Yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union, Candy Crowley asked Ron Paul about the new focus in national politics on social issues and whether a national debate focusing on them would help Republicans in November. Paul called it a “losing position,” but neglects to mention that he has campaigned on his opposition to abortion at least since the Ames straw poll, an omission caught by CNS News:
“Do you–are you uncomfortable–certainly Rick Santorum is the one who has been in the forefront of some of this talk on social issues, but there have been others in the race,” Crowley asked Paul. “Are you uncomfortable with this talk about social issues? Do you consider it a winning area for Republicans in November?”
“No,” said Paul. “I think it’s a losing position.
“I mean, I talk about it because I have a precise understanding of how difficult problems are to be solved,” Paul continued. “And they’re not to be at the national level. We’re not supposed to nationalize these problems. The founders were very clear that problems like this, if there needs to be legislation of sorts, the state has the right to write the legislation that they so choose. And that solves a lot of our problems.”
Back on Dec. 19, Paul signed the “Personhood Pledge” published by PersonhoodUSA. This pledge says in part: “I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting ‘the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,’ and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I ‘support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.”
The current context of the debate on social issues hinges on federal mandates, a point which Paul acknowledges in this interview. Why would that be a loser? It’s practically the entire context of his campaign — reducing the power of federal government to issue the kind of mandates like the HHS mandate for employers to essentially provide free contraception to their employees. Tying that in with social issues should make the argument stronger, at least if it’s handled correctly.
Matt Lewis argues that not only is Paul wrong, but history shows that Republicans do well when social issues are in play:
As Jeffrey Bell’s forthcoming book (per the Wall Street Journal’s review) notes,
“Social issues were nonexistent in the period 1932 to 1964. … The Republican Party won two presidential elections out of nine, and they had the Congress for all of four years in that entire period.
“. . . When social issues came into the mix—I would date it from the 1968 election . . . the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections.”
As much as moderate Republicans and cosmopolitan conservatives might lament the resurrection of the culture wars (which were foisted upon us, and appear to have been rekindled once again by liberal overreach), they were electorally fruitful for the GOP.
What is more, the notion that running on the economy (what Mr. Romney presumably seems comfortable doing) is a panacea, is dubious. The economy appears to be recovering (at least, the unemployment rate is dropping), a point which will obviously make it harder, should the trend continue, to oust Obama.
Even more to the point, history does not seem indicate that a struggling economy — regardless of who is to blame — or who currently occupies the White House — will benefit the Republican candidate in a general election. (This, of course, is controversial. Jimmy Carter’s handling of the economy was surely one cause of his 1980 defeat, but would he have been defeated had it not been for the Iranian hostages?)
If the economy starts heating up — which the CBO, among many others, predicts won’t happen — the election will have to hinge on larger, basic issues of limited power and Obama’s overreach. If we shy away from challenging Obama on those positions now, we probably won’t have a candidate willing to do it in November.