MCT Roundtable: Should GOP drop social issues in order to win elections?

It was suggest that I host a roundtable discussion about the GOP and if it needs to drop the social issues to help win elections.

I thought this was a great idea, and rounded up several great conservative voices to discuss the issue.

For today’s roundtable discussion, the line up includes the good friend of motorcitytimes, 5eTester, from the excellent blog Spellcheck, bringing his concise and insightful point of view.

To changing things up, I contacted a couple of great commenters here @ motorcitytimes and asked if they would contribute. Both Nancy and Geek49203 agreed to participate in the discussion.

Also, I contacted a couple of blogging heavyweights and asked if they would like to join in the discussion. Both agreed.

First, we are fortunate to have author and contributor to the excellent What Would The Founders Think? Curtice Mang. Also contributing to our online discussion is award-winning blogger and host of the influential RightMichigan, Jason Gillman (who is also kind enough to let your truly post my rants @ RightMichigan from time to time).

Now everyone is introduced, on to the discussion:

Question:

Karl Rove has launched his so-called ‘war on the tea party’ in order to ensure that establishment republicans retain power. In particular, the GOP doesn’t fare well with the ‘Millennial’ Generation, or Generation Y, of youth born after 1980. The call for the GOP to drop social issues in order to win elections has been the buzz. Setting aside the conservative/libertarian divide within the GOP on social issues, the party needs a winning strategy right away in order to stop democrats from regaining the House in the 2014 mid-terms and once again opening the floodgates of the Obama agenda in his final two years in office.

Should the GOP ‘stand down’ on social issues in order to win elections and get our nation’s fiscal house back in order? Can you ever successfully set-aside principles, even temporarily, for the greater good as losing the House in 2014 would be disastrous?

5eTester:

Stand down on principle is an oxymoron. Principles are bedrocks. If we were to go down that slippery slope and win the next election cycle, the result would be irrelevance. I would submit that the key is the GOP has not embraced a set of principles. This has opened the door to division within the party and left it without any clear focus. It makes it all too easy for the left to expose the GOP. The party doesn’t have to become the next incarnation of Orthodox Christians. However, there needs to be a general consensus on key social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Issues such as immigration and gun control are clear-cut as outlined in the Constitution and under natural law.

Gen Y is a real problem for the GOP. Indoctrination by academia creates a steep hill to climb. There must be a much greater focus on how best to utilize social media to expand the avenues used to get the message out to our youth. Why the Constitution isn’t outdated or irrelevant. How the policies of redistribution of wealth and fiat money are their burden to bear. When you’re young and indestructible, things like healthcare and pensions have little effect, so we need to illustrate why this is vital to them. It took the progressive movement most of the last century to dominate academia as they do today, however social media and technology has opened the door for us to have a wide-reaching impact in short order if done properly. It can be done but it has to start with solid principles as an unshakable foundation.

Nancy:

I think that the Conservatives need to be more decisive in the message: smaller government, cutting taxes/spending, self reliance, self control, bring God back into the American way and have some guts. The Liberals have been bullying the political atmosphere for a long time. When the Liberals/Democrats lose an election, they call for discontinuing the Electoral College. Haven’t heard that cry in awhile, eh?

In the last election cycle, Mitt Romney won the first debate, hands down. The press minimized it. The next two debates treated us to an arrogant and condescending President Obama. Mitt let him do it. The Republican party has to get a back bone. It isn’t about how to win the elections it is about defending what is right, moral and in American citizens’ best interests. I am truly concerned that I will lose everything my husband and I have worked for the last 32 years. We are not in debt and we paid for our kids’ college. But the money we saved for retirement could be wiped out, should the government decide that.

Steve:

The underlying problem we have today are mostly the social issues. The largest share of the Federal budget is money transfers to individuals, i.e. spending on social issues. If we don’t get the social issues under control we will not get the federal Budget under control.

Obviously, conservatives can’t legislate morality but we can advocate strengthening the family, religious freedom for everyone, self-reliance and individual freedom. Conservatives can also frame tax discussions social terms as well. For example, parents want to provide for their kids on their own and explaining how a tax cut will allow you to do more for you children than a government check, that will resonate.

When conservatives ignore social issues, we perpetuate an environment where the frightening “Julia ad” resonates with a significant segment of the population and conservatives lose elections.

Jason Gillman:

The GOP saw what happens when some of the grassroots sit on their hands in the Romney debacle. There is no strength with a few high profile characters carrying some presumable Republican standard. Karl Rove is a manager of hidden big dollar contributions. How hard is it to assume that the money he flows into certain campaigns wouldn’t come with covenants? He is no friend of the ordinary conservative Republican, and might well have been responsible for primary mishaps that derailed certain candidates in the 2012 cycle.

