NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 8, 2014

Avoiding the wedge issues in GOP platform

Barbara Anderson
Newburyport Daily News

---- — “Apart from that, Mr. Lincoln, how do you like the Republican platform?”

In late February, the Republican State Committee passed a platform that included the following language: “We believe that every abortion is tragic,” and “We believe that the institution of traditional marriage strengthens the family.” This has been, and will be throughout the 2014 campaign, translated by Democrat opponents into “We oppose women’s rights and gay equality” and used against all Republican candidates, even those who are pro-choice and support gay marriage.

In fact, these issues were used against Republican candidates in 2010, when there was no such language in the Republican platform. Sixth District congressional challenger Richard Tisei, who has been pro-choice throughout his political career, was attacked with fliers accusing him of “calling for a ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.”

He was accused of supporting “the Tea Party agenda.” I’m a Tea Party activist and support its agenda, which is fiscal responsibility, not social issues. Still, Democrats said it’s opposed to gay rights, then implied that Tisei, who has since married his same-sex partner, shares that position.

So, regardless of what the state Republican Party or the Tea Party actually support or doesn’t support, the state Democrat Party will lie if necessary to use these two hot-button issues to turn off women and young voters. Please be prepared for that, and tune it out. Women don’t need to fear that abortion will ever be banned, and gay marriage is becoming more acceptable every year.

Just to be absolutely clear, Tisei, who is running again for Congress, said in a statement that “The Republican Party should lead the way in getting government off our backs, out of our wallets, and away from our bedrooms, and the party hierarchy would be wise to adopt platforms that promote these values, which are shared by an overwhelming number of citizens in Massachusetts.”

Yes, it should. And actually, the 2010 Massachusetts Republican platform is a beautiful exposition of real conservative principles, beginning with its preamble: “The Massachusetts Republican Party believes in the power of the individual over the power of government and that government must at all times be held accountable to the people. We believe that Massachusetts — the cradle of the American Republic — can once again be a national leader in prosperity and opportunity for all families and individuals.” Most of this year’s platform will repeat this agenda.

As a taxpayer activist, I also note the language relating to taxes, which says that “a two-thirds vote of the Legislature should be required in order to raise taxes” and, relative to last year’s gas tax increase, states that “we oppose the indexing of any tax to the rate of inflation.” Most if not all Republican candidates will be supporting the question that will be on the ballot with them, to repeal the new provision for automatic annual gas tax increases.

When I was 12, I read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and told my Democrat parents, in my Pennsylvania Democrat hometown, that I was going to be a Republican when I grew up because President Lincoln freed the slaves. Later I felt more at home as an independent, but certainly voted, along with the majority of Massachusetts, for Ronald Reagan with his platform of fiscal and personal responsibility, and his optimistic certainty that America is the last best hope of humanity.

That message is more important this year than ever. With so many things going wrong in the state, federal and international arenas, America is no longer so clearly the best hope of humanity but potentially an example of how the mighty fall. Republicans must get focused on what matters, and what they can do to effect reform and other positive change. I know many conservatives who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage, yet have no interest in bringing them into the political arena.

A local Facebook friend, Brad White, in response to my horror at seeing the Republican State Committee platform drag out these losing issues, wrote this:

“The social issues are by and large wedge issues, useful to divide, useless to unite even by mild agreement ... I am not suggesting that those with strong views on either side abandon their principles for the sake of winning elections. Rather I am suggesting that one consider the role of government in a free society and the use of government to enforce what are, at their core, founded mostly in religious objection. I may feel strongly about certain things that annoy me, but I have no right to ask that government force be used to satisfy my peeves, however strongly held.

“I am also suggesting that if you feel strongly about an issue … you work to correct that in the secular realm, let people come to their own minds over time by persuasion and not force…

“Instead, turn to the core aspects of limited government, fiscal restraint, integrity and transparency and defense of the individual, not their destruction. When one side of the party preaches smaller, more efficient government but insists on giving that government power and control over private decisions, you have put fear in place of hope.”

I couldn’t have said it better, which is why I didn’t try. All I can do is urge everyone who wants a better-run Massachusetts and hope-inspiring America to ignore the very small group of activist Republicans who push these intolerant and losing platform planks, and to disregard the Democrat lies about the Republican candidates who do not take these positions. I’ll be voting for whoever reflects traditional Republican values as stated in the platform preamble: the power of the individual against the power of unaccountable, uncontrolled government.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation.