First I would like to clarify that social conservatism should not be a focal point of a GOP platform for the foreseeable future. The fiscal issues of jobs, the tax code, the national debt, and so on should continue to be the central focus of the party. However, if we conservatives abandon the social issues altogether, many Christians especially in the South will simply not bother to vote.
There are three issues that conservatives must be open to new ideas on. We must think about whether our presentation of our principles will attract people to our party or if they will drive people away. We must be pragmatic in our thinking, and we cannot come off as a father would when scolding his child. People do not want multiple fathers in their lives to scold them; rather, they want wise people who they can trust that recommend sound, reasonable solutions to problems.
How does this translate into good policy positions? The three areas of interest are gay marriage, drugs, and abortion.
As far as gay marriage is concerned, I think a good idea is to be vocally supportive of civil unions. Instead of appearing to want to limit gays’ rights, how about supporting their freedom to legally unite while respecting the institution of marriage by leaving it as it is? Let’s let gay people (and others who care a lot about gay people) know that they will not be frowned upon in or by our party. Let’s let them know that we are strongly supportive of things like hospital visitation rights, interstate recognition of civil unions, and other attractive things to them. If gay adoption is important to them, let it happen.
We cannot be known as the party that is always around telling people what they can’t do. Let’s move more in the direction of being the freedom party, the Reagan party that says government is the problem and not the solution, the liberty party. Now, this cannot be carried on to every single case involving life, but as far as gays are concerned, let’s take on a more positive, inclusive message.
On drugs, America needs new ideas. Drugs are being fought against strongly but with mediocre success; the vast majority of freed drug users from prison use again. Furthermore, there are lots of undesirable side effects that come from our efforts, namely hundreds of overcrowded prisons and governments spending huge sums of money to incarcerate drug-related offenders.
I have a new idea for the drug issue. Instead of imprisoning users, how about we have police issue citations with fines (like they do with traffic violations) for pot users to discourage them from doing it. A citation-with-fine system could not only drastically help cut down on big budgets (and deficits) among the feds, states, and localities, but we could downsize our prisons. I think a change of course could be a good idea for the drug problem. Instead of taking users’ time away from them, let’s try discouraging drug use by targeting where it hurts the most: in the pocketbook.
On abortion, I am not proposing a policy shift. However, we should make sure our tone on the issue is not that of nay-saying, but one of forward-thinking optimism. Instead of condemning parents who are considering abortion and making them feel like we are overbearing, let’s show them how wonderful life is, how valuable life is, how great parenting is, how great even safe sex is (and the GOP isn’t going after birth control or contraceptives), how their child could be the next Bill Gates and we want them to live a long life with great opportunities and freedom, how we support child tax credits, how Republican politicians are helping run great schools that their child can excel at, how we understand that in some circumstances (life of the mother, rape, incest) that abortion is necessary, and so on. We need a positive message, not a message that drives people away from us. Is an optimistic tone used with the life issue in many places throughout the country already? Absolutely. Let’s get more aggressively positive with it on a national level.
With gays, we should support civil unions. With drugs, we should switch from prison time to fines. On abortion, we should exclude rape, incest, and the life of the mother. But above all, beyond the policy adjustments that need to happen, the fabric that holds the promise that these areas can bring for the GOP together is our tone, our message that we need to convey to people. Instead of being Scrooges, let’s be lovable, wise Mufasas about it.