Actually, GOP could—and should—ignore social conservatives
Of all the post-election autopsies I’ve read, this one may be the silliest. It is definitely an excercise in sticking one’s head in the sand, of deliberately ignoring what is going on around you. But since it is written by the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, maybe I can give Richard Land some slack. Maybe. I mean, after all, it’s not like he’s going to say “Ignore me!” is he?
Here is what Mr. Land writes, in the New York Times of all places (so I suppose he’s just consigned himself to hell for writing in there):
The G.O.P. must not, and cannot, ignore its foundation and base. Exit polls show that white evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate, 3percent more than in 2004. Furthermore, these evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney in virtually the same percentages as the governor’s fellow Mormons (78 percent for Romney vs. 21 percent for President Obama, according exit polls by Edison Research). Obama received 26 percent of evangelical votes in 2008.
On the pro-life and same-sex-marriage issues it should also be remembered that while Obama won the total Catholic vote 50 percent to 48 percent, he won Hispanic Catholics 75 percent to 21 percent, while Romney won non-Hispanic Catholics 59 percent to 40 percent. On the issue of same-sex-marriage, the pro-same-sex-marriage forces did win their first electoral victories, but they did so in four liberal states: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. And, in all four cases they won by relatively small margins in spite of having outspent their opponents by margins approaching nine to one.
I double-checked the evangelical number and it is correct, as verified by the Washington Post. But in the end I don’t think it matters. Looking at the long term trends, the percentage of Christians has decreased by 14% over the past half-century, while those who don’t believe in any religion have increased by the same amount, according to Gallup last year. However, a poll earlier this year says that nonbelievers now account for one-fifth of the country. As I wrote about before, this is not something the GOP can safely ignore.
Furthermore, really? 26%? So you want the GOP to ignore the other 74%, the three quarters of the country is more or less becoming dead-set against evangelical ideas?
Look around you. Look at the reception Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock got. If they had dropped the social conservative talk—essentially doing what Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie did in their gubernatorial races in 2009—they probably would have won, and given the GOP the Senate. Instead, the social conservatism cost the GOP legislative control.
There are a lot of people out there, a tremendous number of independents, who want to vote for the GOP’s fiscally conservative, ostensibly free market stance, but can’t because of the Bible-thumping anti-gay and pro-life rhetoric. They just can’t do it. It offends their sensibilities, and it’s extremely off-putting. Who the heck wants to stand up and say “I voted for the man who said that evolution came from the pit of hell, and I’m proud of it!” Maybe some folks in Mr. Land’s congregation, but they’re not exactly going to become a majority in America any time soon.
I’ve heard many folks criticize my viewpoint as “That’s not the way you do a big tent party.” But look at it this way: If you have a door open to let people into the tent, but you got a loudmouth preacher standing next to it going on about how homosexuality is a sin and gays should burn in hell and the government should control women’s vaginas and evolution is a lie and the Earth was created only 6,000 years ago and anyone who says otherwise is a demon on assignment from Satan….you’re not going to get all that many people walking in through that door into your tent. Just sayin.
People like Mr. Land are, regrettably, backwards thinking and obsolete. You can believe whatever you want, that’s your right, but it’s also the right of others to not listen to you, and that’s what the GOP should do. The idea that he later puts forward, of just getting someone young and preferably a minority, to spout their talking points, is just obscene. The fact is that nobody is buying your product outside a rapidly shrinking demographic—and the largest growing demographic, those 30 and under, are repulsed by it. And for good reason.
The GOP must ignore social conservatives, and instead focus on cutting government spending, reducing and eliminating government regulation, and promoting a free market that brings prosperity to folks of all income levels. That is a winning strategy. The divisive, backwards, hate-filled rhetoric of the hard right social conservatives? That will do nothing but ensure that Democrats have a lock on politics outside the Deep South for the next 20 years—and while there may be some good to wandering in the wilderness, rediscovering your principles and reforging your message, nobody, not even this libertarian, wants the GOP to be in the wilderness that long.