Our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by "social fundamentalists," the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power.
I find the discussion of attracting "moderates" to the party tiresome at best. James Gimpel, a political science professor from the University of Maryland, makes a convincing argument at National Review Online that those in the "middle" don't actually believe much of anything until they are led one way or the other by a charismatic political figure. Moderates by definition have no ideology to show them where they stand on any issue. They tend to wait for some perceived consensus, then join right in. The way to win the votes of the "middle" is to provide them with a bandwagon on which to jump.
I think that especially on the three issues Whitman references, a return to the Founders' principles could win us the day. Neither abortion, gay rights nor stem cell research should be Federal issues. The 9th and 10th Amendments specifically grant to the states and the people all powers not granted to the congress, president or courts.
The abortion debate is at its heart a debate over the definition of murder. Abortion is the act of ending the life of "something" and the question is what that something is and whether it deserves some kind of protection. All these are questions best decided by the states and the people, not one federal court. The power over who lives and dies is too important to leave the hands of the citizens.
Gay rights has basically come to mean marriage. All questions of marriage are the sole purview of the states as well. The federal government has no right to force states to define marriage one way or the other.
Stem cell research will be funded or not by the private sector depending on the promise of results. If the only funding available for stem cell research comes from federal grants, that should tell us something about the chances of that researches real success. The right has done a horrible job of making the distinction between outlawing scientific research and not throwing tons of tax dollars at it.
All of these issues can and should be brought closer to the people. This would increase the power of each voter and decrease to power of a nameless, faceless bureaucracy. We as conservatives need to make that argument consistently and powerfully if we hope to turn to mushy middle into reliable votes for Freedom.