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Opinion

Huckabee and Republicans must engage social issues in 2012 – the smart way

Former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer explains why stressing social issues is not just good politics, it's crucial to revitalizing America.

By Gary Bauer / February 24, 2011



Washington

When I ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1999 and 2000, I participated in four televised debates. In three of those debates, each of the candidates got a chance to ask another candidate a single question.

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Picking names from a hat, I drew George W. Bush’s name in each of those debates. And each time, I challenged the then-Texas governor to pledge to nominate only pro-life justices to the US Supreme Court.

Bush demurred each time. Thankfully, President Bush ended up nominating (aside from the Harriet Miers debacle) two well-qualified and pro-life justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Their presence on the court is arguably Bush’s greatest legacy.

I was persistent in raising this question because I believe that our courts have taken cultural issues like abortion out of the people’s hands by legislating from the bench and foisting their own values on the public. My question succeeded in placing, at least for a short time, judges and the sanctity of life at the forefront of the presidential conversation.

Can't marginalize social issues

More than a decade later, many presidential hopefuls are even less eager than Bush was to talk candidly about social issues – public policy as it relates to marriage, family, the sanctity of life, and religion’s place in the public square.

But that does not mean social issues won’t be important – even pivotal – in 2012. Even the most reluctant culture warriors among today’s presidential aspirants can talk about social issues by engaging in what I call “linkage,” uniting social issues with economic, foreign policy, and other concerns.

In his new book, “A Simple Government,” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee identifies the family as the most important form of government and correctly asserts that when families fail, governments fail.

Shocking statistics

I don’t think I need to convince anyone that America’s current troubles are a result of not only governmental breakdown but also failing families and a decline of public virtue.

Forty-one percent of children today are born to unmarried mothers. Though government per-child educational spending soars, studies find our students struggling in many subjects (even in, as skyrocketing childhood obesity levels suggest, gym class!).

Marriage seems to be an afterthought for many young adults. According to a recent Pew Research study, in 1968, nearly 70 percent of 20-somethings were married. Forty years later, that figure had fallen to 26 percent.

And even though abortion rates have dipped slightly in recent years, nearly a quarter of all pregnancies still end in induced abortion, according to recently released statistics by the Guttmacher Institute.

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