Last night, I saw Joel's comment and thought to myself "to answer this properly, I'm going to have to write a little essay. Ah, screw it. I'll write it in the morning." I woke up a bit ago and couldn't get back to sleep so I came in here to write and found that my beloved CSO had already written said essay. He posted it in the comments, but I thought it deserved a place on the main pag of the blog.
Because, like it or not, we have a two-party system in this country. Whichever party is closer to the views of a nutjob gets tarred by what they do. The Democratic Party gets associated with every nutjob liberal cause out there, because they're closer to it than the Republicans are. Look at the "legalize all drugs NOW" people. The Democrats don't want to be associated with them, but they are - because they're closer to that groups views than the Republicans are.
Since Phelps' views are *closer* to the Republicans than to the Democrats, the Republicans get stuck with him as a matter of public opinion. He's *their* problem. That's not fair, that's not right, but that's how the American system of political parties works.
I don't see this as a general attack on all Republicans. It's a criticism of Democratic party tactics, nothing more. They should just issue a cursory denouncement for the record that no one will read, then sit back and watch the fireworks.
There *is* a certain minority in this country who basically agree with Phelps. Statistically, most of those people are Republicans. That's NOT saying that all, or even most, Republicans agree with him - just that of the people who DO agree with him, far more are Republicans than are Democrats. That, too, makes him the Republicans' problem.