What Does the GOP Value?
Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
"A Pledge to America"
In a move reminiscent of the 1994 "Contract with America," Republican leaders revealed their legislative agenda for the next congress. "A Pledge to America" is heavy on economic and fiscal policies, but it gives scant attention to issues that are a priority for social conservatives, including sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.
The only policy proposal that addresses a social issue is a pledge to ban funding of abortion. This proposal would codify President Obama's executive order issued as part of a health care reform compromise with pro-life Democrats. The Republicans are not proposing stronger restrictions, but they would make the policy more permanent by making it a law.
The only other nod to social conservatives is the following statement in the preamble:
"We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values."
Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins said the statement was strong but could be stronger.
"While it could have played a bigger role in the Pledge, the Republicans' commitment to life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty is a major step in the right direction," Perkins said. "While I'm disappointed that popular policies like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were not more clearly defined in the document, the Pledge is still a significant improvement over the 1994 Contract with America. At least now, Republicans are acknowledging that values issues should be a key part of the conservative agenda."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), agreed.
"Some have criticized the document for not being more specific about many of the issues that deeply concern social conservatives. However, when you compare this pledge with the 1994 'Contract with America,' which was deafeningly silent on moral issues, one can see that social conservatives are clearly a more important part of any potential conservative governing coalition than they were in 1994," said Land. "There could have been stronger language concerning the defense of traditional marriage, but the language affirming no government funding for abortion is welcomed … It should not be read as an abandonment of the social conservatives' moral agenda."
The 1994 Contract with America did not discuss abortion policy or same-sex marriage. However, it did prioritize policies including tax incentives for adoption and elder care, the death penalty, child tax credits, parental rights, stronger child pornography laws, and changes to welfare reform (which was presented as a means to "discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy").
Citizenlink's Tom Minnery spoke in advance of the Pledge to America. He said "the emerging leadership of the Republican Party" may not be social conservatives. He said there was a fight underway to include life, marriage, and other social issues in the GOP agenda.
Still, Minnery expected the election in November to be historic.
"For the first time, Americans have seen unchecked, unbridled, left-wing liberalism at play in Washington, D.C. And people are saying, 'We don't like it. It's too expensive. It's not getting done for us what government needs to do for us. We reject it,'" said Minnery.
The new GOP agenda is also light on other values: there is no discussion of poverty, hunger, or inequality. American Family Association's (AFA) Matt Friedeman said that any statement of values should include a discussion on the poor.