“The color of the world is changing day by day.”
— “Les Miserables,” the musical
A look at the electoral map indicates the Republican Party won in square miles. Unfortunately for them, electoral votes, not landmass, won President Obama a second term. Analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics estimated that total spending on federal elections would peak at nearly $6 billion, an all-time record. This spending included ads that carpet bombed swing states; yet we are still an almost equally divided nation. But America is rapidly changing.
Historically, the losing party turns introspective and asks itself how to attract more voters. Some Republicans are suggesting that social issues be jettisoned and the GOP should become more like Democrats. Why, then, have two parties? Step one in a reform agenda would be to remove “old” from the GOP moniker.
Conservatives can adapt to the cultural shift without compromising their principles, or they can retreat into a bunker mentality, lobbing rhetorical ordnance from previous generations, which has little power to persuade young people today.
America is getting younger, but not wiser. We are increasingly secular, less interested in sacrifice and, apparently, we have more faith in government. I doubt that many people under 40 have ever served in the military, or even know anyone who has. The old “family values” appeal no longer works because for too many younger people the family they value doesn’t resemble the one older Americans recognize.
And there’s something else. The campaign against same-sex marriage is over. Maine, Maryland and Washington state became the first states to approve gay marriage by popular vote. Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban it. Six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia grant same-sex marriage licenses. The Supreme Court might soon hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman. Conservatives might want to focus on strengthening their own marriages.
With Mitt Romney winning just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, Republicans need a new strategy to attract Hispanics whose values mirror those held by conservatives.
Democrats appeal to human nature. They know a growing number of people are becoming addicted to government. Democrats know that envy and greed are “deadly sins” that can be exploited for political gain. A new generation of have-nots needs to be taught that having not today doesn’t mean never having, and that if they embrace a set of principles and emulate successful people, those now without much can earn a slice of an expanding American pie.
Now some advice for my distraught conservative evangelical friends. You made a valiant effort for the last three decades, hoping politics would advance another kingdom, which your leader said is “not of this world.” Don’t retreat; enlist in a better army with better weapons.
The one you follow demonstrated a power superior to the state, the power to change lives. Employ that power. Each church and religious institution, each individual, can find one poor family and ask if they want out of their circumstances and are willing to work for it, if a path is offered. One example: If a parent wants a child out of a failing public school, offer them financial help in placing the child in a good private school.
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and caring for widows and orphans is not a social gospel that replaces God with government. That’s the view of the religious left. Rather, these behaviors serve the ultimate purpose of reaching the heart where real change takes place. And enough changed hearts lead to changed cultures.
The government beast is starved when people become independent of it. This will require a transfer of faith in government, to faith in an authority higher than the state and a leader more powerful than any president.
It will take time and investment of private resources, but it works and the results would be worth celebrating. We the people can still change the country in ways politics and governments never have and never will.
Cal Thomas is a political commentator and columnist.