On its face, the RNC document about the way forward for the Republican Party seems just dandy. After all, let’s face it: The committee was tasked with figuring out how to win future elections and the document provides some tangible ways to do just that.
But it leads to a much broader question which is this: Just how big should the “GOP Tent” be and what is the potential fallout?
The overall tone of the RNC document suggests that the Republican Party needs to be more “welcoming and inclusive” of all people. Well, of course that should be the case but at what cost? For example, the RNC makes the case that young voters are more accepting of gay marriage and then the document states, “If our Party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”
So what’s the logical conclusion here? It’s pretty obvious. In essence, the RNC is saying that if the Party is going to be relevant going forward, they are going to have to modify their stance on gay marriage. They may not admit that publicly but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the future may hold. Once the dialogue starts changing, inevitably the policy will follow.
Why? Because if it doesn’t, then young people won’t head to the GOP. Lip service won’t be enough. Just look what’s happening on comprehensive immigration reform. The new talk by Republicans on this issue is now being followed with policy prescriptions to match.
While conservative evangelicals will move toward immigration reform, the gay marriage issue is a different story. It leaves conservative evangelicals facing a decision. If the GOP starts to slowly change its public policy positions on gay marriage, what will they do? Will the Party have left them at that point and if so, where do they go? Is the gay marriage issue such a deal breaker that they wouldn’t be able to support a Party that embraces the gay agenda?
For many, the answer is, “You bet!” Oh, and that also means not organizing for the party anymore at the national level. They may just work on the local level for candidates they believe in. That may be how they make their difference in the future.
The dilemma here is that there are two competing agendas. The RNC is only concerned with winning elections. If they have to ‘modernize” the party to do so (even if that means distancing themselves from long held Judeo-Christian principles), well then so be it. I understand that. If that’s your political goal then it makes sense to attract as many people as you can to your tent.
The problem here is that there is another agenda at odds with the RNC. Let’s be real: The largest block of the current voting base of the Republican Party consists of conservative evangelicals. They are concerned, first and foremost not so much about the viability of the Republican Party; rather, they are much more concerned about the soul of America. They are concerned about a country that backs away from a time-tested traditional Judeo-Christian value system.
If the RNC overplays its hand and goes too broad (support for gay marriage, stepping away from toxic social issues, legalization of medical marijuana, etc), then there is a real danger that they could see their support among their core constituency diminish. There is a strong school of thought that the GOP would be making a grave mistake by abandoning the “culture war” issues.
That isn’t to say that the GOP needs to fight the same culture war battle that’s been going on since the times of The Moral Majority. For example, the trick for the RNC is to figure out how to make the compelling case for traditional marriage in ways that can also grow the Republican Party. There is ample evidence of how traditional marriage in stable two-parent families lead to a better financial future for all involved. Additionally, there is an argument to be made that freedom, at its core, cannot survive without virtue (moral excellence).
Author Os Guinness says, “Leadership without character, business without ethics, and science without human values – in short, freedom without virtue – will bring the republic to its knees.” How true. Why doesn’t the Republican Party fight for virtue and lump traditional marriage and other social issues into the argument?
You want the answer? It’s because politicians are motivated by poll numbers. It’s always about the next election. It’s far easier to get rid of pesky social issues than to stick your neck out on the line and defend them.
All of this can be summed up this way: America’s society and culture are changing but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never changes. That’s the difference between the GOP’s head honchos and the conservative Christian base of the Republican Party.