In 2010, Republican candidates didn’t invest too much energy in talking about culture-war issues. The public was broadly unsatisfied with the pace of the economic recovery; Democratic voters felt listless despite breakthrough progressive accomplishments; and Republicans spent much of the election year asking, “Where are the jobs?”
But once successful GOP officials took office, they got right to work – passing legislation to curtail reproductive freedoms.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Republican candidates didn’t talk too much about hot-button social issues in 2014, either. Indeed, the party seemed well aware of the fact that the right’s culture war was out of step with the American mainstream, so the GOP did its best to avoid the subject, at times even pretending to be pro-choice and pretending to love birth control, just to improve their electoral chances.
But now that the elections are over, Republicans are once again reverting to the norm.
[F]or the first time since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed in 2003, outlawing a late-term procedure, the antiabortion movement sees opportunity on Capitol Hill as the GOP prepares to take charge of the U.S. Senate.At the top of the agenda: legislation that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, pushing the legal boundaries set by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Activists on both sides of the debate are gearing up for a fight that will demonstrate the consequences of Republican gains in the 2014 election.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the Wall Street Journal last week, “There’s no reason our constituents should be kept from having their voices heard on the issue in the Senate, as well. I look forward to having the Senate consider similar legislation in the next Congress.”
In state capitols, meanwhile, Politico reports that a “wave of anti-abortion laws” is on the way. “Activists say they’ll push on several fronts,” the piece noted, “seeking more restrictions in states that have already enacted laws, as well as initiating legislation in states where the GOP has now gained ground.”
And abortion isn’t the only issue.
Chris Geidner reported the other day that some congressional Republicans are also looking to scale back LGBT rights advanced by the Obama administration.
Two key House Republicans on employment issues have asked the Labor Department to withdraw its new rule protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination.House Education and Workforce Committee Chair John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, and Rep. Tim Walberg, the Republican chair of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, made the request for a 60-day public comment period for the rule in a letter to the head of the office responsible for enforcing it.
President Obama made the anti-discrimination change through an executive order over the summer, preventing contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
These GOP lawmakers are arguing that the policy should be scrapped, at least for now, to allow more “public comment.”
There’s been an intra-party tension in recent years when it comes to the Republicans’ social agenda. One contingent believe the party has a responsibility to fight the culture war, satisfy the GOP’s right-wing base, and stick to principle. Another sees this as electoral suicide, and is content to placate social conservatives as long as possible, without actually making too much of an effort to deliver.
In the wake of the party’s major 2014 gains, this tension is going to get worse before it gets better.