To win, GOP should hit jobs instead of social issues

Though this is the 21st century, Republicans’ proposed national platform – albeit, not final at this writing – might as well have been proposed in the 19th. Yeah, that’ll attract younger voters.

One plank, for instance, is expected to denounce, in so many words, last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide. (The lead case originated in Ohio – Cincinnatian James Obergefell vs. state Health Director Richard Hodges.)

Funny thing about Republicans and the Supreme Court: When the justices guarantee certain Americans liberty – women, to choose abortion, for example, or gay people, to marry – that’s considered beyond the pale by some GOP “conservatives.” But when the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, those same strict-constructionists thought that was statesmanship of a very high order. Apparently, everything hinges on who gets power – people seemingly born to it (good!) or women, gay people, or people of color (bad!).

True, there are pro-choice Republicans, and Republicans, straight or gay, who support freedom to marry. In 2003-04, for instance, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill banning same-sex marriage. (The bill became law before 2004’s same-sex ballot issue, a marriage ban that amended the Ohio Constitution.) But among those who voted against House Bill 272 (the bill banning same-sex marriage) were Nancy Putnam Hollister, a Marietta Republican then in Ohio’s House, and then-state Sen. Steve Stivers, a suburban Columbus Republican who today represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House. And early in 2013, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a suburban Cincinnati Republican, reversed his opposition to same-sex marriage. Portman rethought the issue after one of his sons revealed he’s gay.

Still, like King Canute, certain Republicans seem to think they can order back the tide, to keep America’s women in the kitchen or the maternity ward, America’s gay people in the shadows, and black Americans on the sidelines. GOP insiders know perfectly well their party, realistically, can’t do any of that, because it’s constitutionally and socially impossible. Many people of good will oppose abortion, and same-sex marriage. But short of those federal constitutional amendments Republicans keep promising but never deliver, abortion and same-sex marriage will stay legal. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding him- or herself – or is a GOP fundraiser. (Democrats do the same about whatever peril they’re denouncing: “The sky is falling! Send a check!”)

Those Ohio Republicans who’ve been notably successful, such as Gov. John R. Kasich and former House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, a suburban Columbus Republican, and – perhaps most obviously – the late James A. Rhodes, the state’s governor for a record 16 years, have taken practical rather than dogmatic or theoretical approaches to campaigns and elections.

In 2010, Kasich unseated an incumbent governor (Democrat Ted Strickland, who’s now challenging Portman’s re-election). Ohioans hadn’t unseated an incumbent governor in 36 years. And in November 1994, Davidson pried control of Ohio’s House from Democrats, who’d run the joint for 22 years. Ever since (except in 2009-10, after Barack Obama carried Ohio the first time) the 99-member Ohio House has remained Republican-run, albeit with the help of every incumbent’s very best friend, Mr. Gerry Mander. Today, the Ohio House, led by Speaker Clifford A. Rosenberger, a Clinton County Republican, has 65 Republican members, its largest GOP caucus since “one-man, one-vote,” districts took effect 50 years ago, in November 1966.

As for this November, the Republicans who win won’t be the Republicans who try to get Americans to hate each other. The winning Republicans will be Republicans who talk about jobs and prices – and the future.