Inclusive conservatism is about creating a big tent party where all strands of conservatism can coexist. The fact is much more unites conservatives than divides; the emergence of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation in America crystallizes what inclusive conservatism looks like.
For the party of local governance and individualism the notion of government getting out of the same-sex marriage debate is as conservative as the protection of religious freedom in America’s churches and religious institutions. Yet so much attention is given to intra-party labels and lines such as Tea Party, Libertarian, Establishment, Social Conservative, RINO…etc, however, the over lapping intra-party principles don’t get much attention at all. While substantive debates within the conservative movement and the Republican Party is a healthy dynamic it can also reach the point of diminishing returns.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin will retire at the end of his current term in 2014. Prior to doing so, Sen. Harkin will introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While the need to end workplace discrimination is important the concerns and voice of social conservatism is valid as well. Cultural conservatives, led by the Family Research Council, make an important point in making sure that such a law will not infringe on the freedom of religion. Any resultant bill should explicitly permit churches and other religious groups to make personnel decisions based on tenets of their faith. Therefore, this is the challenge: for the party to create a policy that adequately balances competing and important interests.
ENDA represents multiple perspectives on conservative ideology; generational divides on gay and lesbian issues and a great opportunity to showcase inclusive conservatism. A public policy that exalts individuality over intolerance and that exalts religious freedom over the coercive power of government is how the Republican Party can succeed in creating a big tent party with inclusive conservatism.