Win Independent Votes by Neglecting Social Cons? Bad Strategy
So, who are the 83-88%? They are both Republicans and people who used to be Republican but left the party, often times because it wasn’t conservative enough.
In short, the pool of independents who are generally sympathetic to fiscally conservative ideas, but who are concurrently unsympathetic to socially conservative ideas, is probably not anywhere near as large as it is claimed to be. This is a lot of the reason why the Libertarian Party doesn’t have much appeal.
This isn’t just my opinion, either. The Tea Parties are the exemplary expression of fiscal conservative activism. Yet these same Tea Parties have had no problem whatsoever in supporting candidates who are extremely socially conservative, such as Mike Lee, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, Carl Paladino, and Rand Paul, as some chagrined left-wingers have noticed. Why? Because the people driving this movement, and the resurgence of conservative activism in general, are across-the-board conservatives who, while understanding that fiscal issues are the order of the day, aren’t disturbed by the social side of conservatism, and it’s highly doubtful that they’d want to toss it into the garbage can. There seems to be little to no evidence that “independents” have been driven away by these socially conservative candidates.
In politics, you have to balance your appeal while being true to your base. While I certainly don’t think the GOP should limit its appeal strictly to the red-meat conservatism that drives its core, I also don’t think the GOP should abandon its base. In reaching out to disaffected “moderates” and “independents,” we need to keep in mind the old adage: “If your base ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” If you drift too far to the center and make your base stay home, you lose elections. Just ask not-President McCain about that.
If the GOP were to give every appearance of abandoning the movement conservative base who constitute its grassroots ground troops, who overwhelmingly account for its small-donor fundraising, and who are generally the most motivated to show up and vote (especially in off-year elections), the GOP would not win. Even in a great GOP year like this one. The fact that the GOP is polling so well right now is due to the fact that, while sticking to the vitally important fiscal conservative message, they have also taken their socially conservative base serious enough to treat them with respect. The GOP is actually doing a good job of balancing its appeal to the people on all issues across the board.
Yet disrespect the base by ignoring them, or worse, by telling them to shut up and get back under the stairs because they embarrass you in front of the decent people, and they will disrespect you by not voting for you. Simple fact of life.
Additionally, the Republican Party is already perceived to be the socially conservative party. If you were to ask the average Joe on the street whether the GOP was for or against abortion and gay marriage, for example, he would probably (and correctly, for the most part) tell you that it is against both of these. Throwing a few lines to social conservatives isn’t going to suddenly start driving away “independents” to the Democrats so that they can have more socialism and big government. Millions of “independents” won't suddenly realize that Republicans are against abortion.