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The Republican Dilemma

Updated on January 14, 2013

A political party must be able to balance its political agenda with the needs of its own constituents, even as it prepares for events in the future and reacts to current events. A party that fails to do this cannot expect to survive. The Republican Party has yet to understand this lesson, and it risks going the way of the Whigs. On a few key issues, such as abortion, contraception, and, most especially, immigration, Republican leaders in Congress and powerful conservative figures at the ground level remain stuck somewhere in the 1950's. With all do respect to my Republican peers, I believe that this is a losing proposition.

The Republican attitude on abortion is an excellent example. Fifty years ago, this was a subject that no one, Republican or Democratic, would ever have dared to bring up in public and rarely in private. It was considered taboo, an act against nature and morality, even murder, thanks to a resourceful, well organized campaign against it. In the more liberal decades of the late 60's and the 70's, abortion became more common, as more states legalized it. The issue came to a head in 1973, when the Supreme Court heard the case Roe v. Wade, and decided that a woman's right to an abortion was protected by the 14th amendment to the constitution. The backlash against abortion has been intense ever since.

Republicans are perhaps quite correct in that abortion is an extreme alternative to pregnancy, but they should have supported legislation that would make it easier for women to have access to contraception. After all, one cannot have an abortion if they aren't pregnant, right? Unfortunately, the Republicans have opposed contraception, too. Remember Rush Limbaugh's disgusting, sexist comments against Sandra Fluke? That was an extreme example, but Republicans and their allies have been arguing against contraception access for years. One would think that Republicans would be more supportive of it, since contraception helps alleviate the demand for abortion. Instead, we get a misguided campaign by conservative Catholic Bishops and Congressional Republicans to smear the Obama Administration for threatening religious liberty by requiring Catholic institutions to provide contraception if requested...

But contraception will eventually resolve itself. Already, most couples, including a majority of Catholic couples, have access too and have used contraception. According to a Bloomberg National Poll taken in March, more than 70% of Americans consider contraception to be a women's health issue, not a religious one. This would imply that even among those of us who oppose abortion, there is no protest against having access to contraception. Things got worse when Virginia Republicans overreached in proposing an invasive abortion bill.

Not content to mess around with women's reproductive health and right to privacy, however, Republicans have focused their attentions on immigration. There is much to be said for improving border security, and of deporting illegal immigrants who pose any direct threat to other citizens. But to hear some Republican leaders talk, you would think that any new person arriving on our shores would be at risk of deportation. Consider some of the proposals that emerged during the Republican Presidential primaries. Michele Bachmann proposed building a fence from one end of the southern border to the other. Not to be outdone, Hermann Cain proposed building an electric fence from one end of the southern border to the other. Rick Perry, who seemed to be the only candidate with a thread of human compassion, and Jon Huntsman, opposed these ideas simply because so many of those here illegally had no say in the matter of whether they should be here.

Ideally, the main debate would be about what to do with the silent majority of undocumented immigrants, those who have gone to American schools, have entered college, or perhaps have served in the military. And recently, President Obama moved to do just that, by using Executive Privilege to protect undocumented immigrants under the age of 16 from deportation. The logistics of this new order will be perfected later, but for now, it is a step in the right direction. At the very least, it has changed the dynamics of the debate. Congressional Republicans may or may not react to this challenge. Mitt Romney surely will, and he will charge that Obama has politicized this issue. But Romney has already done so, moving so far to the right in the primaries, going so far as to suggest that immigrants self-deport, that he has lost the potential support of Hispanics.

The Republican attitude on immigration will have to change at some point. For the first time in history, most children born in the United States were non-white. How many of those children were born to migrant parents? If the Republican Party wants to survive, it has to find a constituency other than its current one, which seems to be old white men. But that will mean shifting on a lot of positions, and giving up a lot of support. If Republican and conservative leaders find some compassion, and the willingness to think beyond the next vote, then maybe the party will become stronger and the change will set it morally straight.


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    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 5 years ago

      Steve Orion,

      In answer to your question, I think that a little bit of both has happened. There is no question that the Republican Party has moved farther to the right on many, if not most, issues. As for people in general, that is harder to tell. Younger Americans definitely support it more than older Americans, but sense middle aged/ older Americans are among the largest voting blocks, I think that they also have a great deal of support for contraception.

      I am pretty sure that most Americans are intelligent enough people. Most are moderate in their views, be they Republican, Democratic or anywhere in between. And most of them are mad as hell at both parties for not doing their jobs.

      Anyway, thank you for dropping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 5 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Contraception, as well as who pays for it, are both political issues (though I wouldn't be able to give you which is more absurd), specifically Republican ones. It is interesting to hear this topic dicussed, as many have pointed out how the party has changed. So, have people moved, over time, farther to the left, or have the Republicans moved farther right?

      In any case, they are not the same as they were. I would hope it has something to do with the general increase in intelligence, but I'm not sure I could go that far. It definitely has something to do with the Tea Party, but that brings up a chicken/egg question. Good Hub and analysis, I look forward to more of your Hubs!

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 5 years ago


      Hello again, and thank you for commenting. I respectfully disagree with your charge that I don't know what I am talking about. Perhaps I don't follow contraception as closely as I could, but I do know something about the issue.

      I at least am aware that contraception is, in some states, required in any health insurance policy. 62% of all Americans have private health insurance policies, which are paid for by their employers. Some states allow employers to choose whether or not to provide contraception to their employees. Apparently Rush Limbaugh had no idea what he was talking about when he accused Miss Fluke and others like her of wanting other Americans to pay for their contraception.

      Contraception is about more than just "who pays for it". You cannot deny that Rick Santorum, who once voted to extend access to birth control, backtracked in the primaries by stating that "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Say that he is not against contraception.

      The Personhood Movement, from what I have seen, heard, and read of it, has come out strongly against birth control, partly by comparing it to abortion. They have it wrong, of course. There is no need for me to explain the difference between abortion and contraception. Isn't it true that, in 2011, the Mississippi branch of Personhood USA proposed a ballot amendment that would recognize that human life begins at the moment of conception? Had that measure not been defeated, it would have affected accessibility to contraception and abortion.

      Many on the right have indeed linked contraception with abortion, even though they are not really the same. They have at times attempted to impose limits on contraception because of that belief. They have lobbied Congress to support their right to life programs. That is an example of political opposition to contraception.

      I did not suggest that being a Republican makes one opposed to contraception, any more than I suggested that all Republicans are opposed to immigration. I merely listed a few examples of an apparent trend within a political party whose leadership has done nothing to fight that trend.

    • Nathan Orf profile image

      Nathan Orf 5 years ago


      Thank you for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed my work. I agree that Republicans were once a great party who offered a positive contribution to American policy and government. However, I do hope that Republicans find their way back to more reasonable ideologies. Perhaps someone like Jon Huntsman will come along...

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Your hub would have been better if you actually knew what you were talking about. I know of no single Republican who is against contraception because he or she is a Republican. Opposition to contraception is not a political issue except, perhaps, in your mind. Not even Rush Limbaugh is opposed to contraception per se, the political opposition is over who pays for it, not whether contraception itself should or should not be utilized.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I agree with your analysis, Nathan. The Republican party was at one time a very sensible and nuanced party. I have always been a Democrat but I respected them. The stances they have on the two issues you brought up are perfect examples of how they have gone so Far Right to pander to their base. I also believe that the unlimited corporate money flowing into their coffers is also driving this. They may win in the short term but the tides of history will turn on them soon enough. Great Hub.