So what do Americans care about the most? Do Americans believe, as Governor Barbour suggests, that we are first and foremost a nation of businesses, or rather, that we are a nation of interconnected families?
The leadership of the GOP has evidently decided that we are a nation of businesses, and that our wallet matters most. The only promise they will make is that they will be economic conservatives if we elect them back into power. Fiscal conservatism, it is fast becoming apparent, is the only indisputable dogma honored by the GOP leadership. You will never see GOP Chairman Steele claiming his party is a "big tent" when it comes to limiting government excess, or hear Governor Mitch Daniels say America needs a "truce" on economic issues.
Oddly enough, for a party that hopes for a majority of popular support, abandoning the social issues is a decidedly elitist move. As much as the leadership of the GOP complains about the liberal media, they are following left-wing advice when they abandon the conservative social convictions of millions of Americans. Liberal elites are clever - when they demand conservative leaders to lay down their arms on social issues, they promise no parallel disarmament.
For example, witness what happens when Republicans try to introduce language prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortions into the health care legislation, or consider what Democrats do when federal funding of embryo-destructive research is removed - they energetically push back.
Democrats do more than hold their ground on the social issues; they counter-attack and advance their ideology. Moreover, the leadership of the Democrat party supports these efforts by individual Democrats, on Capitol Hill and explicitly in their party platform.
But where are the generals of the GOP when the Family Fort is under attack? Why the temerity of the GOP to advocate for social conservatism?
On a pragmatic level, social issues are winners for Republicans. After months of back-and-forth with the American people over the economic problems posed by Obamacare, it was ultimately a social issue - federal funding of abortions - that derailed the Democrats’ plan for passage and forced their leadership to use reconciliation to pass their bill. Without the executive order photo-op (which forced the rare personal involvement of the President), the final few Democrats would not have fallen-in with Speaker Nancy Pelosi's strategy. Democrats understood that supporting taxpayer-funded abortions could be a career-ending vote, not because of money, but because of moral principle.
Most Republicans forget that abandoning social issues weakens their moral stance on fiscal issues. And whenever the GOP leadership systematically ignores social issues, related threats to our liberty fall on deaf ears. The GOP was completely absent during Judge Walker's recent example of judicial activism, when with a stroke of his pen he negated the democratically-expressed will of millions of Californians and “discovered” a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
The precedent set by Judge Walker for the judiciary branch to negate something so fundamental to state rights and autonomy as popular propositions is dangerous, not only to social issues, but to economic ones as well. Unfortunately, the GOP leadership cannot be relied upon to defend traditional marriage even when the mechanism for redefining this fundamental institution is inappropriate and harmful to our democratic institutions.
Our nation's founding fathers understood the centrality of the family to the moral and social fabric of society. Though they sought to incorporate the interest of families in a fashion repugnant in some ways to our modern understanding, their initial decision to grant the vote to only men with money and property rights revealed their conviction that the father of a family would best represent the interests of his entire family when he exercised his democratic right to vote. In the founder's minds, in other words, it was not that men mattered more, it was that fathers with families - and therefore, families themselves – mattered most, for they represented the future and bulwark of the republic. Flourishing, healthy families contribute to a flourishing, healthy state.
Nowadays Republicans promise that they will save the family farm if elected. Instead, they should promise to save and support the institution that created the family farm in the first place – the family itself.
Thomas Peters is the Communications Director of the American Principles Project.