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Hot Topic: Should the GOP De-Emphasize Social Issues?

PJ Media columnists weighed in on the issue. What do you think?

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February 7, 2014 - 1:12 pm

For the last 10 days, we’ve had something of a running debate among GOP columnists on the question of whether Republicans should de-emphasize social issues as part of a broader political strategy to appeal to more voters.

It began when Roger L. Simon penned a column titled “How Social Conservatives are Saving Liberalism (Barely).” Simon believes that social issues, specifically gay marriage, may keep Republicans from victory:

Now I readily acknowledge I have been pro-same-sex marriage for many years. So I am not a perfectly honest broker. But as an observer of society, and as a writer that’s what I’m paid to do, I have to say in all candor that political opposition to same-sex marriage is the Achilles’ heel of the right going into 2016. Social conservatives who intend to make a serious issue out of it should realize that the fallout from their views could adversely affect all of us in a catastrophic way.

Respectfully, and passionately, Bryan Preston responded:

Where do the surrenders end? Those who share the shut-up sentiment never say. They just tell social conservatives to shut up already and give up on the issues that for many are the very reason that they got into politics in the first place. So we surrender on marriage, then we give up on life, and pretty soon, they’ll be telling us to give up on the Second Amendment, then the First, then something else. Always retreat, ever surrender, because they say so, never offering a glimpse of what might be the end game.

Andrew McCarthy weighed in with a rejoinder, “The GOP and Social Issues: Another Perspective”:

Roger may be right about the salience of gay marriage for young people. The logic of “traditional marriage” is beside the point; the debate has become the noble “us” versus the baleful “them.” Young voters, however, are just one demographic in a broad landscape that includes legions of social conservatives. Without the support of those legions, Republicans simply cannot win elections, especially presidential elections.

Roger Kimball added his thoughts in “That Awful Word ‘Social’”:

Aristotle defined “rhetoric” as the art of persuasion. It is the political art par excellence because the metabolism of politics ordinarily operates through persuasion, not demonstration or force. I submit that conservatives, through a combination of bumbling ineptness and historical accident, have unwittingly ceded the rhetorical high ground to the left. Unfolding the reasons for this would take us into deep and murky waters. For now, I’d merely like to suggest that if conservatives are going to be successful in “standing athwart history,” they need to be sure they are standing on solid ground.

Andrew Klavan on the gay marriage issue: “How the Right Talks About Gays”:

…while I’m far closer to Roger on this issue than to Bryan, I feel strongly that any move toward gay marriage needs to be accompanied by well-stated protections for religious conscience — yes, even though my own religious ideas are different. It should not be that a religious person or organization that holds homosexuality sinful should be forced to relate to gay couples in the same way they relate to straights. I don’t think Catholic adoption agencies should have to cater to gay couples, and I certainly don’t think a religious photographer should be forced to photograph a gay wedding. Please don’t leave comments comparing this to denying service to black people. Race is a nothing, an invented nonsense. Gay people commit acts that long tradition condemns. It’s a much different proposition.

Andrew McCarthy (“The GOP and Social Issues: Confronting the Gay Marriage Question”) and Paula Bolyard (“Implementing Andrew McCarthy’s Proposed Compromise on the Marriage Question”) conducted a colloquy of their own on gay marriage.

What was truly noteworthy about this debate was the respect all columnists gave each other despite the passions unleashed by the nature of the argument. It should stand as an example for all conservatives to follow when debating issues among ourselves.

You’ve heard from the columnists. Now it’s your turn. Should the GOP de-emphasize social issues? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. If you haven’t registered to comment, please take a few seconds to do so.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Social conservatives have never tried to impose their religious views. To claim they have is liberal propaganda. So the liberals imposing their antireligious views is not a problem?—the fruits of all of that are written all over the USA's broken society.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, the federal government and other Progressive statists have forced Homosexual Marriage into the public arena. Prior to the 16th amendment, you were not required to register your marriage with any government officials.

