The recent upset victory by Republican candidate David Jolly for the open seat in Florida's 13th congressional district, a district carried by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, has produced a rush of excitement in Republican circles.
This coupled with polling data - Americans are increasingly unhappy with our president, with his signature health care law, with an economy still far from recovery, and with perceived weak American leadership on the international stage – is producing Republican optimism about 2014 mid-term election prospects and about 2016.
But while unhappy voters may favor the party out of power, it takes more to fix a broken nation. Elections are just a means to an end, the end being making improvements for a better, stronger nation.
Abraham Lincoln observed, regarding public opinion, that "With it, nothing can fail; against it nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statues, or pronounces judicial decisions."
Lincoln's notion of leadership meant molding public opinion, not genuflecting before it. Real political leadership means pushing public opinion toward one's conviction of what is right.
Major demographic changes taking place today favoring the big government, moral relativism of the Democratic Party means Republicans face increasingly formidable challenges to mold popular opinion toward the conservative agenda of limited government and traditional values.
Let's recall what these major challenges are.
The majority of Americans are now dependent in some way on government. Now 70 percent of government spending goes out as direct payments to individuals, compared to less than 30 percent in 1970. So cutting government spending means many individuals giving up checks. Not so easy.
America is becoming less white. Recall that Barack Obama was elected in 2012 with just 38 percent of the white vote. The overall electorate in 2012 was 72 percent white compared to 88 percent in 1980. Non- white Americans – blacks, Hispanics, and Asians – are a strong voting block for the Democratic Party. Republicans must convince some percentage of them that conservative principles are in their interest.
And America is becoming less married. Democrats win the unmarried vote and Republicans win the married vote. In 2012, Barack Obama won 62 percent of unmarrieds and Mitt Romney won 56 percent of marrieds.
Although Democrats like to ballyhoo about a supposed Republican problem with women, it is a problem with single women. In 2012, Barack Obama got 67 percent of the single women vote while Mitt Romney won 53 percent of married women.
In 1960, 72 percent of American adults were married compared to 51 percent in 2010. So the decline of marriage and the increasing preponderance of singles is another clear trend favoring Democrat Party big government, moral relativist policies.
These very real trends constitute a major culprit in the increasing tension within the Republican Party. One part of the party is throwing up its hands up in surrender, resigned that conservative candidates can no longer win national elections. Conservatives, on the other hand, say we cannot abandon what is vital for fixing the nation. In the spirit of Lincoln, conservatives want to lead and mold opinion in communities that never hear this message.
In the end, the question is what you believe to be true.
Republicans who think that America can recover its strength, prosperity, and greatness despite the collapse of the American family, with half our babies born to unwed mothers, with abortion used as birth control, and with most Americans on the government dole in one way or another, can abandon conservative principles in pursuit of possible short term political gains.
But conservatives, who truly believe that these social pathologies lie at the root of what is transforming a once great nation into a second-class mediocre nation, will not abandon principles and will continue to strive to mold public opinion in hope of getting America back on track.