The last time former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson spoke bluntly about a GOP focus on social issues he was referencing a controversial Iowa-based marriage pledge. This time, he told the National Press Club his thoughts on the “social conservative fringe.”
“There is no majority in America that can be built on hypocrisy and inconsistency,” Johnson said Friday in Washington, D.C.
Following the unveiling of The Family Leader‘s “The Marriage Vow“, Johnson labeled the attempt by the Iowa religious conservative organization as “unrepublican” and “offensive.” Only two candidates eventually signed the Iowa document, which was changed shortly after its unveiling to remove an especially controversial reference to slavery. The signing candidates are U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has since earned the endorsement of organization leadership member Danny Carroll, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
“While The Family Leader pledge covers just about every other so-called virtue they can think of, the one that is conspicuously missing is tolerance. In one concise document, they manage to condemn gays, single parents, single individuals, divorcees, Muslims, gays in the military, unmarried couples, women who choose to have abortions and everyone else who doesn’t fit in a Norman Rockwell painting,” Johnson said of the Iowa effort.
“The Republican Party cannot afford to have a Presidential candidate who condones intolerance, bigotry and the denial of liberty to the citizens of this country. If we nominate such a candidate, we will never capture the White House in 2012. If candidates who sign this pledge somehow think they are scoring some points with some core constituency of the Republican Party, they are doing so at the peril of writing off the vast majority of Americans who want no part of this ‘pledge’ and its offensive language.”
The latter paragraph was a theme the New Mexico Republican revisited for his speech before the National Press Club.
“Social issues are not going to win the White House in 2012. When I see Republican presidential candidates discussing morality as if the government were some type of watchdog and moral compass for America — then I see the American electorate being turned away,” he said.
“When they look at the field of candidates for President, what do voters really see? They see: We need to balance the budget, but not too fast. We need to deal with entitlements, but not enough that anybody really feels a difference. And yes, we need to cut spending by trillions, but don’t touch defense. And worst of all, the voters see a party that says it wants government out of our daily lives, except when it comes to gay rights, a woman’s right to choose, what we do on the internet, or what our families look like.”
Multimedia from the National Press Club luncheon has not yet been made available, although a live feed was available during Johnson’s remarks.
“Historically and philosophically, the Republican Party is the party which should be offering a notion of tolerance, truly small government and freedom — and that is why I’m a Republican. But watching the presidential race today, that is not what voters are hearing. Rather, in too many cases, they are seeing unadulterated pandering to so-called social conservatives,” he said. “Some candidates who used to be pretty receptive to the notion of gay rights are now signing pledges against gay marriage and otherwise equivocating. Family values have become a mandatory code phrase in every Iowa speech.”
The reliance on social conservatism as a major candidacy requirement, Johnson added, runs the risk of a nominee and perception “that will regulate [Republicans] to a minority status for a generation or more.”
Although only two candidates signed the Iowa-based marriage pledge, a total of four have signed a shorter, but similar document produced by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. The NOM pledge requires candidates promise to fight to prevent same-sex couples from marrying and place a litmus test on all potential judicial appointments, if elected President. It has been signed by Bachmann, Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Before former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty ended his campaign, he had also agreed to sign the document.
Candidates continuing in the race who have agreed to the NOM pledge are being singled out by the organization. For instance, and most recently, Maggie Gallagher, chairwoman of NOM, called out Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, saying the organization needs “someone who does not just talk the talk, but walks the walk on marriage.”
According to NOM, their pledge “was offered to all serious announced candidates for the GOP nomination,” which includes Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but no doubt excludes non-receptive candidates like Johnson and political strategist Fred Karger.