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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
Culture war 'truce,' or GOP civil war?
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Culture war 'truce,' or GOP civil war?

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Former Bush speechwriter and neo-con guru David Frum came out for a 'truce' in the ongoing culture wars in a panel discussion on MSNBC's Daily Rundown on March 7.

In response to a question from host Chuck Todd, Frum backed away from the Republican Party's previous commitment to a hard-line anti-choice agenda.

Republicans, Frum said, should 'avoid talking about [family issues] in a way that is censorious, that is disdainful, that is disrespectful, that singles some people out for condemnation and others for praise, and above all what Republicans must avoid - as some of these very undisciplined state legislators have done - is using their pro-life convictions in any way that seems to suggest an approval of violence.'

'Those people need to be slapped down & and a bag put over their head, and told 'just discipline yourself!' Frum exclaimed.

Frum's co-panelist, Concerned Women for America Executive Director Peggy Nance, looked on sourly.

Nance seemed even more dismayed when Frum segued into a discussion of Gay rights.

'[Republicans] have to find a way to talk about improving the life chances of children by giving them more secure families without seeming to condemn homosexuals,' Frum said.

'That is a social change that has come to this country, it is accepted, it a fight that is not over, but within five minutes of being over. And Republicans have to recognize that.'

Frum and Nance had been asked to react to a new MSNBC poll of GOP voters that seemed to indicate they were far more interested in economic issues than in social, or 'values' issues.

According to the MSNBC poll, 65% of Republican voters would be more likely to support candidates who focused more on the economy and less on social issues. Only 8% said they would be less likely to support candidates who failed to stress social issues. Twenty-five percent said it would make no difference to them.

Nance challenged these figures.

A 2010 exit poll sponsored by her organization showed that although 75% of voters said they voted on economic issues, '63% said moral values and that number was even higher among women,' Nance claimed.

The exchange between Frum and Nance mirrors a larger debate going on - sometimes bitterly - within the Republican Party.

It began in June 2010, when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels suggested 'let's call a truce on social issues while we focus on the economy.'

Daniels was roundly criticized at the time by conservative GOP activists.

The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer wrote last December that 'The bare minimum conservatives need in a 2012 standard bearer is someone who holds a deep-seated allegiance to the Judeo-Christian values of the Founders and will fight to defend them, protect them, and advance them. The last thing we need is someone who has already run up the white flag.'

Daniels refused to back down, however, telling the Indianapolis Star that such issues are secondary to the economy and foreign policy.

At a recent Republican candidate forum in Iowa, sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, social issues were in the forefront.

Faith and Freedom head Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition, openly threatened the GOP.

'My message to the national Republican party tonight is real simple,' Reed said. 'If you turn your backs on the pro-family, pro-life constituents, and the values they stand for, you will be consigned to permanent minority status.'

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, agreed with Reed, saying 'For Republicans to do anything that would de-energize this voting bloc would amount to political suicide.'

Republican presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Buddy Roemer, and Newt Gingrich attended the event.

Absent from the forum were the potential candidates who top the national polls at this early stage - Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.

Of the three, Romney is viewed as an all-but-certain contender, but he is not expected to compete as aggressively in Iowa as he did in 2008.

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