Though the economy has dominated much of the national debate leading into November’s elections, social issues—the culture wars, as they are often called—have taken center stage as of late. Controversies bubbled over the Susan G. Komen’s funding of Planned Parenthood and an Obama administration requirement that religious institutions including Catholic charities and hospitals cover contraceptives in their employees’ health plans. Meanwhile, gay marriage proponents celebrated advancements with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington and the striking down of California’s Proposition 8—a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage—by a federal court. Furthermore, former Sen. Rick Santorum, known for his socially conservative views, has risen to the top of the GOP 2012 pack, challenging front-runner former Gov. Mitt Romney, who many conservatives have been skeptical of for his once-moderate views on social issues.
The culture wars have benefited Republicans in the past. President George W. Bush served two terms on the platform of “compassionate conservatism”—proclaiming a commitment to pro-life stances and encouraging religious organizations to address social problems like healthcare and poverty. However, the growing electorate of millennial voters tends to be more socially liberal, causing many GOP strategists to worry that young independent voters, a demographic Obama cemented in 2008 but that may be up for grabs in 2012, will be turned off by Republican stances on cultural issues. Here is the Debate Club’s take:
Simon Rosenberg President and Founder of NDN
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Jeffrey Bell Author of 'The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism'