Does the Republican Party need to Shift Left on Social Issues to Stay Relevant?

The culture of the United States is changing rapidly. It was only 14 years ago when California, notorious for being overwhelming left-wing, voted to oppose same sex marriage. According to Pew research, American opinion the issue of same sex marriage has completely flipped. Today, roughly 61% of Americans support same sex marriage. Although this is just one issue, it represents the effectiveness of the progressive revolution sweeping the west. The west is undoubtedly turning away from its Christian routes in favor of sexual liberation. This is especially true for younger generations. This has led many to claim that in order for the Republican Party to stay relevant, it must shift to the center on social issues in order to attract youth support. This illusion has most likely impacted the growth of more socially liberal organizations and icons, such as Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA.

When looking closely on this issue, it becoming apparent that in order to stay relevant, the Republican Party must shift to the center on economic issues rather than social issues. This is because most social issues are simply not a deal breaker for the vast majority of voters. According to a Breitbart poll, the most important issues to voters for the 2022 election were “restoring the economy and lowering inflation,” “respecting individual rights and liberty,” and “addressing climate change.” Coming in 6th place with a mere 4.6% was the only social issue on the list: protecting parental rights in education. There are countless other polls which show the same thing: most voters don’t see social issues as important.

This can also be seen in past elections as well. Unlike 2008, Republicans had a decent chance in defeating Obama in 2012. Unfortunately for them, they nominated Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire who had a long history of making statements that downplayed the struggles of the working class. Obama, therefore, was successfully able to brand Romney as an out of touch elitist. This led to a devastating defeat, particularly in the midwest.

2012 should have been an easy win for the Republicans. Obama, being one of the most unpopular presidents in history, was devastated in the 2010 midterms, paving the way for a Republican victory in 2012. Hardly anything had changed in those two years: Obama’s approval rating hadn’t improved and neither had the economy. That is why Romney was genuinely shocked on election night when he saw the results of Ohio trickle in. He soon realized that he would end up getting less votes in the state than McCain had in 2008. The explanation to why this was, was obvious. 56% of Ohio voters believed Romney’s policies would favor the rich along with a 22% that believed the most important quality they looked for in a candidate is if he “cares about people” like me. Obama won 84% of voters in the former group and 87% in the later. Romney, who embraced trickle down economics, free trade, and had no plans to decrease the wealth gap, was simply out of touch to working class whites, especially those in the midwest. Even though they had opposed Romney, many weren’t fond of Obama’s economy either. In the end, many simply stayed home on election night.

Then came along Donald Trump. The outsider’s 2016 campaign starkly contrasted that of previous Republican presidential candidates. Trump was a populist, that means he claimed to stand up for the little guy. He railed against Clinton as an elitist corporate puppet, while promising to end many of the tax loopholes that lead many of America’s elitists getting away with playing very little taxes, including himself. He offered solutions to the offshoring of American jobs, something that resonated well with the white working class in an economy with a relatively high unemployment rate. Despite Trump being many times richer than Mitt Romney, Clinton was unable to brand Trump as an elitist the way Obama did to Romney. Why? Because he didn’t act like one. Trump spoke in words that the American people understood, breaking to Republican tradition of giving speeches that often sounded like macroeconomics essays.

In a surprise upset, Trump won many of the working class whites that had stayed home in 2012. This led him to sweep the midwest, allowing him to win the election without the popular vote.

President Trump, however, was different that campaign Trump. Despite being critical of big banks, he chose to appoint a former Goldman Sachs banker as his Treasury Secretary. When passing tax cuts, most of the money did not go to the working class. The tax cuts also failed to repeal many of the loopholes Trump had promised he would repeal.

Trump lost in 2020 because his economic policies failed to resonated with the same working class voters that were responsible to getting him into the White House in the first place. Although he picked up a decent amount of new black and hispanic voters, his wide margin among whites narrowed. His message in 2020 sounded a lot different than his 2016 message. Instead of focusing on Biden’s elitist background, he chose to scare voters by portraying him as a socialist and radical leftist. Ultimately it didn’t work; voters failed to resonated with the socialist narrative. Incumbent elections usually turn out to be referendums on the incumbent. Mistakenly Trump chose to focus on attacking Biden rather than convincing voters he was still on their side.

In the future, Republicans may be able to get a president in the White House that focus on implementing populist economic issues. If this man were able to reform the tax code to the benefit of the middle class and weaken corporate America’s grip on the nation, he would be unstoppable. And then, will many of the “radical” social issues important to America’s paleoconservative movement be able to be implemented. That is because no matter how “racist” or “homophobic” a president is, voters will always choose the candidate that best affects their wallets. As an advisor to Bill Clinton once famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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