Conservative columnist tells GOP to give up on God

Kathleen Parker -- who took heat for daring to criticize Sarah Palin -- is now deriding evangelicals and their hold on the Republican Party.

Published November 19, 2008 8:05PM (EST)

It's always dangerous for a conservative to mess with the Republican Party's evangelical Christian base. During his 2000 presidential campaign, John McCain criticized Jerry Falwell and lost to George W. Bush in the Republican primary. Prior to his 2008 presidential run, McCain made peace with Falwell. Apparently, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker hasn't learned McCain's lesson, and she isn't in a conciliatory mood.

Parker had first stirred up controversy on the right back in September, when she said that Sarah Palin wasn't qualified to serve as vice president. That position earned her brickbats from her readers and even some colleagues. But Wednesday, in a column for the Washington Post, she went all in, arguing that the GOP needs to shake off its association with evangelicals to maintain it's long-term electoral viability. While she was at it, she tossed in a few insults directed at the faithful within the party, writing:

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D...To be more specific, 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.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that...

Which is to say, the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.

The columnist also used her latest piece to go after her old target, Palin, writing, "Let's do pray that God shows Alaska's governor the door."

Parker's larger argument is that while Republicans are increasingly becoming white Christians, the nation is not, meaning that unless the GOP can appeal to other types of voters, they will struggle at the polls in coming decades.

Needless to say, the reaction on the right hasn't been particularly positive. Philip Klein at the American Spectator called Parker "absolutely nuts to blame the Republican defeat" this year on evangelicals. And in a post entitled "Quit It Kathleen" on the National Review's Corner blog, Jonah Goldberg attacked his "friend" Parker, writing: 

I don't know what's more grating, the quasi-bigotry that has you calling religious Christians low brows, gorillas and oogedy-boogedy types or the bravery-on-the-cheap as you salute — in that winsome way — your own courage for saying what (according to you) needs to be said. Please stop bragging about how courageous you are for weathering a storm of nasty email you invite on yourself by dancing to a liberal tune...For the record, I have no problem with arguments about how the GOP has become too religious...But please drop the nonsense about how the G-O-D people  or the Palin people are low brows and beasts. There are low brows and beasts everywhere, on every side of the ideological spectrum. Maybe if you got more ecumenical hate email you'd realize that.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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