,” but we must acknowledge that many Americans today believe the party is stale and does not deserve that label. This is not a critique of our principles of a strong national defense, growth-focused economics, constitutionally-limited government, and a defense of traditional values. Rather, it is a reflection that we have not used our principles to provide solutions to the kitchen table concerns of middle-class America.

The Republicans lost because the Democrats were felt to have the better ideas on virtually all issues by a majority of Americans. Republicans found in 2008 that they could no longer win by relying on distorting the views of their opponents and raising meaningless attacks. False claims that Obama planned to redistribute the wealth in a Marxist sense or planned a government takeover of health care no longer fooled the voters. Attacks based upon discredited attacks such as Obama’s connections to William Ayers and Reverend Wright, and appeals to anti-intellectualism from Sarah Palin, were no longer effective. Republicans have become experts at raising McCarthyist style attacks but in the process began to ignore providing actual reasons to vote for them.

After the election The Economist summed up this problem by referring to the Republicans as a Ship of Fools. The economic collapse strengthened the conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party is stronger on economic issues, making most other issues irrelevant in the 2008 election. Even if other issues were considered, they did not work for the Republicans. At one time the Republicans were felt to be stronger on advocating a sound foreign policy. Now Republicans are the party advocating a reckless foreign policy while Democrats have taken the center. Republican denial of science and support for the social policies of the religious right are costing them the support of young voters as well as many affluent and educated Americans who have voted Republican in the past. Many voters no longer see the Republicans as either the party of ideas or of values, and are now voting Democratic based upon both values and self-interest.

The problem for the Republicans is not only that they lack ideas but that they have the wrong ideas. For years the Republican establishment took advantage of votes from the religious right but privately referred to them as the nuts. Now “the nuts” appear to control the party. For a moment it appeared that the Republicans might be turning towards moderation in nominating John McCain, but instead McCain increasingly adopted the positions of the extremists in the party. Republican voters see Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee as their two preferred choices for 2012. Red State has announced a war against Republicans who have not supported Palin. David Frum might be willing to abandon Sarah Palin, but still sees the mindset of Joe the Plumber as the future of the GOP.

The Republicans now face the dilemma that their strongest support comes from the religious right but these views will probably prevent them from being a majority party in states outside of the deep south and a handful of sparsely populated western states. A growing number of principled conservatives and libertarians who do not accept the views of the religious right are increasingly supporting Democratic candidates. There continue to be supporters of other ideas in the part, but their role is becoming increasingly trivial. William Kristol has recently admitted that conservative talk of small government has little relationship to the reality of Republican rule. Perhaps now that they don’t feel obligated to back the policies of George Bush, more Republicans will be consistent in backing civil liberties and restrictions upon the power of government.

It is hard to see any fate for the Republicans other than going the way of the Whigs if they don’t open themselves up to modern thought. A party which includes members who believe in creationism has no place in the twenty-first century. There have been some voices in the Republican Party which has resisted its current extremist tendencies.  Colin Powell recently warned Republicans against listening to Rush Limbaugh. It is also necessary for them to reject the entire fantasy world of conservative talk radio. In recent weeks I’ve also note that some Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christine Todd Whitman, along with columnists such as Kathleen Parker, have taken a more moderate stand than is common in the Republican Party, but I’ve also noted how resistant many Republicans are to moderating their views.

The mind set of the religious right, and why they are unlikely to moderate their views, can be seen in this response to my writings supporting modernization of Republican viewsin this response by Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator:

The real question isn’t the influence of Dobson, but rather the influence of God, and if you’re waiting for God to moderate his views, I suspect you’ll be waiting a long time.

I discussed the absurdity of this argument, along with the importance of a secular government as wisely advocated by the Founding Fathers, in this post last week. This concept is an important part of our heritage, and is necessary to allow all to worship, or not worship, as they choose. While this view is clear in the writings of the Founding Fathers, along with many court decisions, the religious right has been promoting a revisionist history which denies this. Although many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, who had a radically different view of the role of God in human affairs compared to Christianity, many Republicans, including the supposedly moderate John McCain, also falsely claim that the United States was founded as a Christian country.

As I’ve discussed in many previous posts, such as here, religious beliefs do not provide sufficient justification under our system of government for public policy decisions. I’ve also noted that Barack Obama has expressed similar views. This presents the fundamental difference in belief between supporters of modernity and the religious right. The real issue is not one of life style as many liberals live an essentially conservative life style, but a question of whether one believes the power of government should be used to impose life style choices upon others.

As Republicans search for ideas they might look back to promises of Ronald Reagan to get government off our backs. Instead of applying this solely to allowing business to go unregulated, they must reconsider their views on reproductive rights, embryonic stem cell research, end of life decisions as in the Terri Schiavo case, same-sex marriage, and other issues where personal morality should not be regulated by government. Barry Goldwater rejected the religious right and in his later years considered himself a liberal. If Republicans want to provide a viable alternateve to the Democratic Party, the Republicans should follow Barry Goldwater’s lead on this matter and reject the influence of the religious right. They cannot develop and promote good ideas until they face reality and reject the bad ideas which have destroyed their party.