Several months ago, I experienced a slight sensation of nausea and recall feeling that we were set to lose this election. It was shortly after Todd Akin made his excruciatingly idiotic comments about “legitimate” rape, and a heretofore unknown capability of women to effect an autonomic abortion in such circumstances. The situation compelled me to write an article on Redstate.com, called, “Shut up Shutting up” imploring fellow conservatives to put down social issues in this cycle and focus on the main issue people cared about, the economy.
My piece and subsequent discussion on the topic was so well recieved that it quickly ended my 3 year relationship with Redstate.com – I was banned from the site for supposedly being a “comments bully.” (Those of you who know how I conduct myself in forums can arrive at your own judgments, since Redstate took the original thread down). Many of the comments in response to my article were strident, claiming that I was arrogantly telling others to put their principles aside, and worse, that I was squelching their voice on these important social issues and infringing on their free speech. The general sentiment (along with my banishment) was a refusal to take my advice, and a vow to hold Romney or any other elected official’s feet to the fire on pro-life and other social issues with zeal.
Last Wednesday morning, those strident social conservatives woke up in the same America I did, one which re-elected Barack Obama for the next four years. And Claire McKaskill. And Joe Donnelly. My guess is they won’t have much luck holding any of their feet to the fire on their dear issue.
What’s sad about the McKaskill and Donnelly wins is that in both cases, the GOP should have taken those seats. And the same could be said for the seat Sharon Angle failed to take. And the seat Christine O’Donnel failed to take. In the process, these candidates and their supposed conservative purity have sidelined our objectives and hurt the prospects of freedom for all Americans by putting more seats in Democrat hands. All these losses add up, as evidenced by the 53-45-2 Dem-GOP-Ind senate makeup as a result of the latest elections.
Bear in mind that 2012′s exit polls show that not only did single women go overwhelmingly for Obama (by a whopping 36 point margin per Fox News), but also evangelical participation in the election was down and a sizeable portion of them voted Obama in any case. Obama won in 2012 with about the same number of votes that McCain achieved in his loss to Obama in in 2008. Much has been made about courting Hispanics, but pandering is contrary to the ideals of conservatism, and I have strong doubts that such advances would be well received in any case. Sure, Marco Rubio should still be considered a front-runner for 2016, mainly because of his eloquence and ability to convey conservative arguments. And we should pursue a more amnesty-friendly agenda as well. But don’t expect either of these steps to increase Latino share any more than Condi Rice or Alan West have helped our cause with the Black vote.
Strong fiscal and governmental conservatism, the cause of ensuring our elected leaders stay within the constitutional limits set forth by our founders, is being held hostage by the culture war of social conservatism. What does the fight against Gay Marriage have to do with anything regarding limiting our government and where in the constitution is defining marriage outlined as one of the government’s functions? Why would we propose passing more laws when abortion is settled law, and our biggest criticism of Obama has been the glut of new regulations and under-the-table laws? Social conservatism is contradictory to our small government, individual liberty message. Yes, I know all about that little baby in the womb who has rights too. I get it, heck I even agree with it, having, like Paul Ryan, seen my own sonograms at 7 weeks. But all the righteousness in the world doesn’t matter when you continue to lose elections.
I live in the NYC area, and the one thing they do care about here is making money. The fiscal economic message of smaller government, less taxes (especially on the rich; those making 250K a year) and free markets should be successful here, except that people can’t get past all the God stuff. You know what they tell me when I ask why they won’t vote Republican? They don’t like that the GOP has fought for creationism to be taught in our schools, or that we’re against abortion, or that we aren’t tolerant of gays. They may not even agree with abortion or gay marriage, but the fact that we’d pass laws or constitutional amendments on such topics is viewed as a sort of fascism, so they vote for the disguised fascism of the left.
I hear it time and time and time again, the same criticisms, the same complaints. No one, except for the rare socialist wacko, ever tells me that they vote Democrat because they want big government or a move away from constitutional limits. Or higher taxes. Imagine how easy our path to the White House would be if we stood a chance of winning NY, NJ, CT or other blue states? Or if we pulled a majority share of the young vote? Imagine an election that doesn’t run through Ohio and New Hampshire!
