Congratulations, Governor Romney! After a long, strange, and tireless primary season, the GOP seems ready to commit. As the former Governor of my fair homeland, I urge you to avoid the moderate-Republican approach that led you to become the leader of the Commonwealth.
If we are going to win this November, the Republican candidate must run conservatively, and I don’t mean just fiscally. The Republican nominee for the 2012 election cycle should boast a hearty social conservative agenda too.
Personally, Governor Romney has always appeared socially conservative, but publicly, it is well known that he has gone with popular opinion concerning his stance on social issues. But if history shows us one thing, it is the GOP only ever wins when with a strong social conservative voice on the ticket.
Examine Republican victories in the White House since the reformation of the Republican Party in 1964. After the defeat of Barry Goldwater, the Republicans underwent a transformation with a younger generation of voters who were keen on capturing the true conservatism that Goldwater preached. The GOP captured the White House for nearly twenty years, with the brief exception of President Carter’s term in 1976. And had it not been for Watergate, who knows where the presidency would have gone. However, if Carter’s term benefited anyone, it was the landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
After Goldwater’s defeat, the GOP nominated Richard Nixon. Nixon ran on a platform of strong fiscal conservatism as well as social conservative values, especially in terms of foreign relations. Nixon captured America for two consecutive terms. Entering the White House in the midst of the Vietnam War, Nixon was a strong proponent of strengthening the U.S. hegemonic power and limiting foreign aid.
Then came the 1976 Presidential elections between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Ford attempted to run a campaign that emphasized the differences between himself and the former President Nixon. Socially, many speculate that Ford may have been pro-choice, however, at that time the term was not used as widespread as it is today. In an interview, some years later, Ford expressed worry that the GOP had traveled too far to the right. Ford’s opponent, Jimmy Carter, represents many of the ideologies of President Obama. Carter advocated for undocumented workers, began the process of developing universal health coverage, and strengthened the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
We can learn many things from the 1980 election between GOP hero Ronald Reagan and Carter. Reagan ran in opposition to the liberal policies enacted under the Carter administration. Since we are able to draw many comparisons between Carter and Obama, we can hopefully utilize this against Obama this November.
Reagan represents the best of the GOP. During his campaign he not only voiced concerns over Carter’s presidential record but also promoted a renewal of spiritual revival in America, with legislation to legalize school prayer and limit abortions. Reagan ran conservatively, both fiscally and socially, and effectively criticized the Carter administration for their leftist legislation.
1988 saw the campaign for the presidency between Vice President George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. Dukakis ran a liberal agenda with a party that was less than enthusiastic to nominate him. For Bush, the election was easy. He ran on a social and fiscal agenda that replicated that of former President Ronald Reagan. With a fractured Democrat Party, the victory was a landslide. From 1988, Romney and the GOP can also learn a lesson of commitment. What we need in 2012 is enthusiasm to counteract the pop-culture status that President Obama generates.
With 1992 we saw the fracture of the Republican Party between President Bush and Ross Perot, an independent candidate. A party fracture would only further hurt Romney’s chances and what we need more than ever is a strong, unified GOP.
Senator Robert Dole was nominated on the Republican ticket in 1996. Dole ran on moderate conservative convictions as a response to the moderate liberal positions that Clinton took. Be prepared for President Obama’s policy positions to move more to the middle as November approaches. He’s smart; he knows a Democrat rarely wins with a socialist agenda.
With that, we reach the elections of 2000 and 2004, which are interesting in their differences. President Bush barely won victory in 2000, and unsurprisingly he ran on a moderate platform. Then in 2004, Bush returned with a social conservative platform, at the heart of which was the issue of gay marriage. Legalization of gay marriage was on the ballot in thirteen states, which Karl Rove posits drove voters to the ballot box. The rise of Evangelical Christian voters necessitated that Bush run with an increased conservative agenda. He won an easy handed victory against Senator John Kerry; Bush carrying thirty-one states versus Kerry’s nineteen.
Then perhaps come the elections from which Romney can learn the most. Senator John McCain, while an American hero, is also a moderate conservative at best. In the election of 2008, he ran a hearty battle against President Barack Obama, which resulted in his defeat. Obama ran on a platform of economics, while stealthily avoiding social topics because he knew his positions might turn off the independent voter. Obama and his staff also knew his positions mirrored those of his competitor. For example, both Obama and McCain opposed same-sex marriage, had advocated for campaign finance reform, and supported policy to control “climate change.” In 2008, then Senator Obama had little foreign policy experience when compared to McCain’s years serving in the military, so Obama focused on his strengths. Obama has spent the past few years enhancing his foreign policy prowess and he will use this to his advantage when facing debates against former Governor Romney.
So, let me remind you of Barry Goldwater’s words: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” What we need this fall is a strong, fiscally and socially conservative candidate who will clearly represent the ideals and beliefs of the GOP. I plead with the Romney campaign to do just this, and allow history to do the reasoning.