In the Battle for the Republican Party, Conservatives Should Hold Their Ground

Another faulty argument is that the Republican Party has alienated New England through its move to the social right. This is somewhat silly. With the exception of New Hampshire, Republicans in New England rarely nominate social conservatives.

The truth is many of these states have undergone demographic revolutions. Immigration of radicals from New York has changed Vermont from solidly Republican to solidly liberal. In other cases, liberal Republicans have children who are even more liberal. A prominent example is the late Congressman Hamilton Fish IV (R-NY) whose son Hamilton Fish V ran for his father's seat as a liberal Democrat in 1994.

The Yankee Republicans were not driven away by religious conservatives. They mostly reside at the cemetery or have moved to states with far more favorable weather and tax climates. They have been replaced by far more liberal offspring and carpetbaggers.

The Republican Party did not leave New England. New England left the Republican Party.

4) Ignore demographics

This is perhaps the most egregious problem with pragmatists' plans. When interviewed by John Hawkins and asked about picking up votes from minorities, David Frum said, "You have to learn to live with less than 100 percent of the vote." This is a statement Frum would never make in regards to social liberals, who he proposes the GOP bend over backwards to bring on board.

Demographic trends are clear. The GOP can't win in the long run as the Grand Old White Party. However, the tactics needed to win minority voters run counter to the pragmatists' strategy for gaining white moderates and social liberals. While social conservatism has not been a motivating factor with minority voters, it is common ground between Republicans and many minority voters, and that's where the conversation can begin.

In addition, pragmatists mourn the departure of ex-Republicans like Jim Jeffords and Arlen Specter. But many of the ex-Republicans are avowed opponents of school choice, one of the most promising issues with which to reach out to poor voters. Opposition to school choice and support for public schools is far more important than abortion to many social liberals who end up pulling the lever for Democrats.

Trying to appeal to minority voters -- who we do need to win over eventually -- and making appeals to socially liberal white moderates are contradictory efforts.

5) Make (ham-handed) compromises

Pragmatists are full of ideas on how to compromise conservative values, particularly on cultural issues. Civil unions and leaving abortion to the states are two favorite glib solutions given to prominent culture war issues.

This overlooks three things. First, it takes two to compromise, and the left has no reason to compromise. Gay activists have a tide of court decisions in their favor and abortion rights activists have everything their way as it is. Liberal activists have no interest in coming to some workable middle ground when they can win it all.

Second, these compromises don't work. Our nation's experience with civil unions and domestic partnerships in Vermont, New Hampshire, California, and Connecticut show that the laws ultimately lead to same-sex marriage.

Third, the tone of the proposed "compromises" is patronizing. These are not compromises in the best sense of the word, where two sides come together and hammer out an arrangement. Rather, they are ultimatums from people who lack the political firepower to enforce them. They treat conservatives as the auxiliary wing of the Republican Party, when they make up the base. Those proposing the compromises see little wrong with abortion or same-sex marriage, but they're willing to humor social conservatives for their continued involvement. That's no way to build a coalition.

Some have declared the various wings of the Republican Party at war with one another. We don't have to be. We all have two or three top issues that define why we're involved in politics, and the GOP needs to be a coalition of these non-contradictory concerns.

If what matters to you is fighting the war on terror and low taxes and the Republican Party is with you on those issues, it really shouldn't matter to you that the Republican Party doesn't agree with you on same-sex marriage and abortion. If traditional marriage, abortion, and support for Israel are the most important issues to you, then it shouldn't matter if the Republican Party disagrees with you on global warming.

The Republican Party should stand firm on its values, and sell those ideas and priorities to the American people without apology and without compromising with unreasonable people who expect everything in the party to be their way.

Republicans have to realize that, while the GOP is big enough to hold people with conflicting viewpoints, it is not big enough to hold people with conflicting priorities. President Lincoln warned that a house divided against itself will not stand. A party that tries to satisfy everyone will satisfy no one and will be swallowed up in irrelevancy.