With Mitt Romney now the presumptive Republican nominee, the battle for the 2012 Presidency has begun in earnest. And, as is not uncommon, the outcome of this year's race is expected to hinge on that slice of the electorate that doesn't pledge fealty to any political party, the so-called independent voters. According to a recent article in the New York Times, many top Republican strategists are concerned that a growing focus on social issues by the Party's base has the potential to alienate Independents from the ticket this fall. Victory lies, they insist, with the candidate that makes the most compelling economic argument to Independents. Any distraction from this issue, they maintain, cedes political ground to the other side. What these GOP insiders fail to understand, however, is that the future of the country is more important to grassroots conservatives than the future of the Republican Party, and that economic health and prosperity is not sustainable without a robust moral and cultural foundation.
The growing trend of state-level legislation aimed at addressing key social issues like abortion, gun control, working rights, and education reflects a deep concern among traditional conservatives that the country is on the wrong track. A Republican Party that chooses to tiptoe around the systemic corrosion of vital cultural institutions like marriage and family, that elects to ignore the devaluation of the sanctity of life and liberty all for the sake of one election cycle is a party suffering from the worst kind of political myopathy – a willingness to trade the long term health of the country for short term electoral gain. This brand of "pragmatism" has never carried much weight with social conservatives, who believe that certain foundational principles should be defended regardless of the political consequences. For them the political process is merely one vehicle by which individuals come together in pursuit of greater ends, not – as many Beltway careerists view it – as an end it itself. Republican king-makers and policy strategists who fail to appreciate the values and vision that motivate the traditional base of the GOP will find that base more than willing to look elsewhere for representation.