Will the Schiavo case hurt Republicans?

While religious conservatives do whatever they can to save Terri Schiavo, others in their party worry that voters may be scared away.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 23, 2005 4:52PM (EST)

While Tom DeLay, Jeb Bush and other Republicans continue to pull every government lever at their disposal to keep Terri Schiavo alive, other members of their party are beginning to complain that the religious right's hijacking of the GOP has finally gone too far.

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays, one of five Republicans to vote against the Schiavo legislation, tells the New York Times. "My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing. This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

The debate over congressional intervention in the Schiavo case has underscored a larger philosophical divide in the Republican Party -- the one that separates traditional, small-government Republicans from their more socially conservative counterparts. That chasm isn't new -- it has been on display in the fight over gay marriage, for example -- but it's growing deeper by the minute.

While Tom DeLay believes that the Schiavo issue will be some form of salvation for the religious right -- as if it needs saving -- Shays warns that congressional overreaching in the case could have consequences. With the public broadly opposed to congressional intervention in the case, Shays tells the Times that he's worried that the episode may scare voters away from the Republican Party. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote," Shays says. "There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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