A“malignant weapon.” That was the phrase used by a friend of mine – a national
TV host who inclines toward Republicans but this year voted Democrat, to
describe how Republicans use religion.
“Why has religion made Republicans
harsh? Shouldn’t it give them a soft heart?” The congressional campaign I ran
was based on the idea that the economic malaise in America was due to a values
erosion. So long as we obsess over abortion, gay marriage and contraception to
the exclusion of any other values, we cannot fix our problems. I ran to start
the process of replacing the austerity of some of the Christian social values,
which have defined the GOP for decades, with the positive and life-affirming
values of Judaism.
I also knew, from my many lectures before women’s
groups, that the sexual obsession that has come to define Republican social
values could cost the GOP the election. At the start of my campaign, one
Republican leader told me, “Americans want to hear about the economy, not values
issues.” He was right. But little did he realize that extremist social values
rhetoric would wound Republicans.
There is now a consensus that the GOP’s
alienation of women due to the social sexual obsession, as well as the
alienation of Latinos due to their position on immigration, did incalculable
harm to the GOP.
Here is what confuses me about Republican Jewish donors.
They give the party their money when their values are probably even more
relevant at this juncture.
Why do those Jews who support the party
generously not clamor for a greater infusion of Jewish values that would change
the conversation away from values that alienate to values that inspire? I care
about the Republican Party because of its strong emphasis on the dignity that
comes from economic opportunity and self-reliance, a robust foreign policy that
holds dictators accountable for slaughtering their people, its emphasis on
school choice, and strong support for Israel. And anyone who cares about the
party knows that it can no longer postpone a serious reexamination of its sexual
My great teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, advocated a
10-point plan for people to start leading more spiritual lives. Only one of
those 10 was about sex, namely, the laws of Jewish family purity. That’s a 10
percent focus on sex. But the Republican trifecta of abortion, gay marriage and
contraception is 100% about sex. How strange is that? And for those Democrats
who are gloating about the Republican loss, with all due respect, at least the
Republicans are trying to highlight moral issues, even if they’re misguided. The
Democrats do not offend with their values because, with the exception of
economic values issues, they barely discuss the subject.
Here, then, is
what the GOP must do to rebuild itself.
1. Repudiate the religious
extremists who are obsessed with abortion, rape and sex. If candidates want to
speak about “legitimate rape” or “divinely-sanctioned rape,” let them do so from
an asylum. Not as official representatives of the Republican Party. If they want
to obsess over sex and reduce all of America’s greatness to a trifecta of social
sexual obsession, they can. They can create the “All-sex-all-the-time Party.”
But get this conversation out of the GOP.
The Republican Party represents
more than opposition to abortion, gay marriage and contraception. Judaism, for
the record, allows contraception, believes that sex is for intimacy and pleasure
as well as procreation, and has a far more lenient position on abortion than do
Catholics or Evangelicals.
And since the Christian position on abortion
is based on the Hebrew Bible, specifically Exodus 21:22, the time has perhaps
come for Christians to look to the Jews for a different understanding of this
2. Preach positive inspirational values that lead to altruistic
citizenry. Bring the values conversation out of the bedroom and show Americans
you’re prepared to talk about values in the boardroom and the living room. Stop
talking exclusively about gay marriage and focus on saving heterosexual
marriage. Make marital counseling tax deductible. Pass legislation creating a
year of national service so America raises generations of more altruistic
If the Republican argument is that Democrats are winning elections
because they have become the “Free Stuff Party,” then counter by making the GOP
into the “Serve America” party. Embrace and co-opt JFK’s credo of asking more
about what we can give to our country rather than take from it.
Embrace the Biblical teaching of Loving the Stranger. No one should come into
this country by breaking the law. But there might be something personally
virtuous in a man or woman who steals across the Rio Grande at great risk to
feed their babies and send money back to poor families. America has to stop
illegal immigration. But that doesn’t mean it has to demonize illegal
We need to distinguish between those who steal into our
country to blow up buildings and those who come in because they regard America
as a land of opportunity.
Stop ignoring the twelve million undocumented
workers who form a shadow economy and who are not paying taxes while benefiting
from living here. Mass deportation is unrealistic and immoral.
them for having broken the law, but give them a path to remain here and
4. Focus on legal immigration from Latin American countries,
as opposed to Europe.
As my friend Robert Goldbaum, who was a Romney
surrogate, told me, Latin American immigrants want to come to America because
they love its opportunities and want to work. This is different from the
entitlement-addled economies of Europe whose immigrants are used to, and expect,
Latino immigrants are deeply in sync with American
values of hard work and entrepreneurship. The Republican Party should be taking
the lead in pushing for far higher quotas for Latino immigrants as opposed to
5. Show the black community that Republicans understand
the history of adversity African-Americans have faced. There is little chance
that many African-Americans will vote Republican right now. But it makes no
difference. The Republican Party should undertake a grand gesture to give the
lie once and for all that it is a party insensitive to black concerns. This is,
after all, the party of Lincoln.
The Republican House should sponsor a
bill for the construction of a monument on the national mall commemorating the
greatest American evil of all, namely slavery, to demonstrate Republicans are
attuned to African-American history and suffering. But while we commemorate the
past, we move forward to the future. The Democratic Party often takes the black
community for granted, as I saw in my own race where my challenger did not even
turn up for the NAACP candidates’ forum. President Obama skipped the NAACP
convention as well.
Drive home Republican emphasis on school vouchers and
how the Democratic Party has caved to the teacher’s unions to put teacher tenure
before children’s education.
In my campaigning, most African- American
parents whom I met strongly supported vouchers, charter schools and school
6. Women, women, women and more women. Destroy the myth that the
Republican Party is hostile to women. According to Gallup, the 20-point gender
gap in this presidential election set an all-time record.
should stop obsessing on the uteruses of young women and instead pledge to
reduce abortion by focusing on the Guttmacher Institute’s data that 85% of all
abortions take place outside of marriage.
Strengthen marriage, educate
men to respect women, and you’ll automatically and significantly reduce the
number of abortions. Stop making this a legal battle.
7. Have more kids.
For a party that so strongly opposes abortion, we sure aren’t having enough
kids. People believe the Republican Party is the rich people’s
This is an unfair and inaccurate characterization.
is certainly true is that while immigrant communities (most of whom vote
Democrat) continue to have large families, those who are better off economically
have fewer children, statistically. Stop complaining about immigrants. The more
Americans the better. But the growth of the indigenous population, of people
reared from birth in this great nation, is just as important.
whom The Washington Post says is the international best-selling author of 29 books,
and will shortly publish The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of
Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.