"... social issues continue to hurt Republicans with women, young voters, and suburbanites. The problem is not just a matter of their stance on the issues, but their tone. It’s not just that Republicans oppose abortion or gay marriage, but that they often sound intolerant and self-righteous in doing so. Romney himself may not have put much emphasis on social issues, but the Republican brand was too easily associated with the words of Todd Akin."
I think that assessment has a lot of truth to it, particularly when Democrats and their media allies are already going to distort these positions.
Unskilled candidates who run on a platform of religious purity marginalize themselves to the point that it overshadows any sensible fiscal plans they may have. It's not just women and young voters who tune out these people, but other conservatives who don't want to have to make excuses for them.
The truth is that there are legions of conservatives who are able to articulate their views on social and economic issues without having to invoke religion. If there is a backlash within the movement it won't be over issues, it will be over how to broaden the appeal of the conservative message. Positions on social issues themselves didn't cost Romney or Republican Senate candidates in this election. Abortion is still a 50/50 proposition and actually weights pro-life. Same-sex marriage is still a minority view and is likely to be decided by Courts anyway. What loses elections are insulated candidates who invoke religion as a justification for their political positions or are prone to saying moronic things. There may be legitimate concerns about the legal and social consequences of same-sex marriage, but arguing against it "because the Bible said so" in a political agrument in this day and age is going to reduce your appeal.
Akin in Missouri and Mourdock in Indiana proved this. Republicans cannot afford another cycle with such candidates. The focus of campaigns and the quality of the candidates is what needs to change, not political ideology.
The Right needs more happy warriors (Reagan was), and fewer angry moralists.
At the outset of this cycle, I wrote that we had a slate of B team candidates. That turned out to be true. Fortunately, this cycle may serve as a lesson. The new generation of conservatives is about to take over the Right and the A team of candidates who are smart, enthusiastic, and in touch with the center-right nature of this country are on the event horizon.
I believe that a majority of Americans are fiscally conservative, but more divided on social issues. With regard to the latter, conservatives need to open the debate intellectually and accept that in order to win elections, libertarian views have to be acknowledged. Similarly, a better non-religious based conservative argument for positions on social issues needs to be articulated. In the end, there has to be room for both.
Democrats are the party of big government. They should lose every election because of that. But they aren't in large part because the conservative message is disjointed, co-opted, overly moralistic, and poorly and inarticulately expressed.
The Right can broaden its appeal to more women, younger people, and minorities without selling out ideas. But it is going to take a new message and better messengers to do so.
Out with the old, in with the new.