COTTO: The GOP needs to ditch social rightism for good

Twenty-first century America is simply not in tune with the GOP's social rightism. If Republicans want to remain relevant, they must change ideas. Photo: Chris Christie/ AP

OCALA, Fla., November 7, 2013 — Now that Ken Cuccinelli’s loss and Chris Christie’s victory have sunk in, let’s discuss why the former was sideswiped in a purple state while the latter cruised along in a solidly blue one.

The alpha and omega of this topic is social rightism.

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One of its pillars is opposition to same-sex marriage. In January, pundit and editor Adam Shapiro told The Washington Times Communities that “the conservative movement gave up the ghost long ago by failing to defend the sanctity of marriage. 

“Conservatives allowed marriage to be redefined as a relationship of love between two people, rather than a relationship of love between two people consummated for the purpose of procreating and raising healthy children. 

“When marriage ceased to be about children and became solely about the relations of the two people involved, the principle basis for marriage was redefined: love, commitment, and consent, but not child-rearing. That basis clearly allows for different forms of marriage.”

Talk of marriage’s societal influence brings us to the religious right, a large voting bloc dominated by fundamentalist Christians. For decades on end, it has enjoyed a stranglehold on GOP public policy. 

SEE RELATED: Dear Ken (Cuccinelli), thanks for screwing up Virginia for GOP

Also earlier this year, Dave Nalle, a TWTC contributor who chairs the Republican Liberty Caucus, told this journalist that “(w)here we do run into problems with the religious right is with those small but influential groups which believe that they should promote their beliefs by using government as an instrument to impose them on other people. 

“They don’t understand that this is a terrible practice which can be turned against them and they use tactics which are essentially the same as the secular humanists from the left who are their greatest enemies. Ultimately I don’t see much future for this element in the Republican Party or even in mainstream politics.

“When they are fanatical about forcing their beliefs on everyone through legislation they make themselves so unpopular that they become a political liability which no party can afford to get involved with. 

“The incident in the [2102] election with extreme statements from Todd Akin demonstrates how damaging religious extremism can be to a party which needs to attract independents and moderates. Akin’s statements and similar ones from several other candidates cost us not only the seats they were running for, but spilled over and probably cost Republicans about 2% of their support nationwide, which did enormous damage. 

“Whether libertarian or not, party leaders realize that we cannot afford to carry that kind of liability.”

Few issues provide the Republican brand with more liability than abortion rights. No small number of voters perceive hostility toward these rights as eroding women’s equality.

“I do think there is an inherent attack on women’s abilities to run their own lives,” former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told TWTC last year.

“The Republican Party needs to speak to the issues that women care about – taxes, education, and health care. And the party needs to give more than lip service to female candidates – putting women up in places they can actually win, not just showing off a female candidate in a race she’s bound to lose. 

“We as a party need to be cultivating our female candidates and giving them financial support when they choose to run.”

Absurd, and often radical theology-inspired, crusades are pushed by politicos who emerge from heated primaries. These folks find a home for their extremism like no other when these primaries are closed to non-GOPers.

“It’ll be a problem as long as candidates win general elections running on extreme base issues,” Whitman also explained. :What will stop it is when those more extreme candidates lose those elections after winning primaries running on the far-right issues. Those candidates are running on issues that are not key for the majority of the voting public.

“A few polls that came out right before the Obamacare Supreme Court decision came down gave a window into what voters care about – they were far more focused on jobs, taxes, and the economy than even the repeal of ‘Obamacare.’  

“If health care isn’t the major concern, abortion and gay marriage are clearly only base issues - they appeal to a small, but extremely vocal minority.”

Any way one chooses to roll the dice, social conservatism is a losing prospect. Christie ran on a moderate platform that fell in line with New Jersey’s interests and the predictable happened. 

Cuccinelli, on the other hand, pursued an ideological agenda which included — among other things — instituting anti-sodomy laws, supporting legislation which would criminalize all abortions along with certain forms of birth control, and forsaking environmental conservation. All of this left a terrible impression on Virginia’s mainstream, so the end result was no surprise.

If social conservatism isn’t the future of the Republican Party, then, what might be? Could Ron Paul-style libertarianism be the answer?

“Look I am a Tea Party Reagan Libertarian with many Ron Paul influences,” businessman and libertarian pundit Wayne Allyn Root mentioned to TWTC in December of 2012. 

“I love Ron. I think he’s one of the great fiscal conservatives of all time. I think he was right about so many fiscal issues and problems. I think he is such a fine and honorable man. A true ‘citizen politician.’ I hope to carry on his tradition. And Rand Paul and I are exactly in tune. But I have one difference with Ron. And it really damaged his career and kept him from mainstream popularity. It ruined his chances for the Presidency. Israel. 

“That one issue would have changed everything for Ron Paul. You cannot get conservative or Christian mainstream support without a great love for Israel….Whether Ron Paul’s supporters understand this or not, that one issue prevented him from being President. There needs to be moderation on that issue….Let’s leave that for another discussion in the future. Call me a Pro Israel Ron Paul citizen politician.”

Later, Root said that “(t)he other thing the Ron Paul movement needs to understand is that politics is basically a combination of show business and sales. Principles are very important…but if you can’t sell them in a dynamic, charismatic, colorful, and entertaining way, you will never get your message across. That’s why a Hollywood actor named Reagan was the only guy to successfully sell conservatism and smaller government in our lifetimes.”

Regardless of our own opinions about the GOP’s path forward, one thing seems clear: Social rightism will not dominate it. Difficult as this may be for some to accept, what other choice is there; a third party?

Ask John B. Anderson, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader or Gary Johnson about how that works out nationwide.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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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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