One necessary key to future Republican success is to move the party northward. The Republican base that existed in the Northeast prior to the Southern realignment must be rebuilt. This means increasing focus on the economic conservatism that is common in the North and deemphasizing the social and religious conservatism of the South. This does not necessarily mean turning our back on these conservative social ideals, but repackaging them to appeal to a broader base.
One step in this process is to separate the social ideals and values from religion. Far too often the religious rhetoric that surrounds solid, pertinent, and meaningful policies obscures the validity of the underlying values. Many of the values and associated legislative proposals held by the Christian right are not only correct, but are held by a much wider swath of America. However, the embroilment in religious language and presentation scares many away. It makes potential compatriots wary of Republicans and hinders their ability to support policies that are necessary and right. If these values were presented in more secular terms, Republicans would be able to garner greater support amongst their base, independents, and even some Democrats.
This proposal is not as novel as it may seem. America has done it many times before. We have taken the religion-born values of not murdering, not raping, monogamy, and many more and addressed them in secular ways. For most, if not all, they do not seem to be anything but secular. This is because the underlying logic and reasoning behind such policies is firmly rooted in the rational and not in the religious.
We need to continue this process on other social issues. At first this may challenge some to find secular, rational justifications for beliefs and values that, for them, are heavily rooted in religion. But it can be done. If there is anything that cannot be explained in a secular, rational fashion it should not be in the hands of government. Separation of church and state dictates this. Something that can only be justified by citing a religious text or by saying because G-d or Allah said so does not belong in the law books of America. However, separation of church and state does not dictate that values and morals need to be or should be ignored.
For instance, focus can be increased on the stalwart value of personal responsibility. Many current political dialogues, for example abortion, can be reconstructed with this value as a prime ‘talking-point’. Currently the abortion issue is structured around useless philosophical arguments regarding the definition of life. These arguments are based on deep-seeded beliefs; and are fruitless. It is a zero-sum game in which no one will be able to convince the other side. However, if the argument is retooled to one of personal responsibility we can make more headway in achieving the desired goal. Ultimately, I think most conservatives would agree that the goal is to stop abortions from happening. A society that has legal but very few abortions is preferable (albeit possibly less than ideal) to a society that has illegal but many abortions. By tackling this issue from the perspective of a more universal American value, Republicans can not only garner greater support, but attack the fundamental problem and achieve the desired solution.
This is a key to the success of the Republican Party. We have to be able to appeal to a broader segment of America. More people need to be able to relate to our platform. This is not changing who we are, but repackaging what we say and how we say it. It may be a challenge, but it will be worth it. It will not only draw more people in, but make our policies better thought out.