ERICKSON: Tossing social conservatives

November 16, 2012 

Since Election Day the Republican Party has been inundated with demands to ditch social conservatives from the party. The Republican establishment in Washington is whispering it. They look at Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock and conclude that they, not Tommy Thompson, Heather Wilson, George Allen, Scott Brown, etc. (losers all) are the problem.

It is time to get rid of the social conservatives.

What’s really going on here is that the people who voted for Mitt Romney, but who disagree with social conservatives, have decided the social conservatives must be the problem. They cannot explain Romney’s loss any other way.

This is a psychological avoidance of larger issues and does not stack up to the data. Romney won about a quarter of the Hispanic vote and a tenth of the black vote. Those numbers may not sound like much, but in close elections they matter.

A sizable portion of those voters voted Republican because they are social conservatives first. Many of them align with the Democrats on fiscal issues, but their heart is with Republicans on social issues.

Throwing out the social conservatives will throw out those existing black and Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters are the most socially conservative voters in the country. They have a connection to Republicans on social issues they lack on fiscal issues.

Tossing social conservatives also tosses half the existing Republican base. Republicans would not offset that loss with Democrats who suddenly think they can now vote Republican. Most of those people don’t like fiscal conservatism either -- often though claiming that they do.

Romney is perhaps the shiftiest person to ever run for president of the United States. He shifted his position on virtually every issue except Romneycare. Of all the politicians to ever run for office, he’d be the one most likely to come out and, after the Republican convention, change his mind and support abortion and gay marriage.

Had he done that, he’d have even less votes.

You may mentally decide to escape having to deal with the other implications of this election, that if only the GOP would abandon its social conservatism it would do better. But if you do, go find yourself a new coalition because you won’t have half the votes the GOP has now. Good luck with that. In fact, if the GOP really wanted to expand with minorities, it’d keep the social conservatism and throw out the fiscal conservatism.

Richard Mourdock was one of the two poster children for abandoning social conservatives this year. He was beaten by a pro-life Democrat. Missouri voters rejected pro-life Todd Akin in favor of Claire McCaskill, then expanded the number of pro-lifers in the Missouri General Assembly.

The problem is not social conservatism. The problem is social conservatives have gotten so used to thinking of themselves as the majority they’ve forgotten how to speak to those who are not and defend against those who accuse them of being on the fringe, most particularly the media. Couple that with Romney’s campaign making a conscious decision to not fight back on the cultural front and you have a bunch of Republicans convinced, despite the facts, that if only the social conservatives would go away all would be fine.

It is not time to throw out social conservatives. It’s time to accept that without them the GOP would be an even smaller party and less able to reach out to the Hispanic demographic the smart people say they need to embrace. Addition through subtraction never really works well.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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