WASHINGTON – Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell warned that Republicans ignore social issues at their peril in the upcoming November election, maintaining that the nation’s only path to a robust economy is an adherence to a strong moral code and the traditional family.
Blackwell, a senior fellow for family empowerment at the Family Research Council and a visiting professor of law at Liberty University, asserted during an appearance at the recent Right on Crime conference that the re-embrace of the “nuclear family” – married mother and father and children – will lead to recovery.
“Throughout history, in order for totalitarianism, Marxism or a welfare state to occur two things have to happen – the marginalization of the church and the destruction of the family,” Blackwell said. “When the state becomes the provider we have a muscular state that negatively affects those things.”
Devotion to social issues “will solve economic issues,” Blackwell said, asserting that the nuclear family offers an efficient economic unit that can’t be duplicated in any other way.
“The nuclear family is vital for upward mobility,” Blackwell said. “So is starting a business and going to church regularly. These things generate upward mobility. It is clear to me that families make all the difference in educational attainment and it’s needed if we want to move the economy.”
Without the benefit of upward mobility, spawned by family values, Blackwell said, “we will find ourselves locked into anemic growth.”
“It’s clear to me this is a debate that must be engaged,” he said.
For years, social conservatives have joined with economic conservatives to form a strong Republican Party coalition that has advanced moral issues, like opposition to abortion, while simultaneously supporting a business agenda that, among other things, opposed higher taxes.
That coalition proved successful. Beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1980, Republicans held the White House for 20 of the next 28 years. It also at various times has controlled both the House and the Senate.
But over the past few years, with demographics predicting a strong trend toward Democratic presidencies, some Republicans are urging a de-emphasis of the party’s social conservatism while advising a move toward libertarianism, which emphasizes smaller government and personal freedom.
A poll conducted by inc./Women Trend on behalf of Freedomworks revealed a steady movement toward libertarianism among Republicans. The survey found that 78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents characterize themselves as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Asked about gay marriage, for instance, only 41 percent placed it among the top 10 issues facing the nation. Meanwhile, about 33 percent said abortion isn’t among their top 10 issues.
But Blackwell, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Ohio as a Republican in 2006, said he believes moral issues are starting to regain resonance as the election approaches and voters sense “a rapid decline in morality.” Republicans need to acknowledge that without family values economic recovery is far from a sure thing.
“As conservatives, we can carry the message of economic liberty and family values in churches and synagogues,” he said.