Capturing the Reagan center

I do not believe that Republicans should “moderate” their views, as some have suggested.

The GOP needs to stick to core principles but be more realistic about how to fight for them.

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President Obama has deconstructed the electorate into special-interest or ethnic constituencies to create a winning coalition. In his first inaugural speech, he spoke of following those who fought at “Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sanh,” national symbols all. But in his second inaugural, Obama urged us to follow those who marched at “Selma (blacks), Seneca Falls (women), and Stonewall (gays),” each reference a symbol for a disparate constituency group.

The Republican Party often needlessly offends elements of the Democratic coalition — blacks by its past opposition to voting rights, Hispanics over immigration reform, gays by its antipathy to their marrying, and single women over abortion rights.

Many of these special-interest Democratic voters would vote for the GOP if Republicans were smart enough to repackage and reposition themselves slightly while keeping to central GOP doctrines of less government, less debt and less spending — ideas that resonate with the grand majority of Americans.

On immigration, many Republicans are worried that legalizing 12 million immigrants would just add to the Democratic electoral majority.

But these Republicans can still embrace immigration reform: The Rubio plan increases border security dramatically, gives current illegal immigrants work permits so they can pay taxes and creates steep restitution fees for breaking the law. And no one gets citizenship automatically.

By embracing such a plan, the GOP can gain many new voters among Hispanics. Here’s why: Polling that I have conducted suggests that Hispanic voters in the U.S. are far closer to Republican views on abortion, gay marriage, welfare, entitlements, public indebtedness, family stability, drugs and crime.

Indeed, they see Democrats as peddling the same message that their old leaders back home pushed — entitlements, debt, big government, corruption and class warfare — which created such a mess that they came to America in the first place. 

Similarly, another voter group — women and single women — doesn’t love abortion. Like most Americans, they abhor the extremes of the right (that rape is “an act of God”) and of the left (in support of very easy to obtain and third-trimester abortions). They agree that abortion is a not a good thing and should be avoided, if possible.

By focusing on Roe v. Wade, which won’t be overturned, the Republican Party is frightening female voters and, at the same time, losing the ability to enact laws to reduce abortions.

So let’s work together to reduce abortions further by a whole range of strategies, using birth control, abstinence education, waiting periods, parental notification and consent, adoption subsidies and the like. We don’t need to scare female voters into the hands of the Democrats.

On the issue of gay marriage, the GOP can make it clear that marriage is a social compact that must conform to the norms of each society. The Founding Fathers set up a wonderful system that allows almost all of the major social issues to be dealt with by state and local governments. So, if the people of a state find that marriage between gays conforms to their standard, so be it. And likewise for states that want to ban it.

But Republicans can and should resist the courts trying to jam gay marriage down our throats.

We need to stand stronger on spending, debt and taxes. These are central to our philosophy of limited government and our belief in the free-enterprise system. These issues win the support of the bulk of the American people; divisive social issues do not.

Just as the Democrats moved to the center under Bill Clinton by adopting welfare reform, Republicans need to return to the Reagan center of the party — opposing big government, decrying overregulation and working to cut our debt, public spending and tax levels.

Then Republicans can win, and win big.

Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 16 books including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.