If you recall, the last time I graced these pages I provided my massive readership (which stands at seven, counting myself) with a lucid and penetrating exploration of the degeneration of the liberal vision into an offensive and ineffectual obsession with group rights. For those out there who read it as well as my previous columns and believe me to be your typical, close-minded conservative, this Bud's for you.

Today's focus will be the failure of Republicans to adhere to the vision, supported by an increasing number of Americans, of a smaller and less intrusive federal government and more individual freedom. So liberals can feel free to read on.

Before I get accused of making a Clinton-esque push to the center in a pathetic attempt to increase my readership, let me say that my complaint is not with the basic conservative ideology; it has been fairly consistent, and I still find it to be the most viable method of governing this nation. The problem is that the Republican party's radicalism has distorted the conservative message, and basically done everything possible to make that message unpalatable to the American public. For right or wrong, being a conservative identifies one with the Republicans, and the radical stance of certain factions of the Republican party has branded all conservatives as a bunch of angry white males.

The problem is that much of the Republican leadership is completely out of touch with the views and desires of the average conservative. Instead of keeping the focus on smaller federal government and more state and individual autonomy, the party leadership has refused to drop the outdated religious right planks that push the views of politicians into the daily lives of the citizenry.

If this allegation seems unfounded, you can thank the bang-up job done by Haley Barbour at the Republican Convention last summer. From the performance put on in San Diego, one would think that the party had eschewed its old image of exclusion and moral superiority in favor of the new, moderate-conservative vision that has swept the nation in the 1990s. Voters saw Susan Molinari and Colin Powell, not Pat Buchanan.

This kinder, gentler version of the Republicans would be fine and dandy if it represented the true character of the party; but, alas, it is not so. The fact of the matter is that Newt and the rest of the Republican revolutionaries mistook the electoral triumph of 1992 as a mandate for a radical conservative uprising, when, in reality, it was simply an expression of disenchantment with the Democratic vision of big government.

The result has been a Republican party characterized by young, over-zealous religious righters who are hell-bent on thrusting their vision of America into everybody's face. Ralph Reed, the head of the formidable Christian Coalition, is one of, if not the, most influential figures in the party today. While only 25-percent of Republicans identify themselves with the religious right, the power and obstreperousness of that sector has dominated much more of the party than moderate Republicans would like the public to believe.

One look at the Republican platform for '96 should convince any doubters that radical conservative groups like the Christian Coalition and NRA still carry a big stick. They are anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-many of the things that mainstream conservatives support. And even moderate members of the party are guilty of unleashing occasional right-wing tirades that hark to the glory days when the moral majority battled the likes of Motley Crue. Every so often, we have to hear Dan Quayle or Bob Dole bellyache about how there is too much sex on television; how single parenthood shouldn't be glorified; how rap lyrics are the source of all our problems.

From the standpoint of a moderate conservative like myself, the refusal of the Republican Party to dump its holier-than-thou moral stance and radical agenda is extremely frustrating. Clearly, the liberal vision of a massive welfare state has been discredited, and voters are itching to jump on the conservative bandwagon, itching for a party of tolerance like the one that Colin Powell represents, a party that returns to its genesis as the "Party of Lincoln."

Unfortunately, the radical and intolerant tendencies of the Republicans have scared off many moderate voters, leaving them no choice but to jump back into the arms of a Democratic party whose leadership has proved to be much better at giving average conservatives what they so desperately want.

Parker Stanberry is a Trinity sophomore.