Are Republicans Distancing Themselves From the Social Issues?

In Texas, a major debate over a piece of abortion legislation has prompted two special sessions of the Legislature and protests by hundreds on both sides. As pro-choice advocates get the support of notable Democratic politicians, including President Barack Obama, the national GOP has been relatively silent over the tense social issue.

According to David Nather of Politico, even as Democrats have received support from without the Lone Star State, Republican leadership "hasn't latched onto the fight."

"Few national Republicans have weighed in. And a key party official in Texas acknowledged there's no behind-the-scenes help coming, though he says he doesn't need it," wrote Nather. "Republicans will talk about the abortion bill when they're asked about it, but they aren't swooping into the fight with the same enthusiasm as liberals."

A similar situation came after the Supreme Court rendered its decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.

While the Republican-dominated House of Representatives helped the effort to defend DOMA in court, John Parkinson of ABC News argued the GOP reaction to the decisions was "almost entirely muted."

"Scores of Democrats [in Congress] tweeted their excitement and agreement with the Court when the decision was announced," wrote Parkinson. "House Speaker John Boehner held a previously scheduled news conference at the Capitol, but when he was asked to react to the Courts decision, he punted."

Could this silence on such headline-grabbing news items regarding abortion and same-sex marriage be an indicator of a party moving away from its socially conservative views?

Raffi Williams, deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, told The Christian Post that no such distancing was taking place.

"As the Chairman said earlier this year we are for changing minds – not changing values. In our Growth and Opportunity Project we have laid out a path that will allow us to reach all Americans without abandoning our platform," said Williams.

"As a result of the project we have people across the country discussing what it means to be a Republican, including Chad Connelly who is our Director of Faith Engagement."

2012 Presidential Election Fallout

Concern by some over the standing of the social conservative viewpoints in the Republican platform became a major conversational topic due to the 2012 election.

As certain states voted to legalize same-sex marriage, marijuana, and gambling, an incumbent president who had openly advocated for marriage equality and full abortion access won re-election with a comfortable lead.

By contrast, Republican candidates like Todd Akin found themselves losing their races due to being perceived as being extremist over their views on abortion. This led some to conclude that the social issues were to blame for the 2012 "disaster."

Others countered that the GOP's losses could be attributed to other factors playing a larger role, such as the Republican Party's views on immigration and health care.

Evangelical Christians who belong to the Grand Old Party countered that their voting bloc is too important and abandoning conservative social views could result in large-scale defections.

Who Should Leave?

The debate over how the GOP should address the socially conservative part of its base could be found on the webpages of The Christian Post in April.

Edward Hudgins, director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society, wrote in a column that the GOP would benefit from allowing "social conservative 'extremists' to leave."

"Former Arkansas governor and presidential contender Mike Huckabee threatens that if Republicans embrace same-sex marriage and ignore the religious right agenda, he will lead evangelicals and social conservatives out of the GOP," wrote Hudgins.

"Republican leaders should take him up on his offer and let 'em walk! Otherwise the extreme social conservatives will relegate the GOP to the dustbin of history."

Jennifer Thieme, director of Finance & Advancement for the Ruth Institute, countered in a CP op-ed in response to Hudgins that "social liberals are the true extremists."

"Social liberals probably think that by supporting gay marriage, they are supporting a policy that is based on limited government and freedom," wrote Thieme. "Almost none of these can explain the exact legal changes that must be made to accommodate gays into marriage. It is these legal changes that are so highly problematic, and are so extreme."

Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition, told The Christian Post that the issue has more to do with the consultants of the GOP than its base or the American public.

"The problems the party has, has more to do with consultants who mistakenly believe that the party needs to 'moderate' in order to win, which has yet to be proven at the ballot box," said Combs.

"The simple fact is that conservatives make up the greater share of the American electorate, and it doesn't help to have candidates that let the media spook them into running away from our principles. When those principles are embraced, we win."

When asked by CP about what would happen if the GOP did become more socially liberal in its platform, Combs responded that millions of Republicans would stay home.

"More conservatives will stay home and the Republicans will have a harder time winning elections," said Combs.

"The results of the presidential election had more to do with the millions of conservatives who stayed home as opposed to more Americans agreeing with Obama's liberal agenda."

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