Now are the gloating times. The election is over. The ballots have been cast. The winners will taunt the losers. So it goes.
I would remind the gloaters (especially those filling my inbox with hate mail right now) that politics tend to be cyclical. Sic transit gloria mundi. All glory is fleeting.
But now is also the time for reflection among those of us who lost the argument at the polls. And conservatives have a lot of thinking to do. How can we better articulate the limited government message? What’s holding the American public back from casting their ballots for smaller government? Or, at least, given the choices on the ballot, government that grows less quickly?
I have a couple of ideas.
First, Republicans need to end the hostility toward gays. A few weeks ago, when Obama started looking a little bit week in Minnesota, a conservative friend of mine told me that the social conservative vote in Minnesota turning out to vote in a ban on gay marriage could also help Romney win the state. That didn’t work out. Not only was the gay marriage ban rejected in Minnesota, but voters cast their ballots to specifically allow gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Republicans are going to have to make their peace with an electorate that increasingly supportive of gay marriage.
Conservatives have no business supporting any law that would deny anyone their right to believe homosexuality is immoral. No law should force gay marriages upon any institution, religious or otherwise. But neither should conservatives support government restrictions on churches that want to allow gay marriage, or restrictions on gay marriage in general.
And yes, I’m aware that gays are a tiny slice of the electorate, but those who support gay marriage are a much larger voting bloc. One Republicans can’t ignore any longer. Which isn’t to say that this is an issue to be pandered to for votes. Allowing gay marriage, I believe, is truly the limited government position. Republicans should own it. After all, government licensing of marriages has an ugly history rooted in racist opposition to bi-racial marriages.
Second, it’s time to re-think drug policy. On election day two states voted in laws to legalize marijuana. This is a step to a saner sort of policy. The outright prohibition of narcotics in America is costing our country dearly in terms of lives lost in the black market drug wars and in terms of tax dollars. We need wise up. Prohibitionism doesn’t work.
The two states, Colorado and Washington, will now square off with the federal government over who really has the right to regulate drugs. The feds, using yet another tortured interpretation of the commerce clause, say that as far as they’re concerned marijuana is still illegal despite what the voters said. This would be an opportune time for conservatives to tout the wisdom of the 10th amendment and federalism. We could win over a lot of people to the idea that big, bloated central government is a bad idea by getting on the right side of this issue.
Let’s remember that the movement to prohibit alcohol is what got us all stuck with an income tax, among other bad policies. Drug prohibitionism, too, has resulted in some very troubling expansion of federal powers. Opposing drug prohibitionism is, again, an excellent opportunity to put the limited government message front in center for Americans.
Third, Republicans need to moderate on immigration. Making Americans afraid of a tidal wave of foreigners flooding our communities isn’t a compelling argument any more. Especially when a growing bloc of voters are 1st generation immigrants or their direct descendants.
Again, there is an opportunity here to apply limited government, free market thinking. I’m not saying we should abandon border security entirely, but we should recognize that new citizens coming into our country isn’t an inherently bad thing. We should make illegal immigration harder, but more importantly we should make legal immigration much easier. Make it so that the risk, and high cost, of crossing our border illegally isn’t worth the time and effort when crossing legally is so easy.
Conservatives support the free flow of goods and services across the border. Why not labor too? After all, that’s what most illegal immigrants are. Laborers looking for work. As for the criminals crossing the border, a lot of that could be choked off by ending the “war on drugs” which, in turn, would decimate the black market for narcotics.
In conclusion, let me say that Democrats are fond of casting those of us on the right as racist, hateful hypocrites. And at times it’s hard to refute that when we embrace big government controls on marriage, big government prohibtionism and labor protectionism aimed at our friends from Mexico.
So let’s take that argument away from them.