Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Republican Rift Keeps Growing

Allan Carlson has written a great piece in the Weekly Standard entitled: “Social conservatives and the GOP: Can this marriage be saved?” Many evangelical Christians should read this article. It is a wake up call that our values aren’t really as esteemed by the Republican party as we would like to believe.

Carlson rightly assesses a divide between business republicans and social issue republicans, tracing the rift all the way back to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Between 1900 and about 1912, he wrote and spoke often, and eloquently, about the dangers of a rising divorce rate and a falling birth rate. He celebrated motherhood and fatherhood as the most important human tasks, and described the true marriage as "a partnership of the soul, the spirit and the mind, no less than of the body." He blasted as "foes of our household" the birth control movement, equity feminism, eugenics, and liberal Christianity. However, the Rough Rider was the only prominent Republican of his time to think and talk this way. The dominant wing of the GOP tilted in favor of the banks, the great industries, and--perhaps more surprisingly--the feminist movement.

Carlson points out that the Republican party was the first to endorse the ERA amendment and asserts that the Democratic party was, for the most part, America’s pro-family party. This all changed with Ronald Reagan, when the Republican Party “now saw pro-family social conservatives in political alliance with the interests of the banks and the large corporations. Main Street and Wall Street were under the same tent, which was a very new development.”

In Missouri, I’ve observed this first hand. The most prominent example is the stem-cell issue which has clearly divided business/social Republicans. Most surprising is the lack of angst the pro-business Republicans have shown in their betrayal of social conservative’s agenda. They don’t even fake remorse. Former Missouri Senator John Danforth, a leading proponent of Missouri’s clone-to-kill amendment, even openly blasted social conservatives last June and sounded more like a Democrat making a moral case for homosexual marriage than a Republican indebted to the grassroots involvement of social conservatives.

Jim Talent, in his reversal over prohibiting human cloning, at least went into a 30 minute diatribe on the Senate floor, even if it was soaked with incomplete logic and convoluted reasoning. He did a good job, though, of making his divorce from social conservatives look pained. But in the end it was that, a divorce from social conservatives and a re-embracing of those campaign-contributing, Rockefeller-rich, business Republicans. Carlson warns:

Moreover, when push comes to shove, social conservatives remain second class citizens under the Republican tent. During the 2004 Republican convention, they were virtually confined to the party's attic, kept off the main stage, treated like slightly lunatic children. Republican lobbyist Michael Scanlon's infamous candid comment--"The wackos get their information [from] the Christian right [and] Christian radio"--suggests a common opinion among the dominant "K Street" Republicans toward their coalition allies.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our allegiances. I decided mine a long time ago. In the words of hymn-writer George Bennard, “I will cling to the old rugged cross.” It’s probably too soon to say goodbye to the Republican party just yet, but I am dusting off my suitcase…just in case.

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