I saw the beginning of the end of the traditional Grand Old Party back in 1980 when the Reagan campaign invited the religious right to occupy a central role in Republican politics. Until then, they had been dismissed as a fringe element too extreme for mainstream America.
The Supremes had ruled on abortion in Roe v. Wade only seven years before.
The religious right, fueled by anti-abortion fervor, took over the GOP. It was a symbiotic relationship. The religious right seemed willing to go along with anything the Republicans wanted as long as it ended abortion on demand.
The Republicans would put a plank in the campaign platform that demanded a constitutional amendment protecting zygotes and fetuses, the "unborn."
Ronald Reagan, a B actor in Hollywood but an A actor on the world stage and not really a church-going guy, was elected over Jimmy Carter, the actual born-again Christian. Why? Because the Democrats felt that reproductive freedom and choice was best left to individuals.
I don't know if the mainstream Republicans are finally starting to recognize the effect that religious extremism has had on the party, or not. The anti-abortion crowd still clings to their goal of stacking the Supreme Court with judges who appear to them likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. Now their certainty of what God wants has led them to try to ban gay marriage with another of their religion-based amendments.
Meanwhile, that storied progressive political party, the secular institution that elected Abraham Lincoln president twice, continues to suffer embarrassing defeat after defeat.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun