Speaking publicly for one of the first times since the end of the presidential campaign, John McCain’s campaign manager Steve Schmidt painted a dire portrait of the state of the Republican Party, arguing that the GOP has largely been co-opted by its religious elements.
“If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party,” Schmidt declared. “And in a free country, a political party cannot be viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party.
“The remarks came in a passionate, roughly 20-minute speech before the Log Cabin Republican’s national convention, in which Schmidt laid out the case for a far more open party — one which did not consider gay marriage to be a “litmus test” issue. And while he made it a purpose not to offend social conservatives — they “remain an indispensable part of the Republican coalition,” he said — Schmidt did not hide his concerns that religion had become the predominant thread of the GOP.
“If you reject [gay marriage] on religious grounds, I respect that,” he said. “I respect anyone’s religious views. However, religious views should not inform the public policy positions of a political party because… when it is a religious party, many people who would otherwise be members of that party are excluded from it because of a religious belief system that may be different. And the Republican Party ought not to be that. It ought to be a coalition of people under a big tent.”