These days I spend a lot of my time through the Republican Leadership Council and other pursuitstrying to get the Republican Party to be more tolerant of Republican candidates and voters who have different opinions on social issues.
My central credo is that the Republican Party is the party of less taxes and less government. So long as a candidate or voter supports the concept of limited government, he or she is a Republican, regardless of his or her opinion on an issue like abortion.
I take my inspiration from Republican leaders like Barry Goldwater, for example, who said that the government should stay out of our wallets, our homes, and our bedrooms. These Republicans (who are more numerous than some are willing to admit) believe strongly in the fundamental idea of limited government. Regardless of our opinions on social issues, we do not believe that a big, federal government is the proper tool to enforce our morals.
As you can imagine, certain elements of the Republican Party do not like to hear this message. These individuals often care more about advancing their own narrow interests than in the health and vibrancy of the Republican Party.
Some critics of limited-government Republicans, especially social conservatives, will argue that if the Republican Party has weaknesses, they come from the party¹s unwillingness to push a strong, social agenda which outlaws abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research or any other moral issue.
As proof, these individuals will argue that Ronald Reagan won New Jersey in his two campaigns for president and, because he was pro-life, we should run more adamantly pro-life candidates for office in New Jersey and suddenly, we will start winning again.
This idea is repeated so often, some people are beginning to think it is actually true. In reality, the argument¹s assumptions are severely flawed.
Does Ronald Reagan's 60% of the vote in New Jersey in 1984 mean that 60% of New Jerseyans were pro-life at the time? Of course not. To suggest that Ronald Reagan won New Jersey because he was pro-life is simply wrong.
To limit Ronald Reagan's political legacy to one issue - abortion – is historically dishonest. Ronald Reagan was so many things in addition to being pro-life. He was a strong leader. He was charismatic. He had a broad vision for a stronger America. He wanted to cut taxes and limit government. Those are the reasons why I, and the majority of New Jerseyans, voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.
Make no mistake - Ronald Reagan's position on abortion did not win him New Jersey. His extraordinary leadership qualities did.