Say what you will about Republicans: they’re hypocrites, liars, mean-spirited, the embodiment of pure evil, but there is no denying they are political geniuses. How else can the party of big business and the wealthy, otherwise known as the 1%, continually get working class voters, who actually benefit from programs championed by Democrats, to vote against their own economic interest?
For many years, the GOP establishment has successfully used “social issues” to attract voters whose economic interests were really more aligned with the progressive policies of Democrats. These “social issues,” such as abortion, immigration, gun control, gay marriage, war on terror, are also known as “wedge issues,” “hot button” issues, or “culture wars.”
While Republicans have the public and the media distracted with emotional topics, they are free to make the wealthy wealthier, increase the national debt, hijack the Constitution, and take away government social services. Yes, “wedge issues” are a powerful distraction from the real issues that should occupy the political discussion; jobs, income inequality, social justice, equal rights for all.
Another tactic that has worked well for Republicans (and never matched by Democrats) is the art of political messaging. Would the workingman ever be against eliminating the estate tax? Never, but ask that same person if he favors repealing the “death tax,” the answer will always be “hell yeah!” The list of great Republican messaging is long and includes such winners as: “death panels,” “pro life,” “Obamacare,” “job creators,” etc.
But the old Republican playbook is not looking so good these days. With the Supreme Court’s decisions on Obamacare and gay marriage, Republicans have lost two of their hottest “hot button” issues.” Of course there is still an appetite for such issues among an ever-decreasing rear guard, but they are just that, decreasing.
I will not say the “culture wars” are over, but from the standpoint of national public opinion, the Republicans have lost, particularly among young people.
Republicans now face a conundrum. Today when they use “social issues” to appeal to white working class voters, or social conservatives, it drives away, in droves, young voters and socially tolerant voters of all ages. Many political observers now see this as a sure recipe for extinction.
“The tide of progress will always wash you to shore.”