The Republican Party has become synonymous with the Religious Right over the past few years. Bush and Rove have targeted and appeased the Religious Right on numerous issues. This has led many, especially politicos from my generation, to conflate all Republicans with those whose intellectual foundation is the Bible.
A Professor that I trust very much once described the Republican Party as 1/3 Religious Right, 1/3 Libertarian, and 1/3 Secular Conservative (that’s me). It is true to claim that currently the Republican Party is controlled to a large degree by the Religious Right, but it is false to claim that the Republican Party over the long run is controlled to a large degree by the Religious Right.
The New York Times had a story today entitled, “Rove’s Word Is No Longer G.O.P. Gospel.” It describes Rove’s fall from grace with Republicans who are not intimately beholden to the White House:
Some are disregarding Mr. Rove’s advice, despite his reputation as the nation’s premier strategist. They are criticizing Mr. Bush or his policies. They are avoiding public events with the president and Mr. Rove.
Influential conservative commentators have openly broken with the White House, calling into question the continued enthusiasm of evangelicals, economic conservatives and other groups that Mr. Rove has counted on to win elections. . Some Republicans are ignoring Mr. Rove’s efforts to hold the party together on issues like immigration and Iraq.
To me this is not new, but continued evidence that moderate conservatives, or essentially classical liberals, are beginning to reclaim the Republican Party. The best evidence for this comes from early polling data. All of the polls among likely Republican primary voters show that only three candidates have a significant chance for the nomination: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Condi Rice.
None of them are monotonously colored threads in the Bush blanket. None of them are beholden to the Religious Right or to the far right in general. This is why I am hoping for a resurgence of moderate, secular, classical liberal thought from within the Republican Party. This dramatic shift would ease the bitter partisanship in D.C. and make innovative Republican ideas more palatable to the Democrats, and therefore, more likely to be enacted.