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Christie Todd Whitman, like so many disgruntled politicos who see their worldview being coopted by a shift in the political landscape, has written a book slamming the conservative shift in the Republican Party. She offers some advice on how to increase the Republican base in It’s My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America. She contends that the party has been taken over by zealous “social fundamentalists.” If that were only true.
The GOP is a big tent operation already; it’s more to the center than to the right. There’s an underground tolerance and even promotion of the homosexual agenda among party operatives. Bush has even supported homosexual “unions” at the state level even though he’s sponsored a marriage amendment to the Constitution (something that will never pass). It’s only been in the last four years that Christian conservatives—Whitman’s “social fundamentalists”—were reenergized enough to vote in terms of values and moral absolutes because they began to see that tolerance had become advocacy. George H. Bush and Bob Dole downplayed moral issues, conservatives stayed home, and the Republicans lost at the national level. With the rise of homosexual activism growing bolder at the state level, starting in Massachusetts with the state Supreme Court ruling favorably on homosexual marriages, social morality became a front-burner issue again. Social conservatives saved the GOP in 2004.
At this moment in time, the GOP seems to be the only place where social conservatives can get a hearing and actually have an impact. If the Republican Party takes Whitman’s advice, then the GOP will be lost. Any thought of the GOP putting the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Rudy Giuliani up as a presidential candidate in 2008 will mean almost certain defeat.
While Whitman’s book has not been released to the general public, the product description on Amazon.com and her publisher’s site gives us a good indication what’s between the covers.
Relentlessly pushing their ideological stances on abortion rights, race relations, the environment, tax policy, and go-it-alone foreign policy, the conservative extremists are not only violating traditional Republican principles, she argues, but are also holding the party back from achieving a true majority. . . . By playing so slavishly to the far-right base, running negative campaigns and marginalizing women, the party has forsaken the much broader base that propelled the “Reagan revolution” and has fueled the country’s overheated polarization.
Is she nuts? Since the 2004 election, conservatives have increased their numbers across the board because of the moral vote. Did she read any of the news reports after the election? The “values vote” was written about everywhere. The left is in such disarray that it can only filibuster Bush’s judicial nominees. Why should the Republicans move to the left when they are winning on the perception that they lean to the right? If Republicans abandon their base and follow Whitman’s strategy, they will be sitting on the political sidelines. If the GOP wants to broaden its base, it should move further to the right.
From the Drudge Report “Whitman charges on page 3 [of her book] that Bush’s three-percentage-point margin in the popular vote is the lowest of any incumbent president ever to win reelection, the Washington Post reports in coming editions.” Think about this for a moment. Ronald Reagan, certainly more conservative than both Bushes, won two landslide elections. Against Mondale, Reagan only lost one state—Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. Mondale couldn’t even win the Senate seat left vacant by Paul Wellstone after his death in 2002. George H. Bush also won big in 1988 because of the perception that he would continue the Reagan legacy. When he broke his “no new taxes” promises, conservatives deserted him. Jimmy Carter is Whitman’s type of moderate, and he lost big time to a super conservative. The fact that Bush won when two incumbents (Carter and the elder Bush) lost goes unnoticed by Whitman.
We should thank Whitman for writing It’s My Party, Too. It can serve as a handbook for every Republican strategist and candidate on what not to do to win elections. As Christians, our long-term goal should be remaking the GOP in terms of what I’ve outlined in my three-volume God and Government series.