By Carolyn McKinney, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire
When Democrats set the terms of the 2012 campaign for state and federal offices, Republican leaders blew their horns about jobs and the economy and counted on their position of strength and the glaring weaknesses in their enemy’s lines to secure victory. Republicans lost because they forgot to tell the troops about the Democratic weaknesses. Democrats took advantage of the oversight and rolled over the field.
Democratic victories last Tuesday quite simply reflected a tactical failure of top-ticket Republicans to defend the party’s message. This wasn’t a failure of Republican principles, but a failure to define and defend Republican principles. Democrats successfully distracted voters with complete fabrications of reality, and Republicans let them do it without response.
Predictably, Republican Party leaders assumed that the people had enough of the social issues and wanted to focus on the economy instead—and by in large, Republicans successfully governed on economic recovery issues during the past two years. Democrats understood the visceral nature of social issues and successfully tarnished liberty as the enemy of their carefully crafted relationship between business and government. Republicans didn’t respond, despite the prescient need. They thought that by ignoring the problem it would go away.
Even if it was a good idea—and I strongly contend that it is not—the Republican Party is never going to rid itself of social conservatives, and it won’t dismiss the libertarian faction either, if the libertarians don’t dismiss themselves, first. Due to the way the two-party system has been solidified in state and federal law, neither group has anywhere else to go if it wants any influence, and neither will the Republican Party have any influence without these two groups.
The only solution is for the Republican Party to fully embrace its platform, which is actually more conservative and libertarian than anything else. Had Republican leaders chosen to explain the Republican Party to voters, they just might have received some votes.
In other words, a “big tent” Republican Party includes moderates and the socially agnostic, but let’s be clear: the tent is held up by conservatives and libertarians. There is no tent without them. There’s just Democrats and Democrats-lite. I contend that New Hampshire truly wants neither—and so goes the nation.
Enough with the rhetoric, here’s some realism: Faced with the ludicrous and fallacious Democratic idea that Republicans want to end all abortions and take contraceptives away from women, Republicans should have explained that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land until it’s overturned. And at the same time, they should have explained that there are alternatives to abortion; that women deserve other options, such as child care services, especially if they’re going to college (tuition certainly does pay for it already).
Republicans should have turned the tables on Democrats: “Who are the real extremists? Who removed from their platform the goal that abortion be ‘safe and rare’? Who supports living children being murdered when their body is already outside the womb? Who supports letting infants die on a surgical table because their abortion went wrong? Who wants taxpayers to foot the bill for this stuff? Really? Even if they morally object? Doesn’t a human being have an inalienable right to life, endowed by his or her Creator? So, tell me again why Democrats oppose Republican proposals to decrease the number of abortions in favor of alternative solutions that both respect women and favor life.”
Without a doubt, Democrats had the extreme agenda, but we didn’t tell voters about it!
Let’s be clear: We Republicans can change some of our policy positions to more consistently represent the principles in our platform. On immigration, for instance, there millions of inalienably free human beings who simply want to live a better life in America, but our laws don’t allow it. While Republicans are known to support the rule of law, we are also known to be a group that favors Judeo-Christian values, which include love and charity. We must craft a common sense solution that balances the rule of law and the reality that these illegal immigrants must be treated with the dignity that we must afford to all human beings. We also must recognize that the large illegal immigrant population contributes to our economy in important ways, and we need to stop catering to the people who resist a common sense policy that allows for the free trade of labor across national boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for citizenship for all; that’s something that has to be earned. But a guest worker program would certainly go a long way to help the market meet its needs for labor without sacrificing national sovereignty or identity, and it would also be more conservative.
The bottom line is this: Republicans need to unite around their platform or they’ll all be lost to the isolation of their own personal perfection. There’s no doubt that herding cats is difficult, but that is the task for those who lead people who want to be free. Let’s hope they get it right next time, for the sake of us all.