Is the Religious Right wrong for the GOP?

I knew it was only a matter of time before my fellow Republicans started taking pot shots at us religious conservatives; blaming us for the outcome of this most recent election. (See Kathleen Parker: Religious right threatens Republican Party’s future)

Is it just me or wasn’t the man at the top of our ticket a guy who took great pride in the fact that he was not a member of the Christian right? And wasn’t his campaign run by folks like Steve Schmitt, who did everything possible to run their candidate as anything but a conservative Republican? Face it, this was the year of the “Moderate Republican” and they lost.

The only reason it was as close as it was, was because of the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket. We all watched as crowds cheered, donors gave and volunteers flooded the campaign. Why were they doing this? It was because this young energetic PRO-LIFE, PRO-GUN, PRO-MARRIAGE, CONSERVATIVE woman was now on the ticket. Like her or not, Sarah Palin brought energy and excitement to this presidential election at levels her more moderate running mate could not. And had it not been for the conservative haters in the campaign undermining her at every turn, the ticket might have done even better.

But let’s be honest, considering the level of Obamania that swept the country and the media, an almost $1 billion war chest and a meltdown of the financial markets; Ronald Regan- heck, even Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have won. So, I don’t blame John McCain. But to blame religious conservatives for the state of our party is just plain wrong.

I believe that there are two primary culprits to this meltdown.

The first is Republicans not walking the talk. We claimed to be about smaller government, but the greatest expansion of government spending happened under our watch. We claim to be about family values, but we had leaders propositioning congressional pages and playing footsies in the men’s room. We claimed to be the party of “Ethics and Moral Values”, meanwhile members of our party are being run out of office (some to jail) under corruption charges. We claim to be a party who supports equality for all, but we can’t seem to find our way to some communities until we need their vote. To make a long story short, we lost because we governed like democrats.

The second culprit is the GOP infighting. Moderates blame conservatives, stating that the only way to win is to abandon our socially conservative principles and change the party platform. Then conservatives fire back, questioning the “Republicanism” of anyone who disagrees with them on anything. We become the proverbial circular firing squad shooting at each other instead of the Democrats. If we are to turn this around two things are going to have to happen. First, moderates need to stop attacking our conservative values. Conservatives make up the core to of the GOP’s base. We are the meat and potatoes, moderates are the side dish. So, stop trying to change the platform. Likewise, conservatives must realize that not everyone is going to score 100% on the conservative values test. The party platform is the measuring stick we should use when judging our candidates. But we must also keep in mind that in some cases the perfect Republican candidate will not be the perfect Republican. Believe it or not, one can be a fiscal conservative and social moderate and still be convicted of being a Republican. In the infamous words of Mr. King (Rodney that is) “Can’t we all just get along?”

However, there is a silver lining to this rather dark cloud. The best solution for the syndrome that now ails the Republican party past has always been a Democratic administration. Nothing brings combatants together like a common enemy.

Let us not forget that Jimmy Carter helped us usher in the Regan Revolution. Then there was Bill Clinton’s liberal leadership, which led to the Contract With America. The election of Barak Obama could turn out to be best thing that could have happened to the GOP. That is, if we can learn to get along, govern according to our values and take a serious look at how we plan to attract new Republican voters.

So, what will Republican need to do to attract these new voters? We need to go to where they are; to get to understand their issues; and then, effectively communicate how our common conservative values can produce societal and public policy solutions to the challenges they face.

We have a lot of heavy lifting to do to rebuild our party. And if we are to be successful, it will not be as some sort of “Democrat-Lite” Party. “All the liberal values without the annoying tax increases.” It will be because we have committed the resources necessary to build relationships with voters and have focused our message on shared values of family, opportunity and freedom as it applies to all Americans.