I am a proud evangelical Christian Republican and a native of Mississippi. I moved to Iowa and fell in love with the political process here during caucus season...
2011 was a big year for Republicans. We saw leaders emerge and saw candidates drop out. We saw job creation and education being seriously debated, and I felt that the concerns of the American people were heard — for the most part.
What I didn’t hear much of this year was support for marriage equality from the Republican front-runners. I support marriage for gay and lesbian couples and have been vocal about my support, even when it hasn’t always been the popular thing to do in my party.
I heard a lot of rhetoric about gay and lesbian Americans that didn’t fit with what I know to be true and what many Republicans believe. As an evangelical Christian Republican, I know many people who hold conservative values like equality and freedom, but those voices were lost this year. However, I believe in my heart that things are changing. If it weren’t for the loud voices of a few in our party, I do believe more Republicans would stand up in support of marriage equality.
I didn’t always feel that way and my journey toward full support has been a long and intensive one. One of the things that changed my mind on this issue was my children. I used to watch my kids and wonder why equality is a non-issue with them. They love and support their friends, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender or religion.
Then I realized that I was tired of watching adults judge each other while my children could embrace the differences in their friends. After all, that is what being a Christian is all about.
It made me realize that I'd like to hear more from Republicans like that. What was it she liked about what she heard on issues like job creation and education? And that led me to the question that is my title...what would conservatism be without the hate?
We all know that there have been some tectonic shifts in party alignment on many issues over the last 50 years. The first was the result of the Civil Rights movement and the embrace by the Republicans of a Southern strategy. But less commented on is the tempering of the Democratic message following the leftist heyday in the 60's and 70's. In many ways this co-opted much of the previous Republican Party platform. Democrats no longer believe that federal spending is the sole answer to EVERY problem and have, when given the opportunity, showed that we are actually the party that knows how to balance the budget. After a few years of promoting the idea of law enforcement as "pigs," we now believe in law and order as a primary responsibility of government when tempered with justice and oversight. And now, President Obama is demonstrating that a strong hand against our opponents in foreign policy can be coupled with the idea of partnerships rather than world domination.
In other words, what the Democratic Party has done is adopt a both/and response to traditional party divides and the Republicans have chosen to respond by:
1. Continuing the either/or message by moving to the right on issues,
2. Running against what Democrats used to be (ie, Obama as socialist) rather than what we are now, and
3. Ramping up the hate.
I suspect that without these strategies folks like me and the woman who wrote that editorial could actually have a meaningful conversation about things like job creation and education. I'm not suggesting we would necessarily always agree. But we could at least talk to each other. And I suspect that at times, we could even find some common ground.
I recognize that many people think its a pipe dream, but I also continue to believe that this is what then-Senator Barack Obama meant when he said this:
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.
P.S. I'd suggest that there is nothing the Republican establishment (and some Democrats) fear more than the possibility of that actually happening.