Social conservatism is dead
Tuesday’s election didn’t amount to a rejection of the Republican party, but a rejection of social conservatism. This didn’t play out too strongly in the presidential election, but in state-wide ballot measures and Senate races, social conservatism was almost unilaterally rejected by the American public.
Starting with Senate races, losing Republican candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana were absolutely decimated by their remarks about rape. Both were running in very winnable Senate races in states that were noncompetitively in Romney’s column. Mourdock was defending the seat of the incredibly popular moderate Republican Dick Lugar, who served for six terms.
Both candidates were ahead in their respective races until they made their respective comments about rape. Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Meanwhile, Mourdock said, “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Immediately, the polls flipped. The margins Akin and Mourdock shared went to their opponents, and they subsequently lost their races. While being pro-life isn’t a particularly extreme policy position, having a fundamental misunderstanding of female anatomy and saying that rape is the will of God will land you in the nut job category. Voters are okay with pro-life candidates, but they will reject anyone trying to control their bodies.
At the ballot initiative level, gay marriage went three for four, winning in the states of Maine, Maryland, and Washington. I believe that we hit the inflection point on gay marriage sometime within the last few years, and it will soon progress to become the law of the land. Similarly, marijuana legalization went three for three, becoming recreationally legal in Colorado and Washington and medically legal in Massachusetts. I believe we've hit a similar inflection point here, and the federal government will soon get out of the way and let states decide for themselves if marijuana should be legal.
It’s time for the Republican Party to see the writing on the wall. We don’t need two liberal parties. We don’t need varying degrees of Democrats. The message of economic conservatives is still incredibly popular. Especially with the pending implosion of Europe, the message of fiscal restraint is something that voters want to see more of. Similarly, many Republicans prioritize economic issues over social issues. I lament that Republicans couldn't gain control of the Senate because of their social stances, and now we have to live with Obamacare.
Republicans can’t let antiquated social views get in the way of an economic message that could not be timelier.
It’s time not for the Republican party to pander to the left or to the center, but for its Libertarian wing to do so. To Republicans, I say embrace the mantle of limited government. Let social issues go; fiscal balance and restraint need to be priority one. Work with Democrats. Make concessions on social issues. Let us live free. But, please, don’t let anything get in the way of an sharing your economic message.