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What Conservatives can learn from the election about the “social issues”

Election night 2012 was particularly emotional for me.  Two of my children were voting for the first time, on issues that were directly consequential to them.  We live in Washington State, and my eldest daughter is gay.  Marriage equality has been long-debated in our family, and after many years of points and counter-points, statistics and studies, I was finally persuaded to support its passage.  Marriage is an inherently conservative institution, and I believe broadening the marriage community is a positive step.  Also, it tells the government they cannot prohibit my daughter from marrying who she likes.

I have long been opposed to drug prohibition; I found William F. Buckley, Jr. incredibly persuasive on this topic back in the ’90s.  I don’t use drugs, nor do I intend to, and neither do my children.  But to all of us, we saw an opportunity to scale back the reach of the government into an area it does not seem it belongs: in what we grow and put into our bodies.  Being a family of color, we also saw an opportunity to remove a tool of governmental oppression towards our community as a potent reason, as well.

But what really struck me about this election was the sheer joy and exultation among supporters of these causes across the nation.  From Maine to Maryland to Colorado to Washington, you saw hugs and tears and cheers and celebration over a very important thing:  Freedom from an oppressive government.

How often do we get to see this kind of emotion in response to legislation?  How often do we see crowds cheering over the removal of government from their lives?

These are our people.  This should be our time. They have tasted the power that freedom from government brings.  Is there any reason to doubt they wouldn’t welcome more?

When we are able to articulate where government stifles the aspirations of a population, we will win support and cheer limits on government.  When we spend time and focus and resources on issues not connected to the day to day lives of the populace, they will turn to those who do.

The focus on preventing tax increases for the wealthy is a waste of time, and as far as I can tell, and does little to advance a limited government cause.  The focus on advancing new government powers to prevent abortion, to prevent gay marriage, to maintain the war on drugs, and other expansions of governmental power dilutes our message and turns voters off.  They voted against oppressive government.  They voted for increased freedom.

As long as we are the party of “different government” rather than “limited government,” we only offer an echo, not a choice.

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