Why Republicans should double-down on social issues

By Tom Quiner

Jeffrey Bell

Jeffrey Bell, author of "The Case for Polarized Politics"

“Republicans need to focus on economic issues and downplay social ones.”

This is the sentiment of many Republicans. A former candidate for Governor here in Iowa said as much last year. Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana, said as much.

Evidence suggests they are wrong. Evidence, in fact, supports the contention that social issues are the ticket to the White House. So says Jeffrey Bell, author of “The Case for Polarized Politics.”

Mr. Bell points out that Republicans won but 2 out of 9 presidential contests between 1932 and 1964. Social issues weren’t on the American political landscape at that time.

Social issues arrived in 1968 and with it, a Republican resurgence. From 1968 on, Republicans won 7 out of 11 runs for the White House.Social issues are a political winner for Republicans

Mr. Bell identifies 31 states as being conservative states, representing 292 electoral votes (270 is all you need to win). Four more states are “conservativish” on social issues: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. ¬†Added into the mix, that represents a substantial 348 electoral votes.

Think about the past two Democrats who won the presidency. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both downplayed their social liberalism. The media accommodated them, especially Mr. Obama, by downplaying the issue.

Bill Clinton was for capital punishment. He wanted to end welfare “as we know it.” He danced around the abortion issue by saying abortion should be legal, but rare. As president, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Although Mr. Obama gave us a glimpse of his radical perspective by touting the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), the general public was by and large shielded from this left wing stance.

That has all changed.

Social issues become energized when one side is perceived as coercing the public. You know that old line liberals would use, “well you and I may not think it is okay, but I cannot impose my views on another woman.”

The public now sees clearly that is exactly what the radical left is doing to the rest of the country, and their leader is Barack Obama.

To recap, abortion loopholes permeate ObamaCare. Taxpayers are now paying for them.

Even more, Mr. Obama has violated the freedom of religion of faith-based organizations by requiring them to provide abortifacients (morning-after pills), sterilization, and contraception to their employees, services these organizations believe to be immoral. This was done by presidential fiat.

Even more, the president refuses to enforce the DOMA.

The president looks increasingly radical to a nation that is more conservative than liberal. He is increasingly being perceived as cramming his unsavory morality down our throats without using proper democratic channels.

All of this gives Rick Santorum an edge at this stage in the campaign. Mr. Santorum’s bonafide’s are beyond debate when it comes to discussing the economy or foreign policy. When it comes to social issues, no one can touch him.

If Republicans want to lose, they should downplay these social issues contends Jeffrey Bell.

If Republicans want to win, social issues should be a major piece of the debate along with critical issues of the economy.

These two issues go together. Team Obama is overreaching on both the size and scope of government as well as their desire to rewire the moral DNA of America.

This provides Republicans with a winning opportunity.


  1. renounceobama2012 on February 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    More often than not, when the Republicans put a moderate candidate up against a Democrat they lose the race. Social issues do matter, regardless of what some might believe.

    • quinersdiner on February 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I absolutely agree. Republicans must field a “conviction” candidate, which is why Mitt Romney concerns me. Thanks for writing. Come again. By the way, I enjoy your blog, too!

  2. Kurt Johnson on February 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    The right conviction candidate is Ron Paul. Leave the social issues to the states.