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Sarah Palin, social conservatives and the Republican Party

By Scott Tibbs, November 10, 2008

Leftists in the Democratic Party and "moderates" in the Republican Party are pointing to Sarah Palin as the reason John McCain lost, and both groups are arguing that the Republican Party needs to jettison or marginalize social conservatives if the GOP hopes to be successful in future elections. The argument lacks factual basis and ignores recent political history, including the election results of last week. Republicans will do great damage to their chances of victory in 2010 and 2012 by pushing social conservatives aside in favor of a more "big tent" party.

When Palin was announced as McCain's choice for Vice President, she immediately closed the "enthusiasm gap" between the Republican and Democratic activist bases. Palin's life story, especially regarding Trig Palin, resonated with social conservatives and provided a significant contrast with Barack Obama's aggressive advocacy of abortion "rights". Had it not been for Palin, McCain's margin of loss would probably have been larger than it was. Had McCain picked abortion "rights" advocate Joe Lieberman as his Vice Presidential nominee, it would have been a disaster.

Are social conservatives hurting the Republican Party? How quickly we forget 2004, when "values voters" pulled President Bush out of the fire and were a major reason why he was re-elected. How quickly we forget 2006, when Democrats recruited a number of anti-abortion candidates to run for Congress, including Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly in Indiana. Ellsworth and Donnelly unseated Republican incumbents John Hostettler and Chris Chocola two years ago, and both won re-election by comfortable margins this year. If social conservatives are harming the Republican Party, why were Democrats openly recruiting anti-abortion candidates to run for Congress?

In addition, the same minority voters who overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama also voted in large numbers for ballot measures prohibiting homosexual marriage. 70% of black voters in California supported Proposition 8, and the significant black turnout for Obama probably sealed the passage of the amendment to California's constitution. In addition, Jonah Goldberg points out that when Florida's ballot initiative prohibiting homosexual marriage passed, "the cushion came from blacks, who voted 71 percent in favor, and Latinos, who voted 64 percent in favor."

Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States for two reasons: he won and John McCain lost. Obama presented a positive agenda for "change" and gave voters a reason to vote for him, not just a reason to vote against McCain. All McCain had was the argument that an Obama administration will be bad for the country, with little (if any) positive reasons to vote for the GOP nominee. In fact, Palin presented the only real reason to vote for McCain, because of her socially conservative influence in a possible McCain administration and the fact that a McCain victory would place her as the front runner for 2012. It was not enough for me, though. I still voted for Bob Barr.

So why did McCain lose Indiana? First, Obama outworked him. McCain's organization on the ground did not compare to what Obama had. I had Obama volunteers knock on my door three times this year, including once before the primary when I was a candidate on the Republican primary ballot for precinct committeeman and delegate to the GOP state convention. After George W. Bush won Indiana by a comfortable margin in 2004 and with Mitch Daniels dominating his Democratic rival with 57.8% of the vote last week, there is no reason a Republican candidate should have lost Indiana. Put bluntly, McCain lost Indiana because he deserved to lose Indiana.

Now is not the time for Republicans to get wimpy about abortion and sexual morality. Tuesday's election results show that blacks and Latinos already agree with Republicans on preserving traditional marriage, and that represents an opportunity for Republicans to finally make inroads with minority voters. Furthermore, social conservatives represent a huge part of the Republican Party's activist base. That a few country club Republicans disliked Sarah Palin should not cause Republicans to panic and commit political suicide.