Well, it’s finally over. After 18 months of intense political conflict, the American people chose to give President Obama another four years at the helm. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking happening within the ranks of the GOP. Some are saying that Mr. Romney was defeated because he allowed his campaign to be hijacked by the “extreme right wing” of the party. Others feel that he didn’t do enough to distinguish himself as a clear alternative to the President.
One thing that most Republicans can agree on is that Mitt Romney is a decent man who comported himself with grace and dignity during the campaign. And few would deny that Mr. Romney has the business experience to tackle America’s economic challenges. But what about other issues important to conservatives? What were they to make of Romney’s flip-flops on key social issues like abortion and gay marriage? Many conservatives had a difficult time embracing the Republican candidate, and while they might have voted for him, they couldn’t help but wonder whether he was the real deal or a mere political opportunist.
One thing is certain. Neither Mr. Romney nor the Republican Party ever made the case for the sanctity of life or marriage in this election season. Sure, they mouthed their opposition to abortion and their support for traditional marriage, but they never really made their case to the American people as to why these issues are so critical to the health and prosperity of our nation. All we got when it came to social issues in Campaign 2012 were canned soundbytes from the Republican nominee. Consequently, when candidates like Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock fumbled the ball with their ham-handed responses in their own campaigns, their remarks took on national significance and were imputed to Romney as the GOP’s representative in the presidential contest.
There is actually a case to be made for the sanctity of human life and the protection of unborn children, and it isn’t just “because the Bible tells me so.” It goes something like this:
“You don’t have to be a person of faith to be concerned about the morality of a mother taking the life of her innocent unborn child. America’s Declaration of Independence rightly declares that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Foremost among these rights is the right to life. This right is foundational to all other rights, and unless we first protect the right to life, all other rights become meaningless. The right to speak freely, worship as we choose, associate with whom we please – these are rights reserved to the living. The right to privacy, extolled by some as the most preeminent of rights, means nothing to a corpse. And, as the Declaration further declares, governments are instituted among men to secure the God-given rights conferred on us by the Creator. I therefore agree with Thomas Jefferson, who maintained that the chief purpose of government is to protect life. Abandon that, he warned, and you have abandoned all.
Rooted firmly in these principles, my administration will be committed to protecting the lives of every citizen from conception to natural death, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, whole or handicapped, born or unborn. A person’s dignity and their membership in the human family are not affected by their age or state of health. I will stand with the very young, the very old, and everyone in between to protect their God-given right to life. I reject the notion that some of us are disposable because some deem them to be unwanted. And I do not agree that Americans have to choose between a woman and her child – our hearts are big enough to love them both.”
Two paragraphs are all it takes to make the case for life, yet the subject never got more than two sentences in any Romney stump speech. As a result, his position on abortion was mischaracterized by the Obama machine as a “war on women.” Had he been willing to devote a few moments of his time to develop the case for the sanctity of life he could have been seen as a protector and advocate for children and the elderly and the handicapped. Sadly, he was unwilling to make the case, and so was the GOP.
The same can be said with regard to the marriage issue. Candidate Romney never made the case for why marriage should be between one man and one woman. He never articulated the distinct and unique roles that moms and dads play in shaping the identities of their children, in modeling how they are to live and act, and in collaborating on how they are to be nurtured and disciplined. While his own family was a beautiful example of the benefit of the intact two parent family, examples aren’t arguments. Romney never made the case for why this family structure is the foundation of civilization and essential to the transmission of cultural values, and so he was left wide open to the accusation that he had developed a newfound (and opportunistic) antagonism towards the homosexual community, a demographic whose agenda he had once supported.
The bottom line? Mankind is not one dimensional. Despite what Ayn Rand might tell us, we are more than self-interested, economically-driven creatures. We are spiritual and emotional and relational beings who seek community in civil society. Yes we have individual rights, but we also have obligations to our fellow citizens. Government does have a role to play in our lives, and it is more than just to create an environment in which everyone can have a job. Sometimes it must extend a helping hand to those in need, to those who need protection. Mitt Romney and the GOP ignored this reality. Terrified of alienating the critical “swing voter,” they sang the same verse over and over: “It’s the economy stupid.” Not surprisingly, conservative Americans did not join the chorus.
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