What was the point of the government tracking your marital status if income taxes were uniform? But after the 16th amendment passed, income taxes grew as your individual income grew, or shrank with individual income. So, now you had to track who was and wasn't married so married couples (and families) could be exempted from percentages of the new tax code. Otherwise, married couples were being disproportionately taxed.

So, when they broke one functioning system, they had to slap a band aid on it.

The argument was then open for homosexuals to say "the government isn't playing fair by showing preference to heterosexual couples".

Had marriage simply stayed within the churches, this would be a non-issue. If some fruit-cake church wanted to marry homosexuals, the market would deal with the situation. Demand in the market for such a church? Success and growth! Little demand? Small influence or bankruptcy.

The 14th amendment also tinkered with an already good system, and paved the way for the "Civil Rights Act". Important to note it's not the "Natural Rights Act", which are those rights granted by virtue of your existence that no man can take from you. No, these are new and made up "rights".

Now, bullies can use the force of government to force their beliefs and their way of life down your throat, even as a private citizen just trying to make a living.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Much of the out of control spending is a direct result of social issues. Call them what you want but they are still social issue. So fiscal conservatism and social conservatism are linked.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (255)
All Comments   (255)
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Gay marriage is a state-by-state matter for now. It isn't necessary for a national conservative movement to concern itself with this issue. It is too bad abortion has been taken away from the states. I hope this too can become a state issue some day.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
ANY social issues are injected into the conversation to divide the GOP. Do not be fooled, they have no place in a Party Platform. Period. BUILD THE FENCE & WIN THE SENATE; then we can talk.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The social issues concerning the government distribution of money are legitimate, but the social issues involving people's personal lives are a loser. The idea that freedom stops at someones religious tenets flies in the face of the Constitution. I find no freedom in attempts to criminalize behavior not fitting the tenets of anyone's religion.

Attempts by mumbo-jumbo fear-mongering, xenophobic, narcissistic preachers mystically declaring biblical inerrency is the kind of so-called religion that wants to tell the rest of us what to do. It is the most divisive stance that can be taken. All we have to do is look around the world and note that almost every conflict that is killing people is over religion. I try to respect people's religious beliefs but what the hell is all the stupid killing about. It's the ignorance and intolerance born of religious teachings that our religion is the best and others are not that continue to consume our populations and treasure. We've managed in this country with a fair minimal mixture of politics and religion. It's increasing and polarizing. I don't think any of your religions are worth giving up our freedoms over.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Stop the "Knee-Jerk" defense stance, get "Assertive" and out in front of the issues. Rebound defence gets consistent losses, assault the board and put the Democrats on "Defense". POTUS is slowly chipping away Obamacare resulting in the delays that the Republicans have been demanding for months!
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Social issues are important but I think we must first get our government out of the "1984" pattern. Can we find or make a newer and more relevant film of that book to show unaware Americans what we are becoming? A TV show which graphically illustrates the Democrats' aim to control and change our government into a Big Brother, destroying forever our freedom and condemning our ignorant citizens and children to becoming dependent weaklings.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's the point of giving up on social issues when America has rejected the main thrust of the GOP..."trickle-down" economics that has been America's worse failure since the founding. What else does the GOP have?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Social issues are introduced by Democrats to divide Republicans. They have no place in a party platform; period. They attract nobody, only repell. WIN THE DAMN SENATE THEN WE'LL TALK. We have numerous issues which draw us together; Obamacare, mismanaged agenda-driven economy, Benghazi, F&F, IRS, FBI, Lying, Holder, Amnesty, incompetent foreign policy, etcetcetc.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the hottest social issues, conservatives must at the very least compromise. Those issues become so hot because liberals have a friendly media to play up issues on which they have a clear upper hand politically. There must be compromise on abortion and homosexual marriage.

