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Polls spell disaster for a GOP that abandons life and marriage

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With just two weeks left until the GOP platform committee meets in Milwaukee, conservatives are preparing for what many believe will be an all-out war for the party’s soul. Rumors have been swirling for months that a quiet army of moderates is assembling to overthrow key Republican pillars on life and marriage. And while delegates are used to having to defend core principles, insiders say this time is different. They’re coming for the GOP’s most basic beliefs, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said somberly. “I hate to tell you this, but it’s true … The Republican Party Platform is under assault.” 

While most of the attention is on the bright lights of the convention itself, the majority of conservatives realize that the lead-up to the big television bonanza is what makes or breaks the party. “If you change the platform,” Perkins warned, “you change the party.” July 8 and 9, when the document is hashed out for the first time in eight years, are “critical to keep at least one party aligned with biblical truth,” he insisted.

Fortunately, a few stories are bubbling up that should cast some serious doubt on the wisdom of diluting the life and marriage planks. For one, Republican support for same-sex marriage is cratering. After creeping upward for the last decade or so, the bottom fell out of the issue for the GOP, dropping almost 10 points in the last two years. Only 46% of Republicans favor the idea now, down from 55% in 2022 according to Gallup.

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Some of that pushback was obvious in the aftermath of the House and Senate votes on the far-left Respect for Marriage Act, when 51 Republicans abandoned their base and sided with Democrats. Together, they helped bulldoze natural marriage and gutted religious freedom — a decision that resulted in a stunning amount of backlash at home. The grassroots outrage was so intense after the first vote in July that eight fewer House Republicans supported it on final passage in December.

Over in the Senate, the 12 Republicans who betrayed natural marriage faced blistering criticism in their states. Across IowaWyoming, AlaskaIndiana, and North Carolina, the urgency to “do something” about the Republicans’ vote intensified in the following months, as counties moved to censure and publicly excoriate members who set fire to the party’s principles. Senator Thom Tillis (N.C.) even lost the party’s financial backing. A year and a half later, Gallup’s numbers show that the fury over these traitorous moves is still very much alive.

As for the suggestion that watering down the GOP’s life position would win over more voters, the primaries in South Carolina are one in a long line of stories that should put that logic to rest. Three Republican state senators who tried to filibuster the chamber’s pro-life protections lost their reelection bids this month — including the longest-serving female in the Senate GOP. The women, who became known as “Sister Senators,” refused to back the Palmetto State’s lower abortion threshold, eventually costing Sandy Senn, Penry Gustafson, and Katrina Shealy their jobs.

PBS points out, “Billboards saying Shealy was not ‘pro-life’ were all over her district in Lexington County, which led the charge to flip the state from Democratic to Republican control over the past five decades.”

FRC Action Director Matt Carpenter, who watched the state’s primary with interest, told The Washington Stand, “Ultimately, the takeaway from the defeat of these three South Carolina senators who defected from the rest of the conference on the issue of protecting the unborn is that Republican primary voters are paying attention to who is truly pro-life, and who will side with the pro-abortion Left. Protecting the unborn is just as salient an issue for Republican primary voters today as it has ever been, they won’t allow the Overton Window to move left on the protection of life, and they’re willing to throw out incumbents to make that point.”

Let’s hope national leaders are paying attention to these signs. As Perkins pointed out on “Washington Watch” Tuesday, a lot of things were pivotal to Donald Trump’s 2016 support among evangelicals: releasing a list of pro-life nominees he would pick for the Supreme Court, choosing a known conservative as his running mate, and the embrace of the most conservative Republican Party Platform in history. “Those three things galvanized his support.”

Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, agreed. “I think we absolutely need a repeat” in 2024, he said. “We’re at an inflection point in this campaign, and in many ways, the foundation for the fall is going to be laid in the next three weeks. We have a debate taking place here in Atlanta … And how well the president does, meaning former President Trump and how well Biden does is going to determine a lot. It’ll be a key moment.”

The second, Reed explained, “is the selection of his vice presidential running mate. And the third will be the gathering in Milwaukee and the adoption of the platform. And I’ve said repeatedly … and I know that you’ve said similar things — that if the Republican Party and the Trump campaign send a message of equivocation or retreat on the historic defense of innocent human life by the Republican Party — [which] I believe [is] the most important position of this party other than its opposition to slavery — it will make it harder to turn these voters out in the fall.”

Originally published at The Washington Stand. 

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer for The Washington Stand. In her role, she drafts commentary on topics such as life, consumer activism, media and entertainment, sexuality, education, religious freedom, and other issues that affect the institutions of marriage and family. Over the past 20 years at FRC, her op-eds have been featured in publications ranging from the Washington Times to The Christian Post. Suzanne is a graduate of Taylor University in Upland, Ind., with majors in both English Writing and Political Science.

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