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Social issues remain divisive for Republicans

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It seems that every week there is another gaffe by Republicans, whether it be Romney, Ryan or some candidate in a closely contested local election. Republicans have been running on a platform stressing the economy and creating jobs, but the other major side of politics has created an Achilles’ heel for the Grand Old Party: social issues, including reproductive rights, marriage equality and voter identification.

Ever since the Tea Party incursion a few years ago, Republicans have been deeply divided over social issues. In theory, the party favors keeping government out of people’s lives, yet at the same time calls for government’s intrusion into our bedrooms and our bodies. As the election inches near and Romney continues to fall in the polls Pollster.com had Obama projected at 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 191 on Sept. 26, conservatives are asking each other how to address this growing schism.

Not all Republicans are for limiting marriage or against women’s rights. Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, when he debated Howard Dean last year on campus, proclaimed, “Keep the government out of the bedroom.” Scott Brown R-MA, who is falling behind Elizabeth Warren in the race to keep his U.S. Senate seat, and many other Republican office-seekers have condemned Rep. Todd Akin’s R-MO stunning comments on rape.

So what effects do these amendments, comments and stances have on the party as a whole? Social issues draw attention away from the economy, an issue where Republicans believe they have a more convincing case than the Democrats, though equal blame could be put on Republicans since they have controlled Congress for the last two years.

Some Republicans actually advocate losing the race and running out these radicals who believe in “legitimate rape,” among other things, in preparation for a strong 2016 campaign. If one looks at the demographics that the GOP is clinching this election season, it is quite dismal. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Romney commands a whopping zero percent of African-American voters, while his shares of women and Hispanic voters are only marginally better. This would suggest that the GOP’s hypocritical stances on social issues have created a rift between the party and some voters.

Before Akin’s comments, his opponent Claire McCaskill trailed him by 10 points in the polls; after the comments, McCaskill led by two points. At the same time, Crossroads GPS Karl Rove’s super-PAC, the RNC and a handful of other donors dropped all contributions to the Akin campaign, putting him at a huge fundraising disadvantage. If these prominent Republican groups are stopping funds in hotly-contested races such as Akin’s, why did Akin receive the nomination in the first place? Why would Republicans allow candidates with such far-fetched views run under their party label? Once again, the party is split between moderates and extreme conservatives.

These problems don’t even include the Republicans’ low share of young voters. Republicans are trying to turn around their prospects with young people by reaching out to youth through media sources such as magazines. One notable magazine, The Conservative Teen, features columns by prominent Republicans such as Paul Ryan, who recommended his stringent P90x workout routine, as well as stories advocating abstinence.

But Republicans are deeply divided, attempting to appeal to the religious right and at the same time to draw over independents. This isn’t primary season anymore, and the GOP is running the last few moderates out of its party, which can only spell disaster.

After every election loss, the losing party shifts to try to resonate better with voters. If the Republicans lose in November, they will have to accommodate more moderate views on social issues in order to win in 2016. That means no more marriage amendments, no more voter identification laws restricting large voting blocs and no more laws redefining rape. If this happens, Democrats will be hard-pressed to put up a solid fight on social issues alone in 2016.

Seth Ellingson ’15 ellingss@stolaf.edu is from Powder Springs, Ga. He majors in political science and Russian.