On RedState.com, Erick Erickson points out some discussions among those who are unhappy with the results of the recent election and point the finger of blame at social conservatives in his latest post.
Mitt Romney won about a quarter of the hispanic vote and a tenth of the black vote.Those numbers may not sound like much, but in close elections they matter. A sizable portion of those black and hispanic voters voted GOP despite disagreeing with the GOP on fiscal issues. But they are strongly social conservative and could not vote for the party of killing kids and gay marriage. So they voted GOP.
You throw out the social conservatives and you throw out those hispanic and black voters. Further, you make it harder to attract new hispanic voters who happen to be the most socially conservative voters in the country.
Next, you’ll also see a reduction of probably half the existing GOP base. You won’t make that up with Democrats who suddenly think that because their uterus is safe they can now vote Republican. Most of those people don’t like fiscal conservatism either — often though claiming that they do.
In a way, I agree with Erick. Making people feel unwanted is not the best way to approach politics at all. It burns bridges that we’d regret burning.
Obviously there’s a branding problem in the GOP. But what exactly is it?
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan built his coalition among the willing. He set out a basic platform of more libertarian-leaning principles and welcomed anyone who shared his ideas about the purpose of government and its role in our lives. As it turned out, these were principles that resonated with people from all walks of life; and people flocked to his banner in droves. It was a very broad-based coalition that transcended party lines because the principles were basic ones, derived from the core principles of our founding.
While Reagan was leading our Party, his ideas about garnering support were simple. He suggested that we should never attempt to expand our ranks for the sake of expanding them. We shouldn’t do that because pandering drags us off message and trades one group for another as others become alienated.
That is what I believe has happened concerning the social conservative faction of the Party. It has become quite customary to pander especially to social conservative in order to maintain their support, and so much so, that the Party has been defined by it in a major way at the expense of alienating the more libertarian leaning part of the coalition.
Several million evangelicals did not vote for George W. Bush in 2000. His campaign had to work to get them back in 2004.
You may mentally decide, to escape having to deal with the other implications of this election, that if only the GOP would abandon its social conservatism it would do better. But if you do, go find yourself a new coalition because you won’t have half the votes the GOP has now. Good luck with that. In fact, if the GOP really wanted to expand with minorities, it’d keep the social conservatism and throw out the fiscal conservatism.
GW Bush may have picked up social conservatives, but at the expense of the libertarians – which cost the Party dearly. Why didn’t he work instead to get libertarians back? Recall that they got really ticked off over compassionate conservatism and completely jumped the track on him in 2006? I think Erick is missing the point that GW Bush made a mess out of what was left of the Reagan coalition and skewed the shape of it toward SoCons because he needed their support to make up for losing the libertarians.
The problem is not social conservatism. The problem is social conservatives have gotten so used to thinking of themselves as the majority they’ve forgotten how to speak to those who are not and defend against those who accuse them of being fringe, most particularly the press. Couple that with Mitt Romney’s campaign making a conscious decision to not fight back on the cultural front and you have a bunch of Republicans convinced, despite the facts, that if only the social conservatives would go away all would be fine.
Erick is correct. The problem is not social conservatism. The problem is that the Party has been redefined by it and has shed its limited government stance in the area of social issues in order to accommodate them. This leaves the base much smaller than Reagan’s, specialized, and less appealing to the broader population because all people hear is the pandering to the social conservative elements of the base during a campaign. It also leaves the Party more vulnerable to fickleness because unless they get what they want, they don’t play ball; and there is nowhere else to turn because everyone else who is turned off by it has found somewhere else to go.
The GOP has painted itself in a corner on this one. How to solve that problem is not up to me. But I would suggest trying to get back to the formula Reagan used, and see if it works.