Republicans figuring out their social issue problem?

In the days following the election, young Republicans have vowed to help push the direction of the GOP in a more tolerant direction, away from wedge issues that have helped the party in the past. Zeke Miller noted some of the feelings of young Republicans last week at BuzzFeed:

In the hours after Barack Obama’s electoral rout of Mitt Romney, young Republican operatives in Washington, Boston, and around the country felt the same letdown as their bosses — the older crop who ran the losing campaigns of 2012.

But some of the younger generation — people in their twenties and thirties, digital natives, committed conservatives — reported another feeling: relief. The time had finally come to push aside the television-centric operatives who have run Republican campaigns for a generation, to reset the party’s values around race and sex, and to adapt its tactics to the era of Twitter. Politics has always been ruthlessly competitive, with one cycle’s guru the next cycle’s washed-up cable news commentator. Mentors have always had to keep an eye out for protégés wielding daggers. And now the daggers are out.

“Pretty much every relevant oldster consultant’s strategy has been repudiated the last two presidential cycles,” said a young Republican operative reflecting on the heat of the campaign.

Tuesday’s election “was a clearing of old mind-sets,” said a second operative deeply immersed in the Romney campaign. “We just can’t keep running campaigns like we used to. Too often the tactical realities of trying to win in 2012 ran into the old maxims of campaigns run in the past.”

“If we are going to try to win, we need real coalitions, operations run by real data, and real communications operations,” the Republican said. “If we run 2016 like 2000 and 2004, we will lose again.”
The younger generation is at least as conservative — in some cases, more conservative — about the role of government, many of them libertarian idealists and foreign policy hawks too junior even to have been on the front lines of Bush Administration successes and failures. But they also spent their early careers stifling disgust at a kind of gay-baiting politics that has little resonance even on young social conservatives who still care deeply about abortion; and they are similarly free of any sense of allegiance to, or guilt for, Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy, with its wink at the racist policies of segregation.

“Broadly, we have to find a way to communicate on these issues in a way that doesn’t scare people,” said former Eric Cantor aide Brad Dayspring, who ran the YG Action Fund super PAC this cycle and is one of a dozen people of his generation coming to be central on Capitol Hill. “How do Republicans respond? By adapting their principles to current problems and challenges.”

What is being said here is, to some degree, an affirmation of the libertarian point-of-view. At least some Republicans seem to finally realize that people actually like the idea of personal liberty. Republicans who jump into social issues have become a liability. It doesn’t mean that they should be entirely cast aside. It does mean, however, that, as Mitch Daniels said last year, there need to be a “truce” on social issues. Daniels was derided at the time, but the election results have largely proved him right.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be push-back, but if conservatives believe that they’re going to be able to win elections moving forward by pushing their views from the past, they’re going to continue to be disappointed during election season.

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