Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tony Perkins: The Elephants in the Room

As if the Republican Party didn't have enough problems already, Americans are now being subjected to an uncomfortable public spat between the RNC chairman and the conservative movement's most recognizable radio personality.

In case you missed it, new RNC Chairman Michael Steele was asked to comment on a Rush Limbaugh speech in which he wished failure on Obama's economic plan. Steele responded on CNN that Limbaugh is purely "entertainment," and his opinions can be "incendiary" and "ugly." When host D.L. Hughley implied that Limbaugh is the "de facto leader of the Republican party," Steele fired back, "No he's not. I'm the de factor leader of the Republican Party." On his radio show yesterday, Rush made an interesting distinction about Steele. "Michael ... you are head of the RNC; you are not head of the Republican Party." Steele has since apologized for his comments, even conceding that Limbaugh is a "national conservative leader."

As I told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night, this power struggle is emblematic of the broader rift between conservatives and the Republican Party. For the last few years, there has been an identity crisis in the GOP. Until the Republican leadership can find its voice on core values, there will continue to be a vacuum in leadership. If 20 million people are tuning in to Rush Limbaugh every day, then obviously he has something significant to say. Instead of attacking the voices that resonate most with grassroots America, Republican leaders would be wise to listen to them. Otherwise, a party on the verge of irrelevance will find itself on the brink of extinction.

The biggest example of this divide between conservatives and the GOP may be found in President Obama's pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). With the exception so far of Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.)--arguably the most pro-abortion governor in the nation -- has been met by the Republican leadership with a collective yawn. Here is a woman who aligns herself against 80% of the country in suggesting that the government knows better than parents in children's health decisions, and yet the GOP can't muster the will to fight her nomination. As governor, she hosted a private reception for a notorious partial-birth abortionist, vetoed bills that would have made abortion clinics cleaner for women, and blocked court reforms that would have helped to prevent third-term abortions. Like President Obama, she even opposed protection for infants who are born alive during an abortion.

If Republicans won't take a stand now, when will they? Once Sebelius is confirmed, she will control the largest government agency in America with more power and resources to advance a radical social agenda that will drive a deeper wedge between parents and their children. Grassroots conservatives understand what's at stake here. Why doesn't the Republican leadership?

Additional Resources
FRC: Tony Perkins on CNN's AC360

Family Research Council:
801 G Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
P: 202/393-2100 or 800/225-4008
W: frc.org

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