This article is an interesting treatment of some of the challenges facing the Republican Party, as it tries to figure out what it really stands for and what it really has to offer as an opposition party during the first term of a new President. My guess is that there are many people who are troubled, as I am, by the rampant federal spending and the increased taxes that inevitably will result. The concern about what the federal government is doing — which has found a populist outlet in the “tea parties” that have been occurring — would seem to give the Republicans a strong base from which to oppose what appear to be classic “tax and spend” policies.
The problem for the GOP is that many people, myself included, are equally troubled by the “conservative” position on social issues like gay marriage. I understand that many people have strongly held religious beliefs about what marriage is. I respect such views, but I also think that we cannot let religious beliefs dictate social policy — in part because America is a land that welcomes and tolerates many different religious views. Gay Americans, when they have decided to make a long-term commitment to each other, should able to enjoy the same legal rights and protections that heterosexual couples do. Being married has a religious element, but it also has broad civil legal consequences — in paying taxes, in obtaining health benefits, and in estate planning, among other areas. I think society should encourage committed couples to legally memorialize their commitment. If that commitment wanes — as it has for countless heterosexual couples — the law should provide a remedy.
The belief that there should be less government and more individual rights favors both a smaller, less financially voracious federal government and social policies that minimize government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens. Many people are committed to both of these concepts. Until the Republican Party figures out how to really appeal to those people, while at the same time continuing to enjoy the support of the “religious right,” it is going to have a difficult time putting together a working majority of voters.