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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Future of Social Conservatism?

I made calls for the Huckabee campaign during the GOP primary season here in Florida, which is a good cross-section of the rest of the country in many ways.

Multiple people I spoke with seemed offended by way he tends to mesh his faith and his politics. Two people even told me they could not ever support someone “who thinks that God wants him to be the president.”

For me, these reactions were unfair. How can one possibly separate the values that form their faith entirely from the values that form their politics? It can't be done. Also, if someone were to run for president, wouldn’t it be a thing to pray on first and hope to find God’s guidance?

But I couldn’t get through to them. And I doubt even Huckabee himself could. And I've come to think there are tens of millions of voters (or more) who probably feel the same.

Following the Obama landslide win for president, the experience leads me to think that running on evangelical social conservatism (and I do include Catholicism in here when it places a litmus test of social issues like abortion, ESCR, and gay rights) will not help Republicans win national elections in the future. In fact, it will likely hurt. I think this component of the party can and should remain vibrant, but ideally it will largely be regionally and its effects felt more within particular state campaigns.

Look at California. Proposition 8 did pass and it did so with the help of many black voters. But it also seemingly had ZERO affect on helping Republican social conservatives on the ticket from McCain on down.

So I'm starting to think that now is the time to showcase the GOP’s libertarian streak more than ever, even if that does mean sacrificing the fight for some social causes. Think about the good this could do on economic issues, free enterprise, lowering taxes and spending, protecting gun rights, fighting crime, etc.

And success in these areas may in turn will breed possibilities for social gains in the future.

I’m personally a born again Christian who doesn’t say these things lightly. But I also never particularly liked spitting into the wind. In the 21st century, perception is reality. While not completely embracing the good in that, I also don’t think we can afford to just ignore it. Otherwise, Republicans better get used to “permanent minority” status as they’re conceding 150 electoral votes before elections even start.

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