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Gary Johnson

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A Republican Morality Play

Posted: 07/19/11 03:03 PM ET

A funny thing happened this week when I had the audacity to call a so-called "Marriage Vow" pledge for candidates issued by the Iowa-based Family Leader group for what it is: Offensive and UnRepublican.

The funny thing that happened is that the Internet, the blogosphere, my Facebook page, and yes, my cell phone, lit up with reactions to my suggestion that the Family Leader pledge essentially asks Republicans to endorse putting the federal government in the business of discriminating against everyone who doesn't fit in some idyllic two-parent, heterosexual and non-Muslim mold. I not only rejected the pledge, but rejected the notion that Republicans who claim to believe in limited government could at the same time advocate sending that same government into American bedrooms, living rooms and private lives in order to enforce a particular set of values.

The reaction to my statements, and to the whole Family Leader pledge fiasco, is very telling -- particularly for Republicans who are serious about winning elections going forward.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Independents, libertarians, and more than a few bona-fide liberals came out of the woodwork to flood blogs, social media sites and my own website with supportive words for my condemnation of the Family Leader pledge. And more than a few pundits questioned my sanity for actually saying -- while seeking the Republican nomination for president -- that the social issue emperors have no clothes.

But where are the Republicans, or more precisely, the Republicans running for president? Plenty of Republican voters and sympathizers expressed their agreement with my concerns, but except for the two candidates who have actually signed the offensive pledge, the rest of the field -- even those declining to sign it -- has treated it with kid gloves. Why kid gloves? The Family Leader pledge is just plain insulting to millions of Americans.

That is a major problem for Republicans. The simple fact of the matter is that those of us running for president are, to a great extent, the faces and voices of the Republican Party. What kind of message does it send to the Independents and Democrats, not to mention regular Republicans, we will need to win back the White House next year when only one Republican candidate for president is willing to unequivocally reject a "pledge" that is offensive on its face to single parents, gays, divorcees, women, members of our military and too many others to list?

For a party that claims limited government as its guiding principle, Lincoln as its inspiration, and individual freedom as a sacred right, rejecting this kind of intolerance and big brother moral judgment should be a no-brainer. But it obviously isn't.

It isn't a no-brainer for Republican candidates because they are afraid. Afraid of offending a guy and his organization because they happen to be in Iowa and happen to have a big mailing list. They are afraid of the tail that is wagging the dog.

If Republicans have any hope of winning the White House, keeping control of the House and regaining the Senate next year, it certainly is NOT as the party of intolerance. It is NOT as a party so arrogant as to try to define the values of free people who are perfectly capable of defining their own values. And it is absolutely NOT as a party who alienates a clear majority of Americans in a short-sighted effort to curry favor with a minority which has a disproportionate amount of influence on the nominating process.

There is one thing on which virtually all Republicans, Independents, and Democrats agree: Our economy is on the ropes, and the federal government is helping it to death. And while America is wonderfully diverse in its opinions on most everything, the one moral issue on which we can all agree is that it is fundamentally immoral to continue on a path that has already racked up a public debt amounting to more than $40,000 for every man, woman and child in the country -- and growing every day. Unlike a the Family Leader nonsense, that immorality is the government's business -- and the American people are begging for leadership to put an end to it.

Therein lies the pledge Republicans should be signing: That we will balance the budget, create an environment in which jobless Americans can go back to work, and otherwise keep the government out of American households -- whatever they may look like.