There are many conservative thinkers who do not call themselves Republicans because of the over weighted influence of the religious right in the party. If the Republicans are ever going to regain a position of power they must neutralize that influence.
The religious right makes litmus test decisions on abortion, public display of the Ten Commandments, and such issues as school prayer. As the Democrats have moved slightly right the efforts of the religious right have damaged their flagship Republican Party. The result is that they now have little power.
Whenever they proclaim we are a Christian nation they drive away more than just Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists (17% of the population). They drive away many Christian sects who fear that one Christian religious group will infringe on another.
The 15th and 16th century in Europe saw great hostility and violence between Christian sects in Europe. Many of them came here to escape prosecution from other Christian sects in Europe.
We forget how Kennedy’s election surprised those who thought we would never elect a Catholic president.
When they proclaim we are a Christian nation we risk alienating a world that is not Christian. Our tendency to be ethnocentric (a very descriptive word) isolates us in the eyes of the world and neutralizes our influence.
The Republican Party must stand for the freedom AND the respect of all religions and sects or they will not stand at all.
When Colin Powell explained his endorsement of Obama he referred to Republican leaders who expressed fear that Obama was a Muslim, even though the candidate denied it repeatedly. Instead of explaining whether it was true, Powell noted, “we should have asked why that even mattered.”
To many on the religious right abortion is the litmus test issue. To many of the left it is also a driving concern. Yet I believe that 75% of the voters are pro choice, making that a losing issue for Republicans. But many of those who are pro choice would choose against abortion in their own life, but still abhor the government’s involvement in that deeply personal and private decision. It is a battle with a better chance of success from the pulpit than from the ballot box.
Goldwater feared the influence of the religious right on his party and while he opposed abortion, he felt like the government should have no place in that decision (up to point. I doubt he would have dreamed that a partial birth abortion would have ever been considered.)
I think the Republican’s salvation is to return to the Goldwater roots.