Published July 18, 2013
It’s time for the GOP to disregard the advice of establishment strategists who say that the party has to give up its defense of the right to life and the sanctity of marriage to win elections.
According to them, Republican candidates are losing the support of independents, women and young people because of their conservative views on these issues.
They point to recent polling that shows that the majority of these constituencies today favor abortion remaining legal and same-sex marriage.
The fallacy of this argument lies in the fact that, while voters today may indeed hold positions that are socially liberal with regards to those specific issues, the majority of them do not vote based on these issues. The majority of Americans vote based on pocket issues like the economy, taxes and jobs.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the majority of voters who vote exclusively based on social issues, vote for candidates who are conservative; who are pro-life and support traditional marriage.
Moreover, the small minority of voters who are primarily focused on the legalization of same-sex marriage and on keeping abortion legal will always vote overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates.
In other words, if the GOP were to gut its social agenda, rather than try to win over new voters, it would only alienate the faith-based constituency it desperately needs to mobilize and win elections. It may well end up with a "big tent" as the establishment desires, but one that's pretty empty.
Republicans, however, also need to overcome the obstacles posed by what could be called "self-referential" conservatives; those within the party who have a hard time engaging constituencies that seem different -- for the most part, superficially -- to their base.
They seem intent in not wanting to find out if these groups may share their same values or they may have convinced themselves already that they don't. Leaving the comfort zone of their shrinking base to go out to the periphery of our society to win new supporters, not by giving up principles, but by winning people over with the power of their ideas, is simply something they're not willing to do.
The fear of the different paralyzes them and leads them to give up their efforts to find converts and grow the party and movement.
The debate over immigration is the perfect example of this phenomenon. The GOP, until a mere seven years ago, was decisively supportive of immigration.
All the Republican presidents as well as presidential candidates of the modern era were supportive of immigration. And they held these view not because they were liberal, but because as good conservatives they understood that, historically, immigration has been essential to the economic growth of the nation, including for the creation of good jobs for American workers.
They also understood that immigrants help rekindle and strengthen the values and principles of our founding that sadly so many Americans today take for granted.
They understood that immigrants make America more, not less, American.
Yet, faced with a new large wage of immigrants, reminiscent of that of the turn of the last century, many Republicans, instead of remaining firm to their pro-immigration values, opted to shift their views to a restrictionist and nationalistic stance which demonizes all undocumented immigrants as serious criminals who should not be given a path to legal status even if required to pay a penalty and back taxes.
This is, thus, a relatively new point of view within the GOP and no one should try to argue, as incredibly some restrictionists are doing now, that opposing a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants is as defining for conservatives as defending small government and lower taxes and the right to life and the sanctity of marriage. Opposing immigration reform has never been a benchmark conservative posture.
One of the main reasons continuously articulated by GOP restrictionist leaders for opposing immigration reform is that supposedly Hispanics will never vote in large enough numbers for Republicans. They choose to ignore President Reagan's famous quip: "Hispanics are conservative, they just don't know it."
They don't care to hear that most Hispanics believe that abortion should be illegal, are opening businesses three times as fast as the national average and are supportive of school choice.
They also refuse to consider than just 8 years ago President Bush got as much as 44 percent of the Latino vote, and that the only reason that it went down to 27 percent in the last election is because of their ugly rhetoric on the issue of immigration.
They have made up their minds, regardless if it's actually true, that for the most part, Hispanics are different from their base and that it's waste of time to try to win them over.
This obtuse frame of mind threatens not only the viability of Republicans nationally, but most importantly, the growth of the conservative movement, and with it, the advancement of fundamental conservative principles like fiscal responsibility, limited government, family and faith.
Fifty-one percent of Latinos identify today as independent.
The Democratic Party is bleeding Hispanic voters because of its radical policies, but often they still end up voting for Democratic candidates because they believe that the GOP doesn't care about them.
Republicans should wake up and realize that Latinos are today's Reagan Democrats. They should pro-actively embrace them based on shared conservative values to form a winning conservative coalition in America.
In this sense, House Republicans have now a historic opportunity to begin building this coalition. If they choose to ignore the restrictionists within their ranks and decide to pass an immigration reform bill that is consistent with conservative principles, they will go a long way in making inroads with Latino voters and becoming once again a viable political force in national elections.
The road to victory for the GOP does not lie in giving up the conservative principles that it has historically stood for, but by opening itself -- firmly grounded on those values -- to new constituencies that they have ignored in the past.