You've got to hand it to Democrats and the Obama re-election campaign. Like a quarterback who looks left to draw the defense away from his intended target on the right, Democrats have managed to divert our attention. Instead of debating President Obama's dreadful record on just about everything, Democrats have managed to get Republicans talking about sex and morality. Rather than figuring out what to do about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Democrats have put Republicans on the defensive over the use of vulgar words applied to liberal women. For their use of equally offensive or similar words applied to conservative women, they mostly get a pass, because this isn't about the words; it's about politics.
The strategy seems to be working. After a week of debating, discussing and deploring what Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke, the Democrat-friendly Washington Post ran a front-page story last Saturday announcing "GOP gains dwindling among women." They must be toasting each other at President Obama's 2012 national headquarters in Chicago.
How did Republicans allow themselves to be outmaneuvered like this? Why do they think that talking about sex, much less trying to regulate it (some might start with regulating themselves) is going to gain votes for the party in a hedonistic age where worship of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and pleasure trumps a Higher Authority? The public has little faith in the ability of politicians to run the country. The approval rating for Congress just hit an all-time low of 9 percent, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. That's lower than the approval rating for pornography, polygamy and human cloning, as cited in Gallup's 2011 Values and Beliefs poll.
Republicans are missing an opportunity to outmaneuver Democrats. Instead of playing the Democrats' game, Republicans should embrace a positive and optimistic vision. It worked for Ronald Reagan -- the president whom Republicans so revere and wish was still around. Does anyone believe if Reagan were alive today he would be happy with the way the party is destroying itself?
I have made this argument before in different ways and with different analogies and I will continue to make it until someone takes it seriously. Stop arguing about philosophy and morality and instead feature people who have embraced Republican principles and whose lives are better as a result. These would include a single mother who is now independent of government assistance and either has a job or operates her own small business, thanks, perhaps, to a microloan.
Show me people who were brought up on "the wrong side of the tracks" with an alcoholic father, or absent mother, but because someone took an interest in them (a teacher, a mentor), managed to make something of themselves.
How about an example of a man who was mired in debt but decided to stop spending money he didn't have, paid his bills and is now debt free with a good credit rating? He could provide an example for what government should do.
America has always been a storytelling nation. We love stories of people overcoming through hard work and personal integrity. The late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey made a career of telling inspirational stories. Why aren't Republicans telling positive stories, instead of so often labeling and condemning people? The smallest light can pierce the darkest room. Hope dispels despair. Confidence builds strength. "You can do it" beats "you'll never amount to anything."
Republicans should find people in small towns and big cities who would tell their stories. That's what voters want to hear and see. It's called leadership. It inspires people to believe in themselves and, ultimately, in America. It's what Reagan did. Go to YouTube and watch that 1984 campaign commercial "It's Morning in America."
For too many Republicans, the sun is setting on America. The return of Daylight Saving Time isn't going to help.
Email nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/calthomas.