THIS is another departure from the usual contents of this blog. We don’t do this very often, but news of “The Controversy” is scarce at the moment. We focus on that as part of our larger concern with preserving Enlightenment values, so this isn’t too far off-topic for us. What you’re about to read is our imaginary address to a vast assembly of Republicans.
My fellow Republicans:
As our party is going though a much-needed period of introspection, please consider that there was a time when this party stood for the Constitution, the rule of law, national defense, free enterprise, limited government, low taxes, balanced budgets, and individual rights. We still honor those principles; but those who now govern have no concern for or even understanding of such matters.
While the other party has been winning elections and undermining everything we have traditionally valued, what issues dominate our political discourse? Our party has been talking about sex and religion.
When we say “sex,” we mean topics like abstinence, promiscuity, homosexuality, pre-marital relations, contraception, sodomy, nudity, pornography, masturbation, same-sex marriage, sex education, abortion, and morning-after pills. Does that list sound familiar? It should, because those are the issues that too often dominate your campaigns.
Except for late-term abortion, where the other party has an extreme position that could be exploited (except that it’s lost in a sea of other sex-related issues), there is absolutely no reason to discuss such matters as part of our party’s policies. The Constitution doesn’t give the federal government any authority over those issues. If they need to be addressed, it should be done only at the state level.
When we speak of religion, we mostly mean the current movement to insert religious doctrines into public school science classes, especially creationism and its love-child, intelligent design. It seems to us that this is a latter-day substitute for prayer in public schools, which is essentially a dead issue these days, but still a hot-button item. There are other religious issues, like objections to certain areas of biological research.
Our obsession with creationism and blocking biological research has earned us the reputation of being an anti-science party, which is a burden our adversaries are delighted to exploit — notwithstanding their Luddite opposition to nuclear energy, oil exploration, aerospace technology, etc. The opposition’s anti-science positions are based on their exotic ideology, ours are based on religion. But religious issues should not concern the national government, especially when we have so many vital matters — our traditional principles — that must be addressed before the republic is lost forever.
Any of these sex or religion topics would be a fine subject for a sermon; but experience teaches us that they are not issues that will propel a party to national leadership. Regional, yes; national, no. A successful political party should understand this, but it seems that we don’t. That is why, at the moment, we are not a successful political party.
If a politician’s principal issues are sex and religion, and he wants to campaign with a bible in one hand and his carnal concerns in the other, that’s his choice; but he should know that this approach — although thrilling to a vocal faction of the party — isn’t attractive to a broad majority of the population. If you feel that you must campaign on those issues, please do it as a member of the other party. In most parts of the country you’re going to lose either way, but you’ll still feel good, and at least you won’t be hurting us.
To know what issues appeal not only to Republicans, but also to most Americans, consider Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the most successful thing we’ve done since nominating Ronald Reagan. Each item on Newt’s list was poll-tested. We loved them, and so did most Americans. Significantly, religion and sex were not on the list, except indirectly in the case of some welfare reform provisions affecting unwed mothers, and some non-controversial items in the proposed Family Reinforcement Act (tax incentives for adoption, stronger child pornography laws, etc.) . Wikipedia says: “Gingrich insisted on ‘60% issues’, intending for the Contract to avoid promises on controversial and divisive matters like abortion and school prayer.” Source: Contract with America.
Newt knew exactly what he was doing, and it worked. Why have we abandoned a successful strategy?
An inordinate emphasis on sex and religion makes hypocrites of half of us, and fools of all. More importantly, it will permanently marginalize the party, while the opponents of our traditional principles triumph.
/s/ The Curmudgeon
Follow-up post: Open Letter to Republicans: “Big Tent” Addendum
See also: Open Letter to the Republican Party, #2.
Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.