Columnist George Will recollects the infamous line of a humorist after the 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt landslide: “If the outcome of this election hasn’t taught you Republicans not to meddle in politics, I don’t know what will.” Will argues that the Mark Foley scandal indicates a deep breach in the Republican political alliance between the western and southern wings of the Party.
“The former is largely libertarian, holding that pruning big government will allow civil society — and virtues nourished by it and by the responsibilities of freedom — to flourish. The Southern, essentially religious, strand of conservatism is explained by Ryan Sager in his new book, The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party:
“‘Whereas conservative Christian parents once thought it was inappropriate for public schools to teach their kids about sex, now they want the schools to preach abstinence to children. Whereas conservative Christians used to be unhappy with evolution being taught in public schools, now they want Intelligent Design taught instead (or at least in addition). Whereas conservative Christians used to want the federal government to leave them alone, now they demand that more and more federal funds be directed to local churches and religious groups through Bush’s faith-based initiatives program.’
“To a Republican Party increasingly defined by the ascendancy of the religious right, the Foley episode is doubly deadly. His behavior was disgusting, and some Republican reactions seem more calculating than indignant.”
Will concludes that these fissures in the GOP should result in a cakewalk for the Democrats in the midterm elections: “If, after the Foley episode — a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats’ delectable sundae of Republican miseries — the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.”