“It’s the social issues, stupid.” With the growing list of Republican leaders wanting to throw social conservatism under the bus, I must harken back to the affinity of President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign catch phrase. Okay, I know that the line then was, "It's the economy, stupid." And it’s still easy to think about that when, by nature we tend to think with our wallets.
Today, it’s also easy to believe that issues like abortion and marriage are on the periphery in light of longer unemployment lines, an exploding national debt and Obamacare.
To think economic issues should be a major campaign theme is understandable, but to fly the white flag of surrender is quite another. It is nonsensical to declare a truce on social issues when so much is at stake, and we have a strong upper hand.
We now have a majority of Americans who consider themselves pro-life. All thirty-one states that have had the marriage issue on the ballot have voted in favor of traditional marriage. Last month a Rasmussen poll found that only 33% of Americans agreed that taxpayer money should be used for embryonic stem cell research –and that on an issue that the left once thought would be their Trojan horse.
Our leadership’s inclinations are particularly troubling from my perspective in Iowa. Here, Republicans overwhelmingly (at a whopping 77% in a Des Moines Register poll in June) want to vote to overturn our Supreme Court’s ruling striking down our Defense of Marriage Act. In the midst of this debate, it is disconcerting to hear national Republican leaders and conservative pundits say they want to abandon the marriage issue.
I’m not suggesting that we should determine our principles based on poll findings. Our principles should rest, just as the Declaration does, on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Our Founders further recognized this, enshrining those principles and our rights in the Constitution. As John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Its great premise is that the supreme sovereign in this country is the people themselves.
Those in leadership should know that you can only have good governance and sound fiscal policy when you have sound social policy, but this gets ignored to our society’s detriment.
This summer, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels called for a truce on social issues. Recently, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said that candidates who do anything but focus on economic issues are “taking [their] eye[s] off the ball” and are “running down rabbit trails.” He went on to say that a candidate’s stance on abortion, “ain’t going to change anybody’s vote this year."
Therein lays the problem with the current Republican establishment. They don’t want to fight the good fight. The only value they hold true and virtue they proclaim is winning. Are the candidates “electable”?
Look at how the Republican establishment, in particular the Beltway establishment, has acted in contested primaries: One of the most egregious examples we have seen is the recent Delaware GOP Senate primary.
Christine O’Donnell who is both a fiscal and social conservative ran against a 30-year establishment fixture in Representative Mike Castle. The establishment coalesced around Castle, loaded up on opposition research, and attacked O’Donnell because of her financial struggles – something that too many Americans can relate to.
Even after she won the primary she’s still being called out as “unelectable,” and the Republican Senatorial Committee refuses to spend any money on the race. They are so blinded by a desire to declare a victory; they don’t see that mainstream Americans want principled leadership and spinal fortitude, something they don’t offer.
The political class always want to set the agenda, and in the recent past, they have. What they fail to realize is that the ultimate sovereigns, “We the People,” now set the agenda. We want more than electability. We want principles. We want leaders with conviction.
The Beltway politicos and the Republican establishment nationwide have much to learn about the will of their constituents, and they have very little time to learn it. Will they listen to the people and show enough spinal fortitude to earn our votes? Will they join what is fast becoming a conservative revolution? We’ll see in November.
Shane Vander Hart is the Iowa Communications Director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative and is also the editor of CaffeinatedThoughts.com, a popular conservative blog based in Iowa.