GOP Needs to Rethink Positions on Economy, Foreign Policy
Talking about social issues is a bad idea for Republicans
February 28, 2012
Every day the Republican Party is talking about social issues is a bad day for the Republican Party. More so than most elections, the 2012 elections will be decided on the traditional issues that define presidential elections—foreign policy and the economy. With such enormous domestic and foreign policy challenges in front of us right now, there is going to be little room for much else this summer and fall.
Straying into social and cultural issues is dangerous territory for the GOP. It undermines the core attack of the Republican Party on Obama—that he has taken his eye off the ball on these matters—and risks making them look feckless in a time of great national challenge. I think this perception of the lack of seriousness of the GOP in a time of great national challenge has contributed dramatically to the significant shift away from the GOP toward the Democrats we've seen over the past few months (for new numbers on this shift see this newly released Politico poll).
This election will not be about what either party has done but about what they hope to do now to get the economy going again and make the world safer and better than it is today. The current Republican debate should not leave the party optimistic that it has a strong argument on these essential matters heading into Election 2012. Mitt Romney's main arguments are little different from the ones advanced by George W. Bush, which are widely understood to have failed. Tax cuts for the wealthy did not bring about a strong and healthy economy, just as a foreign policy that relied heavily on expensive and risky military interventions and global unilateralism did not produce the gains in security the costs of such efforts should have yielded. Listening to the likely GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, it sure sounds as if the GOP has not done the big rethink required from the failures of Republicans' governance last time they were in power.
But perhaps that is why the GOP is so comfortable venturing into social and cultural conversations these days. For on the two issues that will define 2012—foreign and economic policy—Republicans' current batch of arguments simply is inadequate for the complex and vital moment in history we find ourselves in. And until they fix that, they should not expect to be able to make up the ground they've lost against President Obama and the Democrats in the past few months.