The presidential election of 2008 was more significant than the mere defeat of John McCain; it was a resounding defeat of the Republican party. Conscientious Republicans are now faced with the question: Why? Why did so many Americans either not vote, or vote for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning, or vote for a man who openly vowed to “spread the wealth around”? How Republicans answer this question will determine whether they discover the road to victory for themselves and their country or stumble toward further defeat.

Several claims about the Republicans’ loss can be quickly dismissed. Their defeat was not due to their advocacy of smaller government or freer markets, because they advocated no such policies. On the contrary, President Bush, along with congressional Republicans, increased spending massively, doubled the national debt to fund social programs, passed the prescription drug entitlement, doubled the size of the Department of Education, and engaged in countless other schemes to coercively redistribute wealth. They also enacted McCain-Feingold, a vicious attack on free speech; condemned Barack Obama for refusing federal campaign funds; smothered businesses with Sarbanes-Oxley; and hatched a de facto nationalization scheme that would have made FDR blush. McCain represented all of this, and he underscored his predilection for nationalization by scurrying to Washington to throw his weight behind the bailouts.

Nor did the Republicans lose on account of their drive toward victory against foreign enemies, because they engaged in no such drive. The Republican commander in chief, with general Republican support, put our soldiers into battles they were not allowed to win decisively, while he held hands with the terrorist-financing Saudis, made deals with the once-KGB-agent Vladimir Putin, and negotiated with the American-murdering Taliban. Again, McCain represented all of this and said he was willing to commit our troops to another hundred years of such “war.”

Most important, the Republicans’ loss was not a consequence of their failure to uphold religious values. The most fervent zealots in this election cycle, such as Mike Huckabee, lost in the primaries just as those in the last cycle, such as Rick Santorum, failed in their campaigns. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, a Pentecostal foe of science, homosexuality, and abortion rights, did not help him; it hurt him. Other Republicans who invoked religion, such as Elizabeth Dole, also went down in defeat. American voters were not of a mind to elect those who would breach the wall between church and state.

The reason for the Republicans’ defeat is this simple fact: Over the past fifty years, they have ceased to be Republican in anything other than name. For two generations, Republican leaders have abandoned reason, individual rights, and freedom—the founding values of the American republic—in favor of religion, tradition, and “family values.” The Republicans’ tendency to coin terms such as “compassionate conservatism,” “neoconservatism,” and “big-government conservatism” is a consequence of their adherence to the sacrificial morality of religion, which, logically, demands an ever-widening welfare state. . . .

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