Joseph Cotto, 6/4/2014 [Archive]

Social Conservatism Lost in 2012 and Will Lose in November

By Joseph Cotto

Mitt Romney wasn't the only one who lost in 2012.

Voters in four states — Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota — rejected the idea of traditional marriage. In all except the last, same-sex marriage was actually approved. This marked the first time marriage equality has ever found success on statewide ballots.

Voters legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington, but not in Oregon. The cause to preserve reproductive rights also played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of U.S. Senate elections in Indiana and Missouri.

From coast to coast, it could not have been more clear that the social rightist movement was losing ground.

This trend is unlikely to change. A new generation of voters have opinions quite different from those of their elders. Even many of the middle-aged and older voters are seriously reconsidering their beliefs.

So the question is not, how can the GOP repackage its social policy for the next election? The question is, how can the GOP remain relevant in the years ahead?

The GOP hierarchy ought to moderate its brand. This will happen in the near future. Large donors are increasingly unlikely to fund candidates with radical views on abortion and LGBT rights.

The problem is that many in the Republican ranks will not approve of a more inclusive tone.

Many of these people are religious fundamentalists who often make no distinction between their religious and political values. Taking this into account, the staunch opposition to compromise from many in the GOP is much easier to understand.

While the Party has been able to use the religious right to help candidates over the finish line in close elections, that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The fundamentalists no longer have the turnout numbers to compete with other groups on a national scale.

Totally alienating the religious right would be a terrible mistake for the GOP. What the Party's leadership must do now is take neutral stances on hot-button social issues. Individuals seeking public office should be articulating their own respective philosophies, not apologizing for or actively opposing what the Republican platform says.

Regardless of what many social rightists might want to believe, America is a nation in transition. Our country's social landscape is being transformed before our very eyes. Things will never go back to the way they were during the "good old days."

Twenty years from now, same-sex marriage will be legal across the country. The antiabortion movement will likely be relegated to an electorally insignificant segment of religious fundamentalists. If the GOP retains its current social policy stances, it will be a joke in the America of tomorrow.

Many in the religious right appear to have little problem with this. Since they tend to see the United States as being on a road to perdition, they seem primed to grow more extreme in their views. That an overwhelming number of Americans oppose their agenda cannot be expected to factor into their views.

Keeping this in mind, it becomes all the more essential that the GOP reach out to new voters. Fiscal responsibility and a robust national security plan are propositions that never go out of style. The quagmire has been and continues to be articulating these to philosophically diverse audiences.

If the Republican Party is unable to do this, then America can look forward being a one-party state. What a frightening thought that is.

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Copyright 2014 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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