Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ann Coulter denounces 'shysters' who attack 'establishment' GOP

On Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on February 19, guest Ann Coulter and Hannity got into a heated discussion about the nature of the Tea Party on its fifth anniversary. While both are Tea Party supporters, Coulter differentiated between “people in America who call themselves Tea Partiers [who] are fantastic” and the “con men and scamsters” who “trick good Americans into sending them money, claiming we are fighting for you and they aren’t fighting for you.”

“Basically anyone who claims to be going after establishment Republicans, the key word there is ‘Republican,’” Coulter said. “If we don’t elect Republicans, I don’t care which Republican, we will not repeal Obamacare.” She continued, “The only way to repeal Obamacare is to elect Republicans. It is not to be fighting against Republicans.”

Coulter said that everyone has “got to read” Thomas Sowell’s column, “Cruz Control,” published on Feb. 18, in which the prominent conservative economist and author criticizes Ted Cruz for weakening the Republican Party in order to remake it as a more pure conservative party in the long term. Sowell argues that such a strategy may bring America past the point of no return with respect to both Obamacare and the larger erosion of personal freedoms. She also pointed out that groups that attack Republicans would face less media scrutiny than groups that attack Democrats.

Coulter called the repeal of Obamacare the unifying issue for the Republican Party saying “it is going to wreck the country and there is only one way to repeal it. It does not fall on its own. None of this falls on its own. You have to elect Republicans.”

When Hannity asked why the Republicans could not force the issue on the Keystone pipeline, the debt ceiling, and a host of other issues, and implied that the GOP had given up the fight, Coulter replied, “Fight to give them a majority then we will repeal Obamacare and have the keys to the pipeline.”

Although the Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Democrats control the Senate by a 55-45 margin. Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare, cut spending, and other issues have died in the Senate.

“We don’t have control of one branch of the government,” Coulter pointed out.

Coulter’s strongest criticism was reserved for conservative groups who attack Republican incumbents and leadership. “If it weren’t for shysters running against establishment Republicans we would have 51 Republicans senators right now,” referring to Tea Party candidates in 2012 who won primaries over more experienced Republican candidates, but who lost in the general election to Democrats.

“There is still hope for America, the country is not finished,” Coulter said, “just don’t donate to the shysters, which is the Senate Conservatives Fund.”

As Examiner reported last week is one of several conservative groups that are spending more money to attack Republican incumbents than to win seats occupied by Democrats. So far in 2014, two of the top three recipients of Senate Conservatives Fund donations were primary challengers to Republicans. In 2012, only three of the group’s sponsored candidates were elected to office. The SCF losers include such notable candidates as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who lost in races that were previously identified as leaning Republican.

Originally published on National Elections Examiner

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

RINOs and modern McCarthyism

Everyone is familiar with Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.). In the 1950s, McCarthy made a cottage industry of searching out and finding hidden communists throughout the federal government. In the post-WWII era, communism was a real threat. McCarthy, however, was a charlatan.

McCarthy’s inquisition began on Feb. 9, 1950 with a speech to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, W.V. What McCarthy said wasn’t recorded, but, according to “The Politics of Fear” by Robert Griffith, the senator waved a piece of paper in his hand and proclaimed, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

We now know that McCarthy was lying. His list of names, the number of which frequently varied, was never fully revealed. Many of the “communists” revealed by McCarthy were innocent of the charge, the victims of shoddy investigations, bullying tactics, and circumstantial evidence. In other cases, McCarthy specifically targeted his critics. People who were outspoken against his tactics might well find themselves being labeled as a communist in McCarthy’s next appearance.

McCarthy’s reign of terror came to an end after the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954. At the height of the hearings, McCarthy accused a young lawyer of pro-communist sