The Republican party is at a crossroads right now. They can choose to respond to Obama’s victory in one of two ways: Move (even more) to the left in a desperate bid to appear more moderate and therefore more “electable” (supposedly), or stand their ground. Actually, I suppose there is a third option, which would be to retrace their steps and move back to the right, but wait, wait, I think I see a pig flying!
Unfortunately, I think what we can look for is the former, because history tends to repeat itself, and this is the pattern we’ve seen over and over again ever since Clinton. Denny Burk, it turns out, shares my opinion, and he has a real “Amen” post on this topic that includes a warning for social conservatives: We may one day need to acknowledge that we didn’t leave the Republican party. They left us. I quote:
The traditional Republican coalition of social, fiscal, and foreign policy conservatives may be about to shift. We may very well be approaching an era in which no major political party supports the sanctity of marriage. And it may not be too long before the GOP jettisons life too.
All of this means that Evangelicals who care about life, marriage, and religious liberty are going to sound more and more like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We may find ourselves maintaining our cause with no major political party representing that cause. The pressure will grow for us to abandon what the Bible says about protecting life and marriage, but we cannot and must not budge. We will have to be the loyal opposition to a president who in every way has been wrong on these issues. And we may have to be the loyal opposition to another political party poised to embrace gay marriage rights.
In contrast, I found Michael Gerson’s “aftermath advice for Republicans” op-ed distinctly unhelpful, uninformed, and shallow. I’m puzzled that Burk actually appears to be an enthusiastic fan of Gerson’s and even linked this very article, since I think Burk himself is a much clearer thinker on these matters. I’m not going to discuss all the ways in which Gerson is wrong-headed and uninformed, but I want to zero in on the last two paragraphs:
Republican adjustments to cultural trends, particularly among millennials, will be difficult — although candidates could start by being unambiguous in their condemnations of rape. In fact, the tone taken by most Republicans on cultural issues has shifted considerably over the past several years. The pro-life movement has become more realistic and incremental. Republican opposition to gay marriage is increasingly falling back to the defense of institutional religious freedom. With nearly 50 percent of Romney’s support coming from religious conservatives, there is no rational strategy that employs them as a political foil. But it is more advisable than ever to make public arguments about morality in aspirational rather than judgmental ways.
The Romney campaign was a vast machine with one moving part, its economic critique. The next Republican campaign will need to be capable of complex adjustments of ideology, policy and rhetoric. And it will need one more thing: a candidate with a genuine, creative passion for inclusion.
Hoo boy, where to start? I suppose I’ll begin at the beginning, with the asinine nod to the Akin skerfuffle and the more minor Mourdock moment. It’s frankly pretty arrogant, condescending and just plain dumb to somehow imply that either of these men “left it ambiguous” as to whether they condemn rape. Of course the left took it that way because they take every word that proceedeth out of a conservative mouth as prima facie bigoted and ill-intentioned. I would have hoped Gerson might be better than that. A vain hope. My reaction to this, surprisingly, is almost identical to that of Newt Gingrich, a man with some significant moral failings who nevertheless has proved more than once that he has his head screwed on straight. In an interview where he was questioned specifically about Mourdock, Gingrich basically said, look, Mourdock condemns rape, we all condemn rape, every decent American I know condemns rape. So can we just accept that as the unarguable point it should be and move on to the substance of what he said?
Sadly, at least with Akin (not so much Mourdock), the Republican party unanimously threw him under the bus, showing that they really didn’t care if that seat remained in Democrat hands as long as they kept their “moderate” reputation in the eyes of the left, whom it’s pointless to try to please anyway. And look what happened—a race that nobody would have called for the Democrat candidate ended up being carried by her, comfortably. To the Republican party I say: Nice work. I guess we now know where your priorities lie.
So there’s that, which ties in to the comment about becoming “realistic” and “incremental” in the pro-life movement. What exactly is Gerson saying, that Republicans should support the three exceptions, across the board?
Moving on to the gay issue, Gerson implies that Republicans should, essentially, adopt a purely defensive posture. Don’t push back, don’t make actively negative comments about gay marriage, don’t make actively negative comments about homosexuality, instead do it like this: “ALL we want is…” This is emphatically NOT what Republicans need. It is in fact the LAST thing they need if they want to keep any semblance of a backbone in the party. What we really need is someone with Gingrich’s bulldog-style, no prisoners taken approach to vital issues minus the lack of personal moral scruples. Though I admit that in hindsight Santorum looks pretty good. Anyway, presumably Gerson has no problem with civil unions, but these have also proven to be a disastrous move forward for the gay agenda in terms of the normalization of homosexuality in America and the rights granted to such “couples.”
Gerson does bring himself to admit that perhaps it’s not wisest to antagonize the one base that overwhelmingly votes Republican (no DUH), but waves this aside with some mumbo-jumbo boiling down to the effect that he’s sure the Republicans would figure it out. Somehow. And the main thing to remember is to be very, very nice. Of course, the whole article is absolutely pointless because he still hasn’t got the memo that the Republicans could sell their very soul and the rest of the country would still pull the lever for the Democrat.
In other words, Michael Gerson doesn’t have the faintest idea what he’s talking about, and I’m sorry that people are taking what he has to say here with any degree of seriousness. I think despite Burk’s inexplicable attraction to Gerson, he himself got it exactly right. Increasingly, we should prepare to identify as conservative, not Republican. Whatever “strategic” moves they choose to make, we need to stay exactly where we are even if we eventually realize we’re all by our little lonesome.
So circle the wagons, light a fire, bring a few marshmallows, and keep your guns clean. Come what may, the world will know that we shall not be moved.