We need to move away from cultural arguments. People don’t want to be told how to live, and the left succeeds in part because it doesn’t run on a platform of culture change (though it does so nefariously through the laws it passes). We can still have our beliefs, but in terms of the policies and agendas we put forward, we should only be about true small government conservatism. Culture typically flows from conservatism; a more responsible, individual and free people will naturally move away from the excesses of modern culture. Let’s get our government under control, and create a truly free economy; then, the social objectives will occur innately among a wiser electorate.
Bear in mind, America simply isn’t the same place it was 30 years ago when the GOP allied itself with the evangelical movement. The culture has changed, and as much as 20 percent don’t even believe in God today. We will never convince these people to live morally by passing laws against abortion any more than the left will convince us government is good by passing laws for nationalized health care. If some Americans want to pursue happiness by living an immoral life, as conservatives who believe in a constitutionally limited government, we should let them do so and let them pay the inevitable price.
It’s not just about social issues: the 2008 election proved, and the 2012 election confirmed, that the GOP is fighting this war with outdated weaponry (calm down lefties, I’m not suggesting we assassinate any liberals). John McCain tried to be classy, Mitt Romney tried to be presidential. They took the high road. They didn’t respond to each attack. They let people check the record later. Guess what? It was Joe Biden’s shirt-off theatrics that won the day. Americans are different today, they are more rank, more foolish than they used to be. They think elections are like an American Idol episode, where Simon Cowell takes each candidate apart with raw honesty. We need to get our hands dirty when we are campaigning. Blame the other guy for giving someone’s wife cancer if that is what you need to do. It works!
We can’t play their games on their field with their ball and their refs. We need smart candidates who play by their own rules, and don’t fumble. This includes not letting the left define the issues or set the rules of the debate. Which they literally did so this election season. I mean, why did we allow allfour debates to be moderated by liberals? Why did Romney pay more deference to mainstream media than to Fox when giving interviews? Why even write an article for the NY Times op-ed page? (You know, the famous one that the editors decided to entitle, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”)? Realize, you don’t have to publish on the NYT editorial page, to reach that audience, they have the internet now.
We can’t let false arguments lie; we need to answer each and every lie, each and every time it is uttered. How many times did Barack Obama talk about how the GOP “wanted to take us back to the policies that got us into this mess?” Did you ever once hear Romney talk about the Democrat supported Community Reinvestment Act? How many times did you hear the media complain that Romney/Ryan refused to release details about their tax plan? In fact, Martha Raddatz directly accused Paul Ryan of “refusing to provide details” and he didn’t deny it. People noticed and assumed she was right.
Forget classy. Forget appearing presidential. America in 2012 clearly doesn’t give a shit. Argue each point. Debate the very premise of the question. Get angry and let people know why you’re right. Interrupt the other guy. Show America that this is that important!
Lastly, as unjust and as much as it pains me to say this, we need to retire the Tea Party. No, it’s not because the Tea Party itself is bad, it’s not. The problem is, the Tea Party brand has been Palinized. “Keep your government out of my Medicare.” That’s what the rank and file understand about the Tea Party. Or they think it’s radical. Like it or not, the term Tea Party is a bad word and hurts us with so-called moderates and independents. Let’s not give the left any ammunition. Let’s end it. Start a new movement that has no name but is associated with right-wing arguments. Call it a protest. Call it “Grassroots.” The liberals are smart enough to have shelved the Occupy banner and now simply protest stuff with their usual cadre of SEIU thugs. We have to be craftier with our packaging. And please, let’s stop with the Palin and Huckabee rallies too, while we are at it. These people may be good conservatives, but they will never win a major election in today’s America and they too hurt the brand.
This isn’t a plea to become more like Democrats. This isn’t a suggestion to water down conservatism, because I don’t believe we should do that. I am suggesting that we focus our message on what’s really crucial to the survival of the republic and stop pandering to social and religious conservatives who couldn’t even be bothered to show up at the polls last week. This is a plea to work on the way conservatism is sold. Watching the electoral college map play out last Tuesday seemed familiar, and familiarly excruciating. Crucial work needs to be done if we ever expect to win another national election.