Win, lose or draw, we’re always supposedly hitting a tipping point where social issues just no longer work for the Republican Party. At first glance, this would appear to be a rather puzzling sentiment. After all, in 2010, despite the fact that the GOP was just as socially conservative as we were this year, the Republican Party had its best year in half a century. Furthermore, in 2008 and 2012, the GOP lost despite running moderate candidates who were soft on social issues and who barely brought them up at all. If anything, you’d think that seeing two non-social conservatives like McCain and Romney go down in flames should start to make Republicans wonder if we’re not pushing social issues enough instead of the reverse, but if people were thinking about it logically in the first place, everyone would realize that it is a terrible idea to dump social issues right off the bat.
1) How would we replace all the votes we lose? It’s highly ironic that you hear people claim that social conservatives aren’t fiscally conservative, right before they urge us to purge them from the party. After all, if that were true (More on that in a moment) and the GOP abandons social issues, wouldn’t those tens of millions of voters migrate over to the Democrats since we’d no longer have anything to offer them? Then, whom would we replace them with? There’s already a fiscally conservative, socially liberal party called the Libertarians and they usually collect about 1% of the vote. Telling tens of millions of Christian conservatives that they can drop dead as far you’re concerned to try to appeal to a few million wishy-washy independents who change sides based on the last commercial they saw and a million Libertarians who still probably won’t vote Republican unless we agree to legalize crack, support open borders and close all of our overseas military bases doesn’t seem like such a good deal.
2) Social conservatism is part of the Republican Party’s core: Social conservatism is not some fringe issue that’s on the margins of the GOP. To the contrary, as Ronald Reagan used to say, the Republican Party is like a three legged stool comprised of a strong defense, free market policies, and social conservatism. You rip one of those legs off — as the GOP found out during the Bush years when it started to move towards big government — and there’s a heavy price to be paid. Furthermore, if you think abandoning social conservatism would just mean that Pat Robertson, Rick Santorum, Tony Perkins and Brent Bozell would be hacked off, you should think again. If you’re talking about Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Thomas Sowell, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Walter Williams, Laura Ingraham or most of the other big name conservatives in the party, you’re talking about people who are pro-life, favor God’s definition of marriage and are generally friendly to social conservatism. People get into politics because they want to see their values reflected in the government and if you think are going to shrug their shoulders and do nothing while issues that are near and dear to their heart are tossed into the trash like an old sneaker, you have another think coming.
3) Social conservatism can be a winning issue: The words “can be” are in there because they’re certainly not always winning issues. If a candidate comes off as looking down on people who disagree with him or blunders around like Godzilla through Tokyo on a sensitive issue like rape and abortion as Todd Akin did, it can be a killer. Of course, bad messaging can kill you on a lot of issues. That’s how Mitt Romney got portrayed as an uncaring, rich jerk even though he’s the kind of man who rakes leaves for the elderly and anonymously buys milk for hundreds of needy veterans.
Much has been made of the fact that gay marriage finally won for the first time at the ballot box in Maryland, Maine and Washington. Of course, constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage have passed in 30 states including swing states like Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan and Virginia. Do we really want to turn off voters in those swing states to make ourselves more appealing in a handful of blue states? The GOP did get pummeled on abortion in the 2012 election cycle and most people are blaming it on Todd Akin, but Mitt Romney deserves a lot of the blame, too. Barack Obama made attacking him on social issues a core part of his strategy and Mitt responded with the same tactic George W. Bush used in his second term: letting his opponents hit him in the face as much as they wanted and hoping that their arms got tired. It didn’t work for W, it didn’t work for Mitt and it won’t work if we try it again. If you’re up against a man who loves partial birth abortion and voted three times in favor of killing babies born after attempted abortions and you get beaten into the ground on abortion, it isn’t the issue, it’s that you stink as a politician.
4) What about minority outreach? “Keep in mind that just over 78% of Americans are Christians and that number swells to roughly 85% of black and Hispanic voters.” When you consider those numbers and the fact that black and Hispanic voters are still on board with Obama after the economic beating they’ve taken in his first term, it suggests that the GOP has a better opportunity to reach them on social issues than we do on economic issues. If Republican consultants claim we can’t sell Christian values to demographic groups we need to improve with that are 85% Christian, then maybe they should get out of politics and go sell shoes.