After every major Republican defeat the party plays a game of lifeboat which boils down to: “If we just dump over those rascals I have never agreed with, everything would be hunky dory.” After a few months of this, the party settles down, learns from its defeats, the Democrats fall on their face, and the party comes roaring back. In the present period of Republican angst, some commentators have been calling for the social conservatives to go into the deep blue political void. Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal is typical.
Fellow conservatives, please stop obsessing about what other adults might be doing in their bedrooms, so long as it’s lawful and consensual and doesn’t impinge in some obvious way on you. This obsession is socially uncouth, politically counterproductive and, too often, unwittingly revealing.
Also, if gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it’s a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way. The alternative is the tapped foot and the wide stance.
Also, please tone down the abortion extremism. Supporting so-called partial-birth abortions, as too many liberals do, is abortion extremism. But so is opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest, to say nothing of the life of the mother. Democrats did better with a president who wanted abortion to be “safe, legal and rare”; Republicans would have done better by adopting former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’s call for a “truce” on social issues.
I always find the sheer political fantasy land of such proposals amusing. Social conservatives are the core of the Republican party. No one can be involved with the Republican party for long without noticing that most of the volunteers in Republican campaigns are social conservatives. They are the ones who do the door to door canvassing, put up yard signs, man the phones, etc. Without them any Republican campaign would be a mere shell. Yes, it would be a masterstroke for Republicans to alienate their most devoted supporters.
Then of course we have the vote totals for social conservatives. They are the group in the party that provides a plurality of votes for Republican candidates and have since before Reagan.
The vast majority of elected Republican officials embrace social conservative positions. Most I think do so sincerely, but even those who don’t understand it would be political suicide to alienate their key voters.
Finally, if the party turned its back on the issues social conservatives care about, social conservatives would doubtless turn their back on the party and form a new one. The old rump Republican party would quickly find itself in third place in the red states, and running a poor second in blue states, with mass defections around the country by elected Republican office holders.
Yep, turning out social conservatives would be the smartest political move since Republicans denied Theodore Roosevelt the party nomination in 1912.
We saw in the most recent election what happens to Republicans when they soft pedal the social issues: the Democrats attack them ruthlessly anyway on the social issues, the GOP spends its campaign time being a punching bag, and the Democrat base is enthused while the social conservative base of the GOP is depressed. This is one of the big factors in explaining the poor turnout of Republicans on election day this year.
No, I think it would be better if Republicans who can’t stand social conservatives form their own party. But they don’t have to! Such a party exists!
Here is its stance on gay marriage:
Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
The dream party of Republicans who hate social conservatives! It is called the Libertarian Party and in the most recent election its candidate for President got
1,191,420 votes out of some 120 million cast.