Santorum, Huckabee Resist GOP Call for Compromise on Social Issues

Monday, 01 Apr 2013 10:23 AM

By Cyrus Afzali

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The Christian right within the Republican Party is fighting back at suggestions that their positions on social issues were to blame for losses in last November’s elections.

And leading members of the GOP’s evangelical wing are making it clear that they believe that if they were to change their stances the party would go the way of the dodo bird.

“Look, the Republican Party isn’t going to change,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told Politico. “If we do change, we’ll be the Whig Party. We’re not the Libertarian Party, we’re the Republican Party.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee cites a drop in enthusiasm following George W. Bush’s wins in 2004 and 2008 as proof moderate candidates aren’t the party’s savior.

“The last two presidential elections, we had more moderate candidates, so if anything, a lot of conservatives went to the polls reluctantly or just didn’t go at all,” he said. “If the evangelicals had showed up, it might have made a difference.”

While many argue that Republicans’ recent losses were due to a lack of enthusiasm among young voters, women and minorities who were turned off the party’s stance on issues such as gay marriage and abortion, some, including Santorum, argue the party would have been better to focus on the very issues that the establishment wants to avoid.

Social conservatives such as Gary Bauer, who ran for president in 2000, call many of those pushing for change on social issues “elites,” saying that changing positions on marriage will simply cause many of the GOP base to stay home on election day. Moderates respond that the stance is much like liberals of the 1980s who believed the reason they failed to win was solely because the faithful stayed home.

But former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay in 2010 and is leading the party’s push to embrace same-sex marriage, believes the answer lies in embracing a wider view of marriage and becoming more welcoming to immigrants. He says both perfectly illustrate the evolution of traditional values.

“No smart political party, no successful company, says let’s just be satisfied with yesterday’s customers. They say how do we anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s customers consistent with who we are,” he said.

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