On Monday, The New York Times reported that once again – for what must by, by this point, the 1,297th time – Democrats have decided to swivel to social issues for electoral purposes in advance of the 2014 election. “After a generation of campaigns in which Republicans exploited wedge issues to win close elections,” the paper reported, “Democrats are now on the offensive in the culture wars.”
According to the Times, Democrats’ turn to abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraceptives is merely the latest attempt to “stoke concerns among moderate voters, especially women, and motivate their base.” And, the Times notes, “Republican candidates…are in a crouch.” The Times points out that Republican senatorial candidate Ed Gillespie has dodged debate on social issues; so has Governor Rick Scott in Florida. “Even in states like Arkansas and Louisiana that are filled with cultural conservatives, Republican candidates are not raising the topics.”
There are two reasons that Republicans are fleeing, screaming, from social issues debates. First, social issues aren’t top burner issues at a time when the president of the United States is openly considering executive amnesty of some five million illegal immigrants, wandering around aimlessly in the face of an ISIS invasion of the Middle East and a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and continuing to implement Obamacare.
Second, Republicans are idiots.
Sadly, Republicans believe that by avoiding controversial issues, they somehow buy the moderate middle. This was the theory of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who ignored the Democrats’ war on women rhetoric, focusing instead on economics. The result: a highly-motivated Democratic base, a turned off Republican base, and an ever-liberalizing American population on social issues.
The fact is that when conservatives engage on issues that are deemed unpopular by the elites, they win. Conservatives were told by their betters after the election of 2012 that only by embracing a broad-based amnesty program could they hope to win in 2014. Instead, after President Obama played Republicans for suckers by mocking their attempts at border security while pandering to illegal immigrant activist groups, conservatives fought back – and won. The polls now show that Republicans have a marked advantage on the immigration issue in 2014, despite the repeated insistence by GOP honchos that embracing John McCain-esque bipartisan immigration reform would be the only path to 2014 victory.
The same is true on abortion. For forty years, since Roe v. Wade, coastal Republicans have shied away from the abortion issue, wary of being targeted as religious fanatics. Frightened of a Todd Akin-type meltdown, Republican advisors have told candidates and conservatives to studiously avoid any talk of the killing of the unborn. The result: Democrats on offense. Yet the polls show that cultural conservatives are winning, in spite of what the Republican establishment tells them: according to Gallup, a full 71 percent of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in some or all circumstances. Just 28 percent believe in the Democratic party platform that it should always be illegal. Yet Republicans are afraid of being seen as extreme?
On same-sex marriage, Republicans blew the argument by embracing government sponsorship of social policy. Unlike abortion, which requires government intervention for the protection of human life, marriage has always been a religious and social institution, requiring no government intervention. In fact, historically, government intervention into marriage has almost always ended with idiotic restrictions on marriage (see interracial marriage in the Jim Crow south), taxation of marriage (see the marriage penalty), penalties for marriage (see welfare), or conversely, encouragement of standards of marriage that provide no societal benefit (see same-sex marriage). The conservative position on marriage should have always been – and truly always was – for government to stay out of the business of marriage, and let church and community fill the gap. Now that states are looking to leverage same-sex marriage against private religious institutions, including businesses, that libertarian position is not only reasonable but imperative.
Yet Republicans do not know how to argue any of this. And so they run from it, to the supposedly safer ground of tax policy and foreign policy.
The only problem: it’s far more fun and immediate for people to talk and think about sex than it is to think about ISIS. Democrats know that, which is why they talk incessantly about same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraceptives. If given the choice, most Americans would rather talk about social policy than Mitt Romney’s 59 point jobs plan, as Romney learned. That’s why Republicans may win on economics and foreign policy in midterm elections, when turnout is low, but will routinely get slaughtered in presidential elections, when voters show up in droves to vote their hearts.
When Republicans fight for their principles, they win. When they run from them, they lose. And each time they lose, they create the next bullet in the Democratic arsenal. They may win in the short term if they are lucky enough for the American public to focus momentarily on the threat of terrorism or the problems of Obamacare. But in the long run, Americans vote with their hearts — and while Republicans consistently aim at the head, Democrats aim for the heart.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.