Lately I’ve struggled for the time and energy to put together some coherent thoughts about what the GOP needs to do to rebuild. Jim Manzi at The Corner said it almost perfectly for me. You need to read the whole post, but here is a key excerpt:
While it is always possible to imagine some arbitrary configuration of 51% of voters who have the label â€œconservativeâ€, Rodâ€™s point [ed: that “no conservative movement that hopes to be successful can do so without religious conservatives”] strikes me as correct as a practical matter. Further, more important than the question of electoral advantage, is the fact that tens of millions of citizens have deeply held beliefs that should be considered in making and enforcing the law.
I also believe it to be true that a political movement that proposes to impose what is traditionally considered to be a socially conservative agenda (e.g., a near-absolute restriction on abortion, preventing gay marriage, and so forth) on the entire population of the United States any time soon through force of federal law faces a pretty bleak future.
Both sides of these debates, I believe, have to recognize that many people who share the same country disagree in good faith, and are unlikely to be persuaded within our lifetimes. As I have argued at length, I think that the only workable compromise is not to try to force the creation of uniform national law when no national consensus on the morality of these issues exists. Instead, I believe that we should have an agenda of devolving as many of these social issues, as a matter of law, to as local a level as possible.
I’m certainly open to debate, but this thumbnail analysis fairly well meshes with my own. To make it work would require the more doctrinaire elements of both the libertarian and social conservative wings of the party to give a little, but I believe it’s the kind of approach necessary to build a principled and winning coalition around life, liberty, and limited government.
As an example, to me this means working together in a prudent, long-term strategy to overturn the infamous Roe decision so the laws can be worked out and debated at the state and local level, where Christians and others can use moral suasion among other tools to advance the pro-life agenda in a more balanced and ultimately effective fashion. Also it includes working to end the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Getting the federal government out of the abortion debate and abortion business should be a common rallying cry.
There should be room within the Republican Party to tolerate both candidates and grassroots leaders who have differing convictions about, or who put more or less emphasis on, the life issue, but there should be room for a strong consensus here. This, of course, will vary between states and within state delegations.
Those who think that GOP success will follow from booting the Religious Right from the Party are fools. On the other hand, as Manzi concludes, social conservatives need to keep “expectations of what politics can accomplish appropriately humble”.
What the hard-working backbone of the Republican Party must have are plans and strategies that flesh out these principles, and leaders who can communicate them effectively to the broader public. Less government. More liberty. Rule of law. Respect for life.
Just a few thoughts I hope might stir some discussion.
David K. Williams, Jr. says
Where does the drug war, prohibition on gambling, condemnation of consenting adults’ private sexual behavior and government funded “faith based initiatives” fall in the “less government, more liberty” rubric?
I see a fundamental conflict between freedom and the religious right.
Barry Goldwater said, “If they succeed in establishing religion as a basic Republican Party tenet,” he told U.S. News & World Report in 1994, “they could do us in.”
Goldwater, as usual, was right.
I don’t see drug legalization as an issue that’s going to build a governing coalition – that’s one of those “agree to disagree” issues.
“Prohibition on gambling”? I’m not aware of any movement to outlaw Vegas, Atlantic City, etc. This is not some make-or-break issue for the “religious right”.
“Condemnation of consenting adults’ private sexual behavior” – Do you have a problem with this as long as it doesn’t resort to the tools of government?
Government-funded “faith based initiatives” were & are a bad idea, and believe it or not – the non-monolithic “religious right” does not have any sort of principled devotion to this idea.
I admire your devotion to libertarian principles, but many of the issues you raised are red herrings. For example, questioning and speaking against the morality of homosexual behavior is not the same as using government to outlaw it. And I don’t know any serious person who advocates the latter.
The case for limited government won’t be won by equating the church and religious community’s powerful pulpit for free moral suasion with government prohibitions. If abandoning the latter entails abandoning the former, what you have is the Libertarian party that won 0.4% in the recent election.