Several have made the case, in relation to the GOP’s need to reach out to Hispanic voters, that the primary issue is not one of policies, per se, but one of identity and temperament. The nationalistic rhetoric on immigration that saturates primary campaigns has a civil religious tone too, which alienates a growing American demographic. There’s an excellent editorial by Rusty Reno in the December edition of First Things about the voting habits of the rising number of nonreligious people, which hasn’t gone online yet, but I’ll quote:

Fifty-one percent of those who say grace call themselves Republicans, with 40 percent identifying as Democrats, and 10 percent as independents. No Surprise there. What’s striking, however, are the much more intense partisan loyalties of those who never say grace. Seventy percent identify as Democrats, and only 22 percent as Republicans. The Pew survey confirms this partisan outlook, which became more marked during the last decade. In 2000, 61 percent of Nones voted for Al Gore. In 2004, 67 percent went for John Kerry. 2008 saw 75 percent casting their ballot for Barack Obama.

Reno describes nonreligious voters’ identification with the Democratic Party as the political equivalent of evangelicals with Republicans. They’re still not quite as large or politically significant, but it’s growing.

Is it futile for the GOP to court the irreligious? Maybe. I’ll just say that there’s a strong, persuasive argument for the free economy that the GOP doesn’t make very well. And it tends to sell out for mercantile corporatism once in power.