Will GOP Learn An Evolutionary Lesson?

Republicans Not Fit To Survive

The Republicans’ actions and words at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit prove one thing: the party simply refuses to evolve. Editor Andrew Belonsky explains why the Grand Old Party needs to embrace change, look beyond the walls of social conservatism and expand its definition of family values.

The Republican president candidates made a pit stop in Washington this weekend to stump at the Values Voter Summit. Sponsored by the Family Research Council, the star-studded event serves as pulpit for right wingers to voice their political and social grievances and gives the candidates an opportunity to indulge this once-mighty voting bloc. These people – made up primarily of church-going, god-fearing citizens – continually rally around a political trinity, a trinity Mike Huckabee inadvertently describes as, “faith, family and freedom”. Unfortunately for social conservatives, this tried and true primordial political stew could lead to electoral extinction.

Huckabee’s always been a favorite of the social conservatives and no doubt he made some new friends this weekend. The affable, handsome Governor from Arkansas started his concise speech with a few attempts at humor, including a jab at Al Gore and a social security zinger. Says Huckabee:

Some 10,000 baby boomers a day are going to be signing up for Social Security, and if you think that’s bad economic news, just wait till all the old, aging hippies find out they can get free drugs from the federal government!

Huckabee’s jokes would make me chuckle if I weren’t choking on so much dust.

Comedic criticism aside, Huckabee succeeded in summing up the social conservatives’ so-called values with this statement: “The new value needs to be the old value. We believe in some things. We stand by those things. We live or die by those things.” Huckabee and his Republican pals may, in fact, die by those things.

Now, I don’t mean to question Huckabee’s choice of words, but there’s a saying that’s particularly appropriate for his politics – and, in fact, the entire election season. Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before and forgive any repetition: “Only the strong survive.” Nice, huh? Sort of tickles the tongue. That phrase sprang from another adage, one coined 143 years ago by British theorist Herbert Spencer. Spencer, in turn, thought of the phrase after reading On The Origin of The Species, in which Charles Darwin describes “natural selection”, the cornerstone of Evolution.

Society has now been divided into two camps: those who believe in evolution and those who have no faith in Darwin’s findings. The latter group stick to their sacred guns: God created man in his image. There’s no evolution, there’s been no change, nor should there be any change. End of story. Period. Amen.
The Republican party’s guided by anti-evolution thinking. In fact, a Gallup poll from June of this year says that 68% of the Grand Old Partiers reject Darwin’s theories. What’s most distressing is that these candidates don’t seem to realize that their party’s falling into a trap. Instead they just stay the course, toe the line and rehash tried and true issues, like gay marriage, immigration and the seemingly eternal abortion.

Senator Sam Brownback, who dropped out of the race after giving his speech, vowed to overturn Roe versus Wade, a judicial stain many Republicans have longed to erase. Representative Ron Paul went a bit further by celebrating his so-called “We The People Act,” which would prohibit federal courts from hearing cases on abortion, marriage and religious imagery in state buildings. As if that’s not crazed enough, Paul offered an astonishing solution for immigration: “…I believe you have to eliminate the incentives for illegal aliens. Automatic birthright citizenship or amnesty; no wonder they come and bring their families.”

To Paul’s credit, he did open his speech by praising young people, the only candidate to celebrate a generation’s commitment to political involvement. Meanwhile, five out of the nine candidates either invoked or directly praised Ronald Reagan. This should come as no surprise – Reagan’s become a favorite political chew toy for social conservatives. The Summit’s attendees could even buy vintage Reagan pins and relive the glory days of his campaigns. Ronald Reagan – a president who ignored AIDS and crack – may very well rank directly below Jesus Christ on the social conservative sacred scale. The Gipper’s become a golden calf.

In addition to throwing old Reagan some love, nearly all of the candidates discussed the importance of family. All in all the word “family” came up 50 times, not including references to the Family Research Council. Mitt Romney, the Mormon candidate with five children, used the word “family” 26 times. And those “families” have but one definition: man and a woman. A man and a woman should lay the foundation for a happy home and, in the end, for a happy nation until the end of days.

Despite his familiarity with the subject, even Romney can’t make “family” sound familiar. He simply boils the family down to an economic tool. The emotion and love behind marriage disappears as the resultant reproduction becomes business. Says Romney,

In America the family is a vital economic unit, the foundation of the nation, and it’s the strength of this nation’s families that ultimately determines America’s strength in the family of nations… The most important work that goes on in America today…is the work that goes on within the four walls of the American home.

If Mitt Romney and other social conservatives truly believed in parenting and children, they would broaden their definition of “family”.

The Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law released a study on gay adoption earlier this year which finds extraordinary numbers of gays and lesbians who have had or want to have children.
The Family Pride Coalition offered this analysis:

Over one in three lesbians have given birth and one in six gay men have fathered or adopted a child. Over 50% of gay men and 41% of lesbians desire to be a parent. Lesbian and gay parents are raising 4% of all adopted children in the U.S…. Same-sex couples who have adopted are older, more educated and have more economic resources than other adoptive parents.

Now, there’s no way to know how many kids have gay parents, people have estimated there could be anywhere from 3 million to 10 million: a sizable voting bloc. Unfortunately for these families, Romney and other social conservatives candidates lack the political imagination to embrace people outside their isolated population. And, quite frankly, don’t care about “minority” groups.

The Republicans all declined to participate in a Human Rights Campaign produced gay rights forum. Nor were they free to talk with the NAACP.

Well, that’s not true, Tom Tancredo flew to Detroit to talk to black Americans and then used a disbelieving black cabbie as a punchline for the lily white Values Voters. The only other reference to black people came from Mitt Romney, who used single black women to a nauseatingly mawkish degree. And, what’s more, he cited Bill Cosby as his source.

While many of the candidates used fear-mongering and discussed endangered values, outsider Rudy Giuliani used his speech to talk about inclusion. Don’t worry, though, he didn’t stray too far from the conservative program. Says the former New York City mayor:

…I think we’ve got to find a way to be more inclusive. Christians and Christianity is all about inclusiveness. It’s build around the most profound active love in human history… This is a religion of inclusion.

If Giuliani’s to be believed – and he should be – the social conservatives aren’t simply rejecting political evolution, they’re devolving entirely, including spiritually.

While the Democrats are talking to the gays, the blacks and everyone in-between, the Republicans are stuck in a stagnant, primordial stew of archaic, outdated social stances. If they want to win this election or any others, the Republican leadership needs to accept that fact that America’s undergoing cultural changes. You can’t fight social evolution. You have to work with it and the people who are changing. If the Republican party continues its “valuable” tradition, it’s simply not going to survive. Even a do-do could figure that one out.

Transcripts of the candidate’s speeches can be downloaded at the Family Research Council.
Image Sources:
Elephant Skeleton
Ronald Reagan
Golden Calf
Quaint Family
Queer Family