As for social issues, the last election showed candidates, Santorum AND Cain, who were able to clearly relate them to economic issues. Santorum explained that solid traditional (with a married mother and a father) families were more far more likely to be above the poverty level. Add to this the burden on our health system of those who engage in high risk (as documented by the CDC) activities, there can be no question there is a place in the discussion.

Last and certainly not least is the defense of our children when they are most vulnerable. Its NOT about ‘reproductive rights’, but rather identifying the child unborn as a human being that ought not be murdered.

Geek49203:

First, let me suggest that the angst on the part of GOP party officials to “rebuild” is quite mistaken. Yes, they lost another Presidential election they should’ve won. However, looking at the map of GOP control in state governments, they seem to be doing quite well. They also control the House, and have enough votes in the Senate to curb the worst of the atrocities there. They are far from being a defeated party in the way that they were post-Watergate in 1977. To hear Obama speak, they are powerful enough to end life as we know it or something.

*Personally* I don’t want to “rebuild” it if it means more of the things that caused me to lose interest in it — I make donations to candidates and PACs, not the GOP. As I told the Michigan GOP when they hit me up for money to “win back the House” — why should I give money when the GOP blew it last time they ran things? Seriously, the House under the last Engler administration was part of a tax and spend orgy, and the gridlock that ensued after they lost the MI House was preferable!

Second, it is my opinion that 2/3 of the population “thinks” with their emotions. The GOP campaigns of late make points that are quite sensible, but are about as inspiring as a lecture on differential calculus. It was a great mistake to nominate yet another candidate who cannot make the emotional appeal to those voters. Heck, I fell asleep during Romney’s speeches! Reagan’s great power as a “communicator” was that he invoked great emotions — hope, patriotism, confidence. Romney inspired Leave it to Beaver comparisons, as do many of the other GOP candidates, with the notable exception of people like Chris Christie.

Third, it is important to have a working toilet in the house. However, if the house is on fire, then priorities shift. The GOP should NOT forget about the social conservative messages, but should concentrate mostly on the most important issue the US government has had since the Watergate/VietNam era — the staggering debt that has finally started to cripple the economy.

BTW, shipping out $1 trillion every 3 years for foreign oil, then having an expensive military to protect those imports, hasn’t done us any good either.

As for the social issues… Conservatives need to engage reality a bit here, and realize that the debate continues to evolve, and not try to debate issues like it was the 1980′s. To wit:

- The boat sailed on immigration, and we lost. I did the math on sending back 12 million illegals, and it would take 14 years at 100/hour to drop them off at the border, assuming we got no new immigrants. While it might take 14 years to ship ‘em all home, it will certainly take as long or longer to process all of those applications unless ICE is fixed. Heck, the IRS is probably our most efficient agency at processing lots of complex paperwork, and they couldn’t handle 14 million new huge tax returns (unless they geared up for it)! The conservative answer is to INSIST that our immigrations laws be coherent, that ICE be well run, and our borders be secured. Hell, have you ever met a Hispanic person who doesn’t believe ICE is broken? Why should it take more than 10 – 12 weeks to process a request from either Canada or Mexico, or for that matter, most of the EU countries?

- Weed legalization. I see this issue as splitting the conservative movement down the middle, libertarians versus prohibitionists. Akin to alcohol and gambling and porn and divorce and Blue Laws and other issues of the past, it’s not a great thing to do, but if people must do it then let’s be sensible about it. In other words, that ship sailed too. There are lots of things that are “wrong” but “legal” and conservatives must decide if they can live with “wrong” things remaining “legal.”

- Abortion. Speaking of “wrong but legal”…. AT the very least we should hold the status quo against forces that would seek to make last-day abortions, for any reason, legal. Hopefully the moral tide will be turned and no woman would even consider having one. I don’t see a repeal of Roe anytime soon. The problem again for conservatives is that women, more than men, vote w/ their emotions on these issues, and the conservatives / GOP types fail miserably at emotional issues.

- Gay / lesbian issues. I sense society making a shift here, especially among the under 30 crowd. Should the gay/lesbian activists ever stop targeting bastions of morality (ie, marriage, which is commonly done in churches) then they’d probably find even greater acceptance, to the point where favorable legislation would probably happen. However, the battles that the activists seek to wage are always aimed at institutions that deem their activities as “wrong” — Boy Scouts, church (via the marriage and gay ordination fights), Salvation Army, etc.

