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Tom Zirpoli: Religious fundamentalism driving GOP

The most interesting aspect of the Senate's 68-32 passage of an immigration reform bill is the cultural divide it exposed within the Republican Party.
Similar divides are seen on other cultural issues, such as the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality and efforts by several GOP governors to close Planned Parenthood clinics.
But the Senate's bill on immigration reform brought the fracture to the surface like no other issue.
Democrats also have divides on policy issues. A few examples include disputes on the building of an oil pipeline from Canada, how to respond to the National Security Agency's efforts to monitor phone and email records and America's involvement in places like Egypt and Syria. For the most part, however, you don't hear Democrats publicly going after each other like Republicans are doing on the immigration reform issue.
Columnist Andrew Sullivan noted how some of these hot domestic issues are treated differently by conservatives in other industrialized nations. For example, in Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, conservative parties have embraced marriage equality as their own because they don't believe the government should regulate marriage between consenting adults. Conservative David Cameron of Great Britain once stated, "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative; I support gay marriage because I am a conservative."
Sullivan states that religious fundamentalism within the GOP is "the only real explanation" for their continued resistance to embracing marriage equality as a conservative value.
In regards to marriage equality and immigration reform, conservative forces in the GOP are not, according to Sullivan, "a socially conservative force" but "a radical, fundamentalist movement incapable of accepting any political settlement that does not comport with unchanging, eternal dicta."
Sullivan's theory that religious fundamentalism is the basis for the current fracturing within the GOP is supported by comments from former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other fundamentalist Republicans.
Palin's statement that she and others might leave the GOP to start a third political party followed a biblical reference to Judas as she criticized Sen. Marco Rubio and other Senate Republicans who supported the immigration reform bill.
Palin encouraged primary challenges against those Republicans who voted for the bill, including Sen. John McCain who is responsible for Palin's fame. Of course, this would be a bigger threat to Republicans than to Democrats, who would rather run against tea party candidates than incumbents like McCain in Arizona, or who would enjoy seeing a third party split GOP votes in a general election.
The Senate Republicans who voted for the immigration reform bill argue that supporting immigration reform should be a conservative cause. As noted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, immigration reform would be good for businesses, stimulate the economy and reduce the federal budget deficit by $897 billion between now and 2033.
One of the biggest supporters of the Senate's immigration reform bill is the National Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business, conservative group. "Immigration reform is a conservative value" states one of the Chamber's television ads. Other conservative groups such as The National Association of Manufacturers, Americans for a Conservative Direction and American Action Network also supported the Senate bill by pouring millions of dollars into television ads targeting Republicans and encouraging them to vote for the bill.
Unfortunately, the immigration reform bill, which includes over $30 billion in new border security funding, will die in the House of Representatives as the majority of Republicans in the House take Palin's threat of a tea party primary challenge seriously.
While the fundamentalists have won the day - and delay - on immigration reform for now, one has to wonder, as McCain recently vocalized, what their long-term strategy might be for securing more than 30 percent of the Hispanic vote in future national elections.
Frankly, I don't think they care, and that message is coming through loud and clear.

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