Can the GOP keep up with a changing America?

Social conservatism and the Religious Right are quickly losing ground. How should the Republican Party come to terms with this?  Photo: Associated Press

FLORIDA, November 9, 2012 — Mitt Romney wasn’t the only one who lost on Tuesday night.

Voters in four states — Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota — rejected the idea of traditional marriage. In all except the last, same-sex marriage was actually approved. This marks the first time that marriage equality has ever found success in statewide races. 

Marijuana legalization, meanwhile, was approved by voters in both Colorado and Washington, despite going down to defeat in Oregon. The cause to preserve reproductive rights also played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of U.S. Senate elections in Indiana and Missouri. 

From coast to coast, it could not be more clear that the social rightist movement is losing ground. 

This trend seems to be unlikely to change. There is a new generation of voters with opinions quite different than those of their elders. Even many of the middle- and older-aged are seriously reconsidering their beliefs.

So the question is not, “How can the GOP repackage its social policy for the next election?” The question is, “How can the GOP remain relevant during the years ahead?”

It would seem obvious that the Party hierarchy ought to moderate its brand. Undoubtedly, this will happen in the none-too-distant future. Large donors are also increasingly unlikely to fund candidates with radical views on abortion and LGBT rights. 

The only problem is that many in the Republican electorate will not approve of a more inclusive tone.

One can attribute this to the fact that a great many of these people are religious fundamentalists. Generally speaking, they do not make a distinction between their religious and political values. Taking this into account, the staunch opposition to compromise from many in the GOP is much easier to understand.

While the Party has been able to use the Religious Right to help candidates over the finish line in close elections, that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The fundamentalists no longer have the turnout numbers to compete with other groups on a national scale.

Nonetheless, totally alienating the Religious Right would be a horrid mistake for the GOP. What the Party’s leadership would be wise to do now is take neutral stances on hot-button social issues. Individuals seeking public office should be articulating their own respective philosophies, not apologizing for or actively opposing what the Republican platform says.

Regardless of what many social rightists might want to believe, America is a nation in transition. Our country’s social landscape is being transformed before our very eyes. Things will never go back to the way they were during the mythical “good old days.”

Twenty years from now, same-sex marriage will probably be legal across the country. The antiabortion movement will likely be relegated to an electorally insignificant amount of religious fundamentalists. 

Simply put, if the GOP retains its current social policy stances, it will be nothing short of a joke in the America of tomorrow. 

Many in the religious right appear to have little problem with this. Since they tend to see the United States as being on a road to perdition, they seem primed to grow more extreme in their views. The reality that an overwhelming number of Americans oppose their agenda cannot be expected to factor. 

Keeping this in mind, it becomes all the more essential that the GOP reach out to new voters. Fiscal responsibility and a robust national security plan are propositions that never go out of style. The quagmire has been and continues to be articulating these to philosophically diverse audiences. 

If the Republican Party is unable to do this, then America can look forward being a one-party state. What a frightening thought that is. 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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