Republicans must address social issues in election campaigns because those topics are tied intrinsically to economic problems, former Reagan aide Jeffrey Bell told Newsmax.TV.
Many pundits have suggested that, although the GOP presidential hopefuls need to prove their conservative credentials in the primary season, the eventual nominee should shun polarizing social topics when taking on President Barack Obama. But that would be a mistake, said Bell, who was a policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
“In the general elections in which social issues come up and come up to the fore, Republicans have a better track record than when social issues are buried,” Bell said in the exclusive Newsmax interview.
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Bell, author of the new book, “The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism,”
said that, although the dominant issue in the 2012 election has been the economy, that can’t be separated from social issues.
“To say that we’re going to talk about the economy at the expense of social issues, I think Rick Santorum has provided a service by saying that it’s the decline in the family of two-parent couples raising children that’s one of the economic problems,” Bell said.
Focusing on social issues also could help win over Latino voters, he said.
“Latino voters are considerably more socially conservative than the average voter,” Bell said. “They are more traditional in their family life.”
Although Latino voters have tended to vote Democratic in the past, Bell told Newsmax: “I don’t think Latino voters are completely comfortable with the lifestyle and socially conservative stance of the Democratic leaders.”
The left likes to try to sneak in its liberal agenda, hoping conservatives will let it go by, Bell said. As an example, he pointed to the Obama administration’s mandate that religious institutions provide free birth-control coverage in their health plans for female employees, which since has been changed to require insurance companies to pay for the coverage.
“In this country and really all over the world, the left’s DNA forces it to bring up issues like this,” Bell said. “Ever since the word ‘left’ was invented in the 1790s, they’ve been about tearing down traditional institutions including organized religion and the family on behalf of the concept of the totally liberated man.”
In a quasi-welfare state, the government takes so much money out of workers’ paychecks for social programs that there’s nothing left for anything else, Bell said.
“Transfer payments are taking up the spaces where after-tax income would normally be,” he said. “Certain [types] of these transfer payments actually encourage greater female participation in the work force. We’ve had such an increase in women in the work force that when they’re polled they complain they don’t have enough time to be involved with their children.”
Although Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials have been questioned, Bell said that, when it comes to social issues, the former Massachusetts governor is just as conservative as any of the other candidates.
“The truth is, in this particular race, there has not been any major disagreement on social issues,” he said.
But if Romney does capture the GOP nomination, he must stick to his guns on social issues in the general election, Bell said.
“He has all the right positions,” Bell said. “The question is, will he understand that it’s in his interest for these to come up during the general election?”
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