However, all conservative theory is, at its core, social. The liberal theory that people will succeed if free to do so, combined with a standard of success based upon average performance, is the reason modern liberals (who treat the assumption as an axiom) see any statistically significant inequality as a sign of oppression. Conservatives, on the other hand, see statistically significant inequality as a sign of differences of behavioral trends across demographic groups, differences of culture. That's the whole Left/Right split, where conservatives believe specifics of cultures to play important roles and that measures which work through those have a role in solutions. Whether it's about religious conservatives trying to cut crime by promoting religious ethics in education or economic conservatives trying to create jobs by discouraging the growth of entitlement-culture, it's all social.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The fundamental problem with most (but not all) hardcore cultural conservatives is that they STILL seem to think that America was a near-perfect and righteous nation until those damn young people in the 1960s started rebelling against the older generation's values en masse. If only we had forced them to shut up and conform a little more aggressively, maybe we could have kept a lid on those dangerous liberal ideas.

Seriously, do you think this kind of an attitude is EVER going to find anything remotely approaching majority support in America again? As far as I'm concerned the Cultural Right has been experiencing a gradual but steady decline for about two decades now. Only a small minority of Americans under the age of 40 hold views on homosexuality that come anywhere near those of DUCK DYNASTY's Phil Robertson (maybe 10-15% at most?).

At this point, any kind of 'Repeal the 1960s' fervor is going to end up hurting the GOP. And the main reason is that the movement sabotaged its long-term vitality by overreaching in the 1980s and early '90s. Younger generations came to resent the 'Religious Right' of that era because it fostered a bossy, domineering, authoritarian and pro-censorship political climate in small towns and state governments across the nation. It took a while for this fact to come back to bite them from behind - but the end result is that a quarter century later, young voters are the most strongly Democratic-leaning that they have been in many decades.

The other force pushing younger generations to the left, of course, is that right-wing commentators have a bad habit of talking down to young people in a condescending and judgmental tone. They will have to lose the attitude, or risk losing the Great Debate because of it.

Unemployment, wage stagnation and income inequality don't fare well either for a political party that is increasingly viewed as a One Percenter Party. If the conservative movement cannot make basic concession to economic facts on these kind of issues, and find some way to appease discontent over a system where only a few privileged elites seem to benefit from economic growth - then I believe the movement is irreversibly doomed.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Social issues are often conflated with moral issues...
Here is the danger... How do you define moral?
It should be obvious that things are not going well in our nation right now...
Many want to blame our problems on moral failings... Some cite the fall of Rome as their "proof" that immorality is a prelude to destruction... This is dangerous and misguided. Rome was beginning to collapse even at the dawn of the Christian era. "The Eternal City" had lasted 800 years before it was sacked under the reign of emperor Nero. For most of those 800 years it had been a pagan city that worshipped many gods. When the city was sacked, many "Old School" Romans blamed the "newfangled" influence of Christianity! A better model would have been ancient Jerusalem before it was sacked by the Persians.
As it is, many today complain that our problems are the result of our immoral choices and actions... But which ones?
Conservatives would argue that we are suffering from too much government and loss of individual liberty.
Leftists would say that we do not have enough government and need more government intervention.
Liberals would say that we do not show enough care for the poor.
Religious believers would cite sexual immorality and deviance...
Environmentalists would cite that we are polluting the planet and the planet is rebelling against us.
Others cite the apparent growing inequality between the wealthiest and the poorest...
Some say we spent too much; others, we spend too little...
Some cite race relations and inequalities....
Some cite abortion, promiscuity, pornography, and drugs...
Some cite self obsession...
The list goes on and on... each couches their argument for our national malaise and peril in moralist and social terms.
This is something to think about when the direction and message of the GOP is being argued...
If the GOP message comes across as just as morally authoritarian as the current message from the Democrats seems to be... only from a different moral perspective, then what is the point? How are we different? Why should anyone vote for us?
We need to push new directions and new solutions to current issues....
We need to brand ourselves as the "Party of REAL Choice"....
More importantly, we need to offer evidence that we care for the well being of ALL Americans before we can attract enough Americans to give our party a winning coalition.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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