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Will the GOP Ever Divorce the Far Right?

With its convention beginning on Monday, the GOP has revealed its most extreme anti-LGBT and anti-abortion platform in its 30-year marriage to the religious right. Will this finally do them in?
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When a couple gets married, they take each other for richer, for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health—or so the traditional vows go. They also pledge to be together forever, a promise that can leave some facing a lifetime of regret if they choose the wrong partner.

For the GOP—a party that embraces “traditional” marriage above all else—that’s an ironically bitter truth.

For decades the Republican Party grew its power by wooing the religious sects of America into their camp. In the late ’70s and early ’80s they sweet-talked the Evangelicals into seeking political power here on Earth rather than simply waiting for the End Times to come. They wined and dined the Catholic Bishops into believing that the social justice that was the heart of the Church—caring for the poor, assisting the needy, fighting for the oppressed—was not nearly as high a priority as fighting against abortion and birth control and ensuring that same-sex couples will never have the same rights to marriage that opposite-sex couples are allowed.

In 1979, the GOP got into bed with Jerry Falwell and his “Moral Majority” (which dissolved in 1987). Then in the ’90s, the GOP became an extreme power-couple with the religious right. By 2009, the Tea Party infested the House, the Senate, and a swath of state governments, turning the muscle of this dynamic union into a force that could block nearly any progressive agenda. But while the Republican Party was eager to put a ring on their religious union three decades ago, that wedding band may be starting to chafe their finger.

For 30 years, the GOP platform has been a fever dream of far-right policy: Not only have they been virulently opposed to same-sex marriage, but to homosexuality in general. The party has pushed for religion in the public square from public schools to conscience objections to basic medical care in hospitals and pharmacies. Republicans have, for years, declared that “life” begins at the moment of conception and must be “protected” from then on— a “personhood” definition that has outlawed abortion and potentially all hormonal contraception altogether.

All of this has been plenty extreme. But this year’s GOP platform has managed to become unimaginably more extreme. “Social conservatives in the party exerted significant influence over the drafting and amending of the platform this week, succeeding in almost all of their efforts to add language that pushed the document more to the right,” reports the New York Times. “And what Republicans will probably end up with when they formally vote next week to ratify the platform approved in committee on Tuesday is a text that can seem almost Victorian in its moralizing and deeply critical of how the modern American family has evolved.”

Inserted into the new platform, according to the Times are a number of new declarations condemning any acceptance of gay and lesbian and transgender rights, and a statement against pornography as a “public menace” that will harm children.

Then there is sexual health care. As if the “personhood” plank wasn’t enough, the anti-abortion extremist wing of the party successfully convinced the platform committee to codify their biggest vendetta: the war on Planned Parenthood.

“We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment's protections apply to children before birth,” reads the proposed section on “life.”  “We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”

Anti-abortion activists are cheering the new plank as victory for the movement. "We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform," Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue and a former Ted Cruz supporter told Lifesite News. “This shows that the pro-life movement is strong, influential, and here to stay until abortion is banned permanently.”

If the convention delegates ratify the new language for the convention, which begins in Cleveland on the 18th, Newman will be absolutely correct in his assessment of the pro-life movement. And this is to the detriment of the GOP. Despite manufactured videos, dozens of attempted state and federal bans and even a few congressional inquiries, Planned Parenthood continues to be far more popular that presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, current GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan or the Republican Party in general. Forcing an already unpopular political party into a mass and very public condemnation of the well-respected health-care provider as they head into what already looks to be a very messy Election Day is probably the easiest way to guarantee the loss of the White House and the Senate majority, too.

Overall, the GOP is trapped between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand they can add the plank and assuage the anti-abortion activists who are only tepidly enthused by a presidential candidate who still has them scratching their heads, trying to decide if he really believes women should be able to choose to terminate a pregnancy or if they should be thrown in jail if they get an abortion. On the other hand they can refuse to ratify the new language and pull their party back from the complete hijacking that has been masterminded by the social conservatives, but run the risk of losing their support and not gaining enough moderate and fiscal conservative votes to make up for it.

Considering the number of influential anti-abortion activists protesting the party in Cleveland, bearing graphic signs of bloody fetuses, it’s very likely that the new anti–Planned Parenthood language will get through. Then, once the spotlight has moved away, Republican candidates will pretend they don’t remember the most divisive, reactionary parts of their platform that they pledged to uphold only weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, the more pragmatic, campaign focused wing of the GOP will no doubt be wondering exactly how it can disentangle itself from this decades long commitment to the religious right. Little did they realize that what God has joined together, no man can tear apart.

 

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Robin Marty is a freelance writer and speaker and the author of CROW AFTER ROE, a book outlining the blueprint to end abortion one red state at a time. Marty’s articles have appeared at Cosmopolitan.com, Politico, The Guardian, and other publications, and she is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert on Reproductive Rights and Politics. Follow her: @robinmarty
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