If, as Republicans, we want to govern and set policy, we must first win elections and become the majority party. If we want to win elections, we must expand our political base. If we want to expand our base, we must ditch the ideological purity tests that drive many otherwise persuadable voters away. At the same time, we must find the areas of broad agreement that will attract more right-of-center voters. As conservatives, we are better off winning with someone who agrees with us 80% of the time than losing with an ideologically pure but unelectable candidate.
On the presidential level, this means finding candidates who can win in purple and even light blue states, not just red states. As a practical matter, there simply aren’t enough reliably red states to get the Republican candidate to 270 electoral votes. Likewise, in statewide races (e.g. gubernatorial and senate races), Republicans need candidates who can win over suburban voters and even some urban voters, especially in the more largely populated states. Again, there aren’t enough votes in red rural counties to win statewide elections in many states.
How do Republicans expand their base and win more elections? In my opinion, we broaden the base by focusing on economic and fiscal issues while de-emphasizing the more divisive social issues.
The first thing you must accomplish in politics is win elections or there’s no second thing you can accomplish.
Our country is more socially libertarian than ever — laissez faire even, if you’ll pardon my French. SoCons can lose on gay marriage as they have been doing, to progressives who are using “the gay agenda” (I hate that phrase) as a cudgel to beat the churches and strip the 1st Amendment of whatever meaning it has left. Or they can lose on gay marriage to small government types, who would get government out of marriage and give it back to the churches where it belongs.
Either way though, they’re going to lose. You can’t fight the zeitgeist. You certainly can’t fight it as a member of the permanent minority.
That’s just one example, but one which illustrates the problem nicely.
Where we can gain lots of allies however is in the gay-friendly, pot-tolerant (legalization now polls 54% nationwide), ethnically-diverse center, which is now getting an education, good and hard, on just how much damage Washington can do to medicine, jobs, banking, and everything else.
So we can insist on purity tests and have Progressives in charge of everything when the stuff hits the fan — and then it’s bye-bye America. Or you can have Republicans, even squishy ones, who will follow the lead of the next Reagan or Coolidge.
I used to vote for plenty of Democrats, if only to shrink my local Republicans’ margin of victory. There’s nothing worse in the world than a politician who thinks he’s safe in his job. But I took a vow after ObamaCare was passed never to vote for another Democrat until it was repealed.
That’s not enough though. We need bigger wins, and that means focusing on the issues — the hard money, real world issues — which Middle America actually cares about.
So I’ll say it again. More Rand Pauls. Fewer Todd Akins.