BTW, I’m former clergy, and I have to wonder why civil marriage documents, the third most important vital records a person has (behind birth and death certificates) are handled by someone whose qualification might be a mail-order “ordination.” At some point, akin to the UK, I’d favor mandating a civil service to be married legally, and a separate church service if the couple wants to be married in the church (hey, it worked for Charles and Diana, right?). This would then allow some sort of civil recognition of dedicated gay/lesbian couples without getting into the Canadian issue of forcing clergy do perform gay/lesbian weddings. Historically, both the Jews as well as the Puritans saw marriage as a civil thing, not a church thing — it became a church thing when the Vatican had a vested interest in keeping royal lines of succession clean and intact centuries ago, so there is some precedent to what I’m thinking.

Curtice Mang:

For the GOP, I think the issue is less social issues vs. economic issues and more about attracting better quality candidates and fewer nitwits. We know the Democrats attract plenty of nitwits, but the Republicans also get their share. The difference, of course, is that Republican nitwits just lose elections, while the Democratic nitwits become party leaders. To wit, a jar of Vlasic pickles could have defeated Harry Reid in 2010. Nevada Republicans were apparently out of pickles during the primaries that year and so ended up with Sharron Angle as the Senate GOP candidate.

GOP candidates, whether labeled “establishment” or “Tea Party”, must fully understand and be able to forcefully and articulately espouse the principles of limited government. They can’t be fending off questions of prior dabbling in witchcraft or blunder into statements about how the female body can terminate pregnancies caused by rape and then intelligently articulate limited government principles. What these examples show is that those candidates weren’t articulate to begin with and no amount of coaching or duct tape could have helped.

Like it or not, the media often is acts as an extension of the Democratic Party. The GOP can whine and complain about it (and I do plenty of that), or do a better job of overcoming it with better candidates. A lousy Democratic candidate can win an election, but a lousy Republican candidate rarely does. And you don’t advance your cause by losing elections, unless losing is actually your objective (and sometimes Republicans make it looks that way).
The GOP needs more candidates like Ted Cruz and fewer like Sharron Angle, Todd Akin or Christine O’Donnell. The marketing slogan for Miller Lite Beer is “Tastes great, less filling.” For the GOP, the manta should be “Better candidates, less nitwits.”

Curtice Mang is a regular contributor at What Would The Founders Think? and is the author of the new book, The Constitution – I’m Not Kidding and Other Tales of Liberal Folly. He can be contacted at www.mangwrites.com, where one can also purchase his book; or contact Curtice at Mangwrites@cox.net.

Thanks for the excellent points. Any comments?

Comments
  • madmemere February 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    All well and good; everyone speaking here states it well – -however, the only way the GOP will “ever” win another election, will be if voter rolls are “cleaned up” AND electronic vote machines, that can be over ridden by corrupted control cards, are “removed” from the scene! Frankly, I would prefer the GOP, gracefully, resign from the political scene, entirely and another “honest” party form in its place; it could be called the American Party, the Constitution Party, the American Tea Party, or whatever is selected by the majority! In this way, a “new” party could, legally, fight what ever is perceived to be “voter fraud”, whereas the GOP cannot, because of some “sham” deal foisted on them by the liberal dimwits and one of their “hand picked” activist jurists, some 30 years ago!

  • John Carey February 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Very interesting discussion. As for me I don’t feel like standing on principle in regards to social issues is the problem for the GOP. It’s how they convey the message. Social issues tend to be very personal and people for the most part are turned off when a group or party tries to impose their standards on them when it comes to them. There’s nothing wrong for standing up for life, it’s how you sell it that matters.

    • steve February 25, 2013 at 5:53 am

      I agree that it is important to deliver the conservative message in personal terms. I would love a candidate to stand up and ask “what would you do with a net 10% pay raise? What would you do with a 15% net pay raise?” Then add “that would be the effect of my proposed tax plan.”

    • Curtice Mang February 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      I agree, hence my point that I think the GOP needs an upgrade in many candidates who can much better articulate a message.

  • Jim at Asylum Watch February 25, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Grreat job, guys. You all helped to inspire my post today.

    • steve February 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks Jim!

  • Bunkerville February 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Great discussion.

    • steve February 25, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks!

  • LD Jackson March 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this discussion, but I did. That’s why I’m so late to the arena.

    My personal opinion is that we do not need to abandon the social issues. That’s not to say we couldn’t reframe the debate and the narrative, but giving up our moral high ground isn’t the way to go. I realize our society is changing, but some issues are simply timeless. We just need to change the way we go about declaring how those issues are timeless.

    Let’s face it, we have had some very questionable people running for office in the GOP. Some of them were not articulate at all and it may have cost us several elections this past year. We simply have to do a better job of vetting the candidates and then making sure they have the resources they need to win.

    • steve March 1, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Agreed. Since social spending by Washington is the largest budget item, its tough to get the budget under control without addressing the social issues. But, to address them, like you said, candidates need to be very articulate.

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