At the time of the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage this summer, it seemed to me that by ruling as it did, the Supreme Court had involuntarily handed many conservatives a great opportunity to move beyond the issue of gay marriage in ways that they hadn’t in the past. Instead of making it a social or cultural issue, many conservatives could have sidestepped the issue entirely by talking more about economic issues and questions of taxation and state-sponsored benefits instead.
After all, the plaintiff in the case which challenged the Defense of Marriage Act was moved to file suit largely because of the estate taxes she incurred when her partner passed away. So instead of viewing it as a social or cultural issue, they could have taken up the cause of greatly reducing estate taxes for all regardless of marital status.
While I’m obviously biased on the issue, it seems to me that running on an anti-gay agenda is not a winning issue for conservatives. I recognize that social conservatives played a very big role in the Reagan revolution, and I acknowledge that social conservatives are still an important part of the base that the Republican Party needs to keep winning elections. But I believe that there are ways to accommodate social conservatives without alienating other potential voters. Talking about court appointments is one way of doing this, because one needn’t be a social conservative to believe that the court should focus more on applying and interpreting the actual intent of the Constitution rather than legislating from the bench. Likewise, one can have an honest debate about tax policy and whether or not it is in the state’s interest to carve out special exceptions for marriage or whether the state should get out of the marriage business all together and just simplify the tax code instead.
There are some signs that more and more Republican are getting this message. On September 11 of this year, Politico reported on a survey that showed that more and more Republicans are embracing libertarian views about government. (Hat Tip: The Blaze.)
FreedomWorks commissioned a national survey of registered voters last month, shared first with POLITICO, that finds 78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
It’s not that Republicans are suddenly self-identifying as “libertarians” and devouring Ayn Rand novels, but more that they seem to be embracing underlying libertarian priorities and views about the role of government.
The Politico piece goes on to quote the Republican pollster who ran the poll saying that more and more voters are disturbed by both the size and the intrusiveness of government in the Obama era:
Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who ran the poll, said she’s seeing a spike in voters who feel the government is too expensive, invasive and expansive.
“The perfect storm is being created between the NSA, the IRS, the implementation of Obamacare and now Syria,” she said. “People are looking at the government more suspiciously. They’re looking with deeper scrutiny and reasonable suspicion.”
It all sounds great so far from my perspective. I think this is a direction that Republicans need to embrace to be able to win significantly in the future.
And then, there’s the sad case of Virginia. I first heard of Ken Cuccinelli when he was elected Attorney General of Virginia in 2009, in an election that many viewed as a sign of trouble ahead for the Democrats in 2010. I knew he had played a large role in fighting Obamacare and in bringing the fight to the Supreme Court, and so it seemed to me that he would have a good chance of being elected Governor of Virginia this year, especially since he is running against corrupt Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe. Over the summer, though, I kept hearing that Cuccinelli was not doing well against McAuliffe in the polls, and I wondered why that might be.