Romney’s abandonment of social issues contributed to his defeat
November 19, 2012 (CrisisMagazine) - Television and the blogosphere were alive the day after the election with conservative pundits calling for the GOP to forget social issues, to walk away from abortion and marriage, because these issues lost Romney the election.
Big time political consultant Mike Murphy said on MSNBC that the GOP does not know how to appeal beyond its base. He specifically complained about the issue of homosexual marriage.
Another GOP big foot consultant, Matthew Dowd, said on CNN that the GOP had to drop the social issues in order to appeal to the Obama coalition of young people and women.
Former Democrat and senior Bush adviser Mark McKinnon said he joined the GOP because he was attracted not to the social issues but to George Bush’s innovative thinking on education and that the GOP stance on moral issues is a turnoff.
Michael Walsh, former Time Magazine writer and current contributor to National Review’s blog The Corner, wrote, “…lay off the social issues. Let me be blunt: Conservatives have lost that war, and last night’s defeats are just the beginning. As with Griswold and Roe, the times they are a’changing when it comes to sex. Furthermore: It doesn’t matter. True, the eternal verities remain, well, eternal verities, but quoting random passages from the Old Testament to justify contemporary American mores is just nuts…” Can Walsh please show us exactly who in the pro-life movement is quoting random passages from the Old Testament?
The editors of National Review posted an editorial that asserted, “There is certainly no reason for Republicans to stop defending the right to life, and little prospect that they will. Too many social conservatives have, however, embraced a self-defeating approach to politics—falling, to take a painful example, for Todd Akin’s line that his withdrawal from the Missouri Senate race would be a defeat for their causes. It would have been an advance. And while we continue to believe same-sex marriage is a grave mistake, calls for a constitutional amendment against it are now quixotic.” This is such an odd thing to write. I don’t know of any pro-lifer who “fell” for any such Akin argument, and I don’t know of any group that is actively campaigning for a federal marriage amendment any longer.
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I wonder if these folks experienced the same campaign as the rest of us? Exactly when did Mitt Romney campaign, I mean really campaign on the life issues? What ads did he run? Perhaps they were thinking of the Romney ad meant to quell pro-choice concerns, the one telling folks they shouldn’t worry because he still favored abortion for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother? And perhaps these conservatives could show us the ads Romney ran supporting historical marriage, because I missed those and I live in what was one of the hottest of swing states, Virginia.
I might be able to understand these comments if Romney had actually run as a social conservative, but his race was first, last and always about the economy, smaller government, lower taxes, things to warm the cockles of almost any fiscal conservative. But where and when did he actually campaign as a social conservative?
Sure, sure, these things were in the party platform, and when asked about them he would parrot some ill thought out talking points. He said while he was against abortion he favored the exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. He was so unpracticed on this issue that he seemed not to know that the health exception in Doe v Bolton was what got us to abortion on demand in the first place.
He also said he had no legislative plans on the life issues but that he would reinstate Mexico City Policy and defunding of UNFPA. Is this really what his adviser gave him to say? I dare say that most rank and file pro-lifers have never heard of either Mexico City Policy or UNFPA. Such easy promises are held out as the tiniest of sops to pro-life leaders but in no way give anyone pro-life credentials.
Romney did say he would defund Planned Parenthood but he never said why. He could have pointed out that there are several thousand Title X clinics not connected to Planned Parenthood that do everything Planned Parenthood does except abortions. He could have pointed out that Planned Parenthood raises a billion dollars a year and in time of fiscal crisis perhaps our money is spent better elsewhere. He could have said Planned Parenthood does not do mammograms no matter what they say. He could have said losing federal funding would hardly close Planned Parenthood down. But he didn’t say any of these things.
The decision not to run a campaign on social issues was made at the top and was ruthlessly imposed all the way to the smallest of campaign events. My wife spoke at a very small event on one of those religious freedom days. In her talk she mentioned that abortion would be included in the HHS mandate. This was by no means a pro-life talk and it was in front of no more than ten people. Afterwards the low level Romney campaign twerp berated the event organizer for allowing abortion even to be mentioned.
Whether Team Romney knew it or not, there were three straight up pro-life votes in the states this time around. Two of them passed including one in liberal Massachusetts. And while it’s true historical marriage lost for the very first time in at least three states, in each of these very liberal states, pro-marriage forces ran ahead of Romney at the polls.
Here’s the thing. Most young people are pro-life. Most young women are pro-life. Most African-Americans are both pro-life and pro-family. These are three of the demographic groups Obama went after and won. Talk to African American pro-lifers. They were aching to help Romney but Romney was not interested in them. And they are livid. Team Romney left lots of voters behind who were eager to help and now the pundits blame them for Romney’s loss.
All along there was a war over women and it was fought exclusively by Barack Obama. There was a campaign run on the social issues but it was run exclusively by Barack Obama. Mitt Romney ceded the entire ground of the moral issues to Barack Obama and he ran right over Mitt Romney and his timid advisers.
This article first appeared at Crisis Magazine and is reprinted with permission.