The Religious Right: Still the Base of the GOP, but Losing influence Generally

Article by Michael Brendan Dougherty.
The frustration religious conservatives often encounter in politics—particularly where key social issues are concerned—may owe less to unreliable partners in the GOP than to an unconvinced American public. Laws that would impose stringent constraints on abortion rarely achieve more than 40 percent support among voters. Restrictions on same-sex marriage still pass as ballot initiatives, but by decreasing margins. Yet even when the religious right is out of step with the public mood, it can still set the tone—and limits—of discourse within the GOP.

Will that always be the case? Polls of evangelicals under 29 saw a 15-point drop in party identification with Republicans between 2006 and 2008, which has since only barely recovered. And there are other traditions of political thought available to evangelicals—whether Lutheran or Calvinist—that have the power to reform their instinctive nationalism. But the road from political theory to policy is a long one. And a less united evangelical front would make Republican lawmakers even less responsive to Christian conservatives’ social agenda. The politics of abortion, meanwhile, continue to close off the Democratic Party for evangelicals who might want a new political home

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