Social conservatives’ misplaced fury

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council
Associated Press

Officials at the Republican National Committee can read polls just as well as anyone else, and they realize their party’s social agenda is not popular with the American mainstream. Indeed, just this week, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans disagree with the Republican Party’s approach to social and cultural issues.

With that in mind, Reince Priebus and others are at least paying lip service to rebranding the party, hoping to move away from “Old Testament” associations. It’s apparently driven social-conservative activists and the religious right movement to the brink of apoplexy.

A group of high-profile social conservatives warned Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a letter this week that their supporters could abandon the GOP if the party seeks to change its position on social issues, particularly same-sex marriage.

Thirteen social conservatives, representing various influential groups, wrote Priebus ahead of the RNC’s quarterly meeting this week in Los Angeles to sternly rebuke the conclusions of a post-election report that advised Republican elected officials to adopt a softer tone toward social issues.

“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” concludes the letter, which was obtained by and independently verified by NBC News in advance of the meeting this week.

The letter further asks GOP committeemen to pass a resolution at their meeting this week re-affirming the party’s 2012 national platform, which includes language calling for bans on abortion and same-sex marriage.

That nine of the 13 groups involved in this effort are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, legally prohibited from supporting political parties, may be of interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

Nevertheless, the warning coincides with a call from Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, that social conservatives stop contributing to the RNC until the party starts “defending core principles.”

I understand that social conservatives are furious. I just don’t understand why.

Given the intensity of the reactions from these far-right leaders, one might think Republicans were giving up on the culture war altogether and the RNC had just named a new LGBT outreach coordinator.

I’m not sure where social conservatives are getting their coverage of current events, but I’ve got some news for them: the Republican Party hasn’t given up on their issues. On the contrary, GOP officials appear to be fighting the culture war harder than ever.

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.

What’s more, folks like Priebus are condemning Planned Parenthood and “infanticide,” while Paul Ryan is speaking to right-wing groups about a future in which abortion rights are “outlawed.”

And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven’t pushed the culture war enough? Why, because the RNC hasn’t officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?

Religious right activists, I hate to break it to you, but Republican policymakers are already doing your bidding. You’re not the ones who should be whining.

Culture Wars, Religious Right, Culture War and RNC

Social conservatives' misplaced fury