Georgetown students debate the Religious Right's impact on the GOP

By Gabriella Morrongiello

Between Pope Francis' rhetoric to the American clergy on matters of public policy and the recent defeat of values-voter style candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia Governor's race, the Religious Right has been placed under scrutiny anew and some believe a conversation about its impact on the Republican Party is long overdue.

At Georgetown University Monday night, Policymic - a news and discussion platform for Millenials -  hoped to initiate that conversation with their first three-on-three debate featuring a panel of Liberal and Conservative Georgetown students joined by professional experts.

Debate moderator and Policymic editor Michael Luciano asked the panel to address whether or not they believed the Religious Right has become "an electoral liability for the GOP" given "today's shifting social climate."

"I'm here to dare suggest the Religious Right has many positive influences on the GOP," said Christopher Bedford, Associate Editor of The Daily Caller, adding that "no civic institution has been as publicly influential or enduring as religion."

And Bedford's claims are well substantiated. According to 2012/2013 Gallup polls, 69 percent of the U.S. adult population considers themselves "very or moderately religious" and a remarkable 77 percent identify with a Christian religion.

"America is still a fundamentally religious country," said Bedford.

Georgetown junior and President of the GU College Republicans Maggie Cleary believes the Religious Right has benefitted the GOP substantially and suggested that religion has often been the avenue for consolidation of the GOP's platform ideals.

"When people show up to the polls and decide to make a choice on election day they always have different motivating factors," said Cleary. "The Democratic Party’s biggest challenge is trying to find a common thread that unites all of their platform ideals, but the good news is that  for a large portion of the Republican Party, their motivation to vote comes from their religion."

However, Michael Miller, formerly of the Daily Kos - a Left-wing political analysis weblog - said the GOP is doomed if religious affiliation continues to decline among Millenials.

"If that religion is something the GOP is using to bring energy into the party, well, bluntly, you don't have to believe in evolution to be rendered extinct," said Miller.

With support of same--sex marriage gaining momentum nationwide and the alleged "War on Women" becoming increasingly contentious, an enormous challenge confronts the Republican Party-- much of which is comprised of the Religious Right.

"If people don't think you care about them they're not going to vote for you," said Miller. "If the Christian right can't reverse this War on Women narrative then they're going to continue losing."

In order to be successful in the coming elections, Ezra Louvis - a political economy major at Georgetown -  believes the Republican party needs "to appeal to more moderate voters-- something which religious ideology is not particularly suited to."

Louvis's peer Arjun Gupta - a first-year student and member of the GU College Democrats - suggested that the "massive divide between the religious right's opinions and the growing number of independents in the U.S." should concern the GOP as well.

Nonetheless, both liberal panelists later admitted that if the GOP were to adopt the changes they, as Liberals, would like to see, it would do more harm than good.

"They're stuck with it [the Religious Right]... it was a tremendously powerful tool for them and if they abandon their base they'll be screwed," said Miller.