My best friend called me yesterday, fuming about a solicitation call she’d just received.
The woman caller identified herself as a volunteer for the Republican Party. She began by thanking my friend for her past, generous support of the GOP–and indeed, my friend was an active Republican voter and donor for many years. Her husband served two terms in the General Assembly as a Republican State Senator. However, like so many of my friends and family, she no longer supports the party, and when the woman at the other end of the phone asked whether she would consider a contribution, she said so.
“I’m a Democrat now,” she informed the volunteer. The volunteer (predictably) asked if she would share why she had left the GOP; my friend responded that she strongly disagreed with the party’s positions on social issues, especially abortion and homosexuality. It is not government’s job to decide whether you procreate, or who you love; the party used to understand that “limited” government meant limited to matters that are properly the province of the state.
There was a pause. The woman on the phone then asked “Don’t you think we should consider the will of god? Shouldn’t the government have a role in ensuring that we live by what’s written in the bible?” to which my friend responded “Whose bible? Whose god?” Another pause, then the question: “are you a Christian?” When my friend said she was not, the woman evidently had an “ah ha” moment, because she ended the conversation by saying “Oh, that explains it.” According to my friend, she might just as well have said, “Now I understand–you are not one of us.”
The conversation made it quite clear that, to this volunteer (and presumably others like her), the Republican party is no longer a political enterprise. It’s a religious movement, a party by and for Christians. Not just any Christian, either–it’s the party for what they call “bible-believing” Christians, the party of Rick Santorum and Mike Pence. If there are still those in the party who take a more traditional approach, who understand the purpose of politics to be participation in secular governance and political outreach to be the building of a bigger, more inclusive tent, they presumably hadn’t communicated that to this particular foot soldier.
The conversation simply confirmed the reality of today’s Republican party–a party consisting of what has been described as “a shrinking base of aging, ethnically monolithic, and geographically isolated voters.” Christian voters. Perhaps we could achieve more clarity in our political discourse if the GOP stopped trying to be coy, and just renamed itself the Christian Party. In its current iteration, it certainly isn’t the Republican Party that my friend and I used to support. That party disappeared a long time ago.
The volunteer on the other end of line simply confirmed its transformation.