Social conservatives are threatening to revolt against the the Republican Party, in the latest sign that the Republican National Committee’s “Growth & Opportunity Project” has little to no chance of success.
The latest Republican to strike a blow against the RNC’s rebranding plan is Tony Perkins, president of anti-gay hate group the Family Research Council. When it’s not pushing absurd conspiracy theories about ACORN and Obamacare, the FRC keeps busy by using pseudo-science to link homosexuality and pedophilia, and endorsing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill, among other fringe right-wing activities. So naturally, Perkins isn’t thrilled with the RNC’s directive that “When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and indeed be inclusive and welcoming.”
Perkins has responded to the GOP reboot by directing his supporters to cut off their financial support for the party.
“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t send them a dime of your hard-earned money,” Perkins wrote in an email to supporters Thursday night. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust — like FRC Action.”
Perkins went on to theorize that extreme right-wing social policies are not the GOP’s problem, but in fact the solution.
“Instead of trying to appease millennials, Republicans should try educating them on why marriage matters,” Perkins wrote. “There’s an entire group of ‘Countercultural Warriors’ full of compelling young leaders who are all going to the mat to protect marriage.”
Perkins’ boycott call comes just days after a group of 13 right-wing leaders (including Perkins) signed a letter warning the RNC that social conservatives will break away from the GOP if the party fails to reaffirm its 2012 platform, which calls for bans on gay marriage and abortion rights.
“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” the letter warns.
Striking a similar note as Perkins, the signatories speculate that “it is the faith-based community which offers Republicans their best hope of expanding their support” among African-Americans, young voters, and other voter groups that have become reliable Democratic bases.
Perkins and his colleagues on the religious right pose a major problem for Reince Priebus and the Republican Party. Social conservatives still make up the majority of the party’s voter base, a fact that is not going to change anytime soon. But these voters are increasingly out of step with the rest of the country on just about every social issue. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds, for example, that 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents support legalizing same-sex marriage — up 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from 2009. Only 27 percent of Republicans support marriage equality, however, up just 5 percent from four years ago.
There aren’t enough “Countercultural Warriors” in the world to make up for that kind of gap — nor is there any evidence that the GOP’s target groups would even be amenable to being lectured by the party’s right wing.
What’s worse for Priebus is that it’s not entirely clear what more the Republican Party can do to appease social conservatives. As Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen points out:
Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.
Indeed, Priebus himself recently penned an op-ed for a right-wing blog accusing Democrats of supporting infanticide by refusing to defund Planned Parenthood. If that type of rhetoric isn’t extreme enough to appease Perkins and his cohorts, then it’s unclear what the GOP’s next step could be.
So the RNC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t afford to lose the support of its base, but the longer the likes of Perkins and Rick Santorum maintain control of the party’s public message, the harder it will be for Republicans to win national elections.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com