The GOP At Risk: A Symposium on the Big Tent Strategy—Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson

governor of California

Republicans have always been united in common purpose to cure society’s ills, including abortion. Those who are pro-choice, who insist that government has no business in our bedrooms, and those who are pro-life, who insist upon the sanctity of human life and the rights of unborn children, nevertheless agree on the same goal—we must reduce the appalling number of abortions in America. There is room for both views in our party.

A healthier pursuit would be to concentrate on our most important purpose: preserving family values. In California, we have done so in many ways—by lowering taxes to allow families to keep more of what they earn; by returning control over education to families; by improving child support; by enacting real welfare reform that puts work first; by promoting adoption; by vetoing domestic partners legislation; and by making neighborhoods safer for all children. Where government once played God, in California it now places its faith in families and individuals.

The Republican Party became truly inclusive in the ’70s and ’80s, when it welcomed conservative Christians who had felt neglected and abandoned by the political process. Not everyone agreed on every single issue, but our Republican principles were strengthened, not undermined, by the introduction of this new coalition.

The same was true in 1994 when Republicans ran under a unified banner. We did not shirk our principles; in fact, we campaigned on ten issues that the American people overwhelmingly supported. Our reward: control of Congress for the first time in forty years.

The Republican Party can and should have vigorous debates on all issues. But we cannot afford to fracture our party over any single issue. That is why I opposed a recent resolution to deny party funds to candidates who did not meet a litmus test on abortion. If we start down that road, where would it end?

Republicans are America’s majority party. We’ll remain so only by remaining united and inclusive. Let’s heed the words of Ronald Reagan: If we lock out of the party our “80% friends,” then it won’t be long before the party is over.

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