Since Gov. Romney gained the unofficial title of “Last Man Standing” in the Republican primary campaign this summer, both he and President Obama have tried hard to stick to the old Clinton tagline, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
This is a smart move, politically. According to a Rasmussen Reports survey this month, 80 percent of likely voters rate the economy as very important to their decision in November.
My question is, what happened to the social issues? During the Republican primary campaign, all anyone seemed to want to talk about were social issues like abortion, contraception and gay rights. We learned what a Republican House contraception hearing looks like (see: old/white/male) and, to quote “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers, “President Obama was finally outed as a Democrat” with regards to his stance on marriage equality. It seems, however, that all of the energy from the social issues era of the campaign has run out.
While I agree that continuing our economic recovery is important, and I’m glad that it’s once again the focus of the campaign, I wonder what kind of message it sends to those fighting for the social issues near and dear to their hearts now that their concerns have been virtually disregarded.
For many Americans, social issues are not just some politician’s pet project – they’re a way of life, and in the case of those who feel oppressed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s probably not a way of life that they hope to preserve. Regardless of your religious or moral views on the subject, you have to admit that to marginalize their concerns is unfair. Why aren’t the candidates talking about ending the oppression of the 3.8 percent of Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?
In the meantime, the Republican Party has stated in its platform that it will support an amendment to ban abortion in all circumstances. There isn’t even an exception in the case that such a procedure could save the life of the mother – an exception that receives support from a majority of Americans in poll after poll. I’m sure there are plenty of pro-choice Americans that would like to hear more about that issue.
Conversely, what about all of the social-conservatives that rallied around Rick Santorum because of his staunchly pro-life views? So the Republicans write an anti-abortion plank into their platform and say that’s enough discussion. Are the Santorum supporters satisfied? I guess we’ll never know, since the Republican Party wants to stay mum about it. Again, in this instance, the major parties are marginalizing the social concerns of voters.
I’m really not trying to rag on the Republican Party. The Democrats aren’t getting off easy either. The party still refuses to address long-overdue reforms to the nation’s drug control policies. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 57 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats support legalizing the use of marijuana, yet the party makes no mention of such sentiments in its platform. How can they blatantly ignore an issue that so many members of their base support? Not only is it another example of the suppression of social concerns in this election, but it’s downright foolish.
This just goes to show how distant both parties have become from the American people. Sure, the economy is important, but if the social stakes in this election are so high then maybe we ought to spend some time talking about them too.