A good friend of mine (let's call him Bob) is convinced that unless the GOP puts abortion "aside as its focal point, it simply cannot win and regain power." That's especially interesting in light of Kathleen Parker's latest column, which disses the evangelical wing of the GOP.
Bob's point is that "we've lost a majority of women over this issue as they have become one-issue voters." It's not only liberal women but also others who believe it's simply not the government's business.
Kathleen Parker broadens the point considerably beyond abortion: "The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh." Since the 1980s or so, says Parker, the GOP "has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners. … The GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents."
I'll resist the temptation to respond specifically to Kathleen's uncharitable indictment of us knuckle draggers because I like Kathleen personally and because I want to respond to her and Bob's overlapping contention that certain social conservatives are dragging the party down.
Bob's opinion is largely based on his personal conversations with women, and Kathleen writes, "If one were to eavesdrop on private conservations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that … armband religion is killing the Republican Party." But do their anecdotal reports justify their conclusions?
2004 exit poll data reveal that President Bush got 55 percent of the male vote and 48 percent of the female vote, while 2008 data show that McCain got 48 percent of the male vote and 43 percent of the female vote. McCain's percentage of the male vote dropped more than his percentage of the female vote, so it's hard to see how alienated women made the difference.
Plus Karl Rove tells us that there were 4.1 million fewer Republicans voting this year than in 2004, some of whom he believed turned independent or Democratic for this election, which might validate Kathleen's thesis, except that Rove says that most of those 4.1 million "simply stayed home."
What's even more interesting is there was an almost identical drop-off (4.1 million) of those voters who attend religious services more than once a week (evangelicals, anyone?).
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