***In the interest of full disclosure: I am a rock-ribbed Conservative, both fiscally and socially. I am also a fervent Constitutionalist and Federalist. With that in mind – please read on.***
When in The Course of Federal Elections: Arguing the Case Against Social Conservatism… At the federal level.
Over the last several days the debate, or argument rather, about where so-called “moderate Republicans” stand in within the GOP tent has resurfaced anew. In all of the back and forth in-fighting there has been but one clear, logical and applicable statement from which we can derive an answer.
“We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only ‘litmus test’ of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.”
“As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.”
Wonder of wonders, it was none other than Olympia Snowe that pointed out this quote. Ironically she fails her own litmus test – as do Collins and Specter, I digress. What she did get right – and what should be highlighted – is the last sentence in particular. What Snowe got wrong is the application of that particular pearl of wisdom.
Before the discussion on the place of “moderate” Republicans, we must first know what a Republican is. “Our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.” Please note that there are no “or”s in this statement. That is because there is no room for discussion regarding these principles. In order to be a Republican, one must believe in ”D) All of the above.”
What does this mean for “moderates? It means that they are either Republican or not. If they do not pass the Reagan litmus test then they are not, in fact, Republicans – and are irrelevant to this discussion. If they do pass, then they are Republican. It is important to note that there is a difference between “Moderate” and “RINO.” A “Moderate” is a Republican, but may not necessarily be a social conservative. A RINO is a Democrat with an “R”.
Beyond our core beliefs – which make it easy for us to determine who is a Republican – is where we get into the weeds. Social issues. Social issues are the bane of the current GOP. There is a simple reason for that: A progressive social agenda directly interferes with the aforementioned core principles. However, that doesn’t mean that socially conservative values should be a litmus test for our Congressional and Presidential candidates. Please make note: this is NOT in defense of Specter, Snowe, Collins and their ilk. As previously stated – they are not Republicans at all, and are therefor inconsequential to the purpose of this discussion.
However, this is in direct conflict with many of the social conservatives that have been foaming at the lips, rabid with blood-lust, and seeking the heads of any Republican that disagrees with their dogma with regard to social issues - all in the name of cleaning out the RINOs and rebuilding the party. To those that seek to behead our candidates (and in some cases those currently serving in Congress) for these social views… Slow down and take a deep breath because you are wrong. The fierce riptide of emotion associated with social issues has pulled asunder the better sense of reason.
As a party we have gone astray and forgotten the words of the “Gipper.” “As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.” These are important words. Many will take this pearl of wisdom to mean that we should allow the socially liberal openly into our ranks. Others, myself included, see a greater meaning.
First it means that we shouldn’t be wielding pitchforks and torches and chasing down our own candidates. More importantly it means that the social issues should be non-issues to begin with… at the federal level. Because these issues should not be decided in the halls of Congress nor the offices of the Executive. Instead they should be decided by the people. More specifically by the people in their given states. The founding fathers and framers designed our Constitution in a manner that enforced the rights of the states.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Asking our candidates to define their stances on any of the myriad of social issues is antithetical to the Conservative principle of governance. Instead the question should be “are you a Federalist?” The proper Republican will respond to any social issue question by stating “my personal stance is immaterial, as that is a matter that is Constitutionally left to the states and has no place at the federal level.” Or something along those lines. Obviously, the only exception to this is the matter of abortion. This is ONLY because an activist SCOTUS made it a federal issue.
Essentially by involving ourselves in social issues, no matter how strongly we feel on them, we are undermining our own principle of liberty. The entire essence of liberty is the right of the people to self-governance. Simply put, the people should be deciding. Not courts and certainly not the federal government. This also acts as a stiff bulwark against statism.
As for the debate of the so-called moderates themselves. If they pass the Republican litmus test as outlined by Reagan, then they should be kept. Because if they pass the litmus test, it is impossible for them to be socially liberal… as fiscal conservatism and liberty are the antithesis of social liberalism. One will always override the other. Reagan knew this. He also understood that if Republicans campaigned and legislated on social issues that we would lose. Not because the people disagree, but because the people want to choose – they will inherently reject restrictivism in any form – thus siding with the pandering Democrats. Reagan ran on Federalism, as designed by our founding fathers, and so did the majority of successful Republicans during the Reagan Revolution. It works, because it is right.
So in the future, fellow Conservatives, we should look for candidates that embody the Republican core beliefs and have a federalist stance on governance. Leaving the social issues to the states. These candidates may not necessarily agree with all of the dogma of social conservatism… but they will also resist allowing the opposite to be legislated as well. And they will insist that the issue be left to the states, where it rightfully belongs – and in most cases the states will swing to the right.