GOP And Values Politics


On the GOP Post-Election Wringing of Hands—Values Politics

Since the election the other day, I have noticed that the various groups that make up the Republican Party have revived an activity that has become a tradition in the face of defeat in the presidential elections. There is much recrimination, wringing of hands, beating of breasts and rending of garments over why the GOP lost. Fiscal conservatives argue that the race was too focused on social issues. Social Conservatives opine that candidates ignored social issues, which, they argue have special resonance among some minority voters, especially blacks and Hispanics. Libertarians opine that the candidate wasn’t a strict enough constitutionalist. Most everyone argues that the “game was rigged” in some way in order to get a candidate nominated who didn’t really appeal to the Republican electorate, ignoring the fact that (a) candidates are selected by a state-by-state primary system that tends to cater to the local grass-roots party membership, and (b) as is often the case, the party leadership—incumbent politicians, radio talk show pundits, political machinators—often don’t actually like the elected candidate until he is the elected candidate. The whole process of rethinking an election that has already taken place is rather embarrassing. So, in the spirit of adding to the debate, I might as well offer my two cents. Since the sources of angst among Republicans are too diverse and complex to hold forth on all of them, I’ll just cover the problem of minorities and social issues herein. 

A number of pundits have opined that GOP candidates should focus on social issues and refuse to give ground on conservative social values. They argue that minorities, especially Hispanics and blacks are socially conservative largely Christian, either traditional evangelistic or Roman Catholic, in their outlook, and should therefore side with Republicans on issues like gay marriage and abortion. In fact this sentiment is largely the case. California’s Proposition 8 (2008) is a pretty good indicator of minority opposition to gay marriage. Over 50% of California Latinos and 70% of the state’s blacks supported the proposition. Abortion is a thornier question. Some black pastors preach vehemently against abortion; some even go so far as to argue that the preponderance of abortions of black babies is little more than “genocide.”  Some pundits assume that, since Latino’s are Catholic and the Catholic Church holds abortion and other forms of birth control, to be anathema, Latinos must be solidly pro-life, and this may be the case, however the assertion that both groups vote based on these particular issues, begs the assumption that they vote their moral scruples at all.

Both of these issues are also wedge issues in Mexico as well. Gay marriage was instituted in Mexico city, like Washington, D.C., a federal District, and since then Mexican federal courts have used the notion of comity and equity to demand that gay marriage be accepted all over the Republic. Gay marriage in all of Mexico came into effect in August of this year. Abortion is legal, but restricted after ten weeks in spite of attempts by the federal authorities to remove all restrictions on the practice and a popular backlash to ban the practice. In short, the ruling parties in Mexico have promoted both issues, often against local and popular resistance. I suspect that neither issue has much effect on majority Mexican voter behavior where poverty, unemployment and drug-cartel violence all take pride of place.

Back in the U.S.A., both blacks and Hispanics have voted in overwhelming numbers for Democratic candidates and for Barack Obama in particular, and liberal pundits have used this statistic to argue that both groups must be pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion. I suspect, based on research and anecdotal evidence, that this is not the case. Blacks’ and Hispanics’ opinions of these issues seem to be mixed at best, even skewed to the negative. 

Democrats have made the case that a GOP president will deport Latinos and “enchain” African Americans, and if the enormity of those statements are not necessarily believed, at least they have had the effect of creating doubt in the minds of those minorities, who, in any case,  are less interested in the moral issues than in other issues that have a greater effect on their livelihood. Additionally, the Democrats have been quite successful in convincing their adherents who have moral scruples to compartmentalize them. Those values, they say, are Sunday values. You adhere to them in church, you may voice them in the social and religious sphere, but they have no place in politics. This sort of cognitive dissonance promotes a Democratic party system that encourages a constituency of special pleaders. A Latino or black voter can say, “I believe that abortion is morally wrong, or gay marriage is a travesty of the institution of marriage, but it’s somebody else’s problem, not mine, and the Democratic Party is my party, looking out for my special interests, so I’ll vote Democrat. Given this point of view, GOP campaigns that focus on these social issues are not likely to resonate with most blacks and Hispanics, even if they agree with the message. To many Republicans this notion presents a paradox of boggling proportions. Republicans view issues, especially fiscal and social issues that threaten the social and economic welfare of the nation as a whole, to be of overriding importance. They have a very hard time comprehending that there are groups within the body politic who hold the interests of the particular group as more important that the security and prosperity of the whole. They erroneously believe that shared social values among various members of society trump individual simple materialism and issues of special pleading. Unless the national mores change in the next few years, the GOP will find themselves in the same quandary in the aftermath of the 2016 election as well.

Benjamin L. Price, PhD.