Republican Party and Religious Right Heading for a Split?

What does the Republican Party stand for, anyway?

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The religious right might be souring on the GOP. That's the news out of a fascinating interview my colleague Dan Gilgoff has with Family Research Council chief Tony Perkins over at his God & Country blog.

Perkins told Dan that social conservatives are not going to chase the GOP, and that the party has to actively woo them.

The change is that social conservatives are still committed to the issues and still involved in the political process, but don't see the GOP as the only means to affect things in this culture. And to the degree that the party is not moving with them, they are not going to move with it. There is not the strong connection to the Republican Party that there once was. I'm more representative of the younger generation and I don't have as strong allegiance to the Republican Party. And to the degree that they try to avoid the values issues and put them at the back of the bus, I don't have a lot of desire to mess around with that.

The notion that social conservatives have a "back of the bus" status with the GOP might come as news to many of us on the left, but it's actually not a new theme: Conservatives have for a long time argued that Republicans talk the talk at election time to get votes, but are insufficiently committed when it comes to actual policies. (Really? Tell that to, for example, gays who want to marry.)

But this also illustrates the broader dilemma facing Republicans right now: For what do they stand? The tensions between the various conservative coalition members were easier to smooth over when the movement was ascendant, but there's nothing like unceremoniously getting kicked into the wilderness to exacerbate tensions. Having to map a route back to power means having to resolve the differences inherent in the minimal government portion of the party—cut taxes and don't regulate things—and the religious conservatives who are less wary of using government provided it's a means to God's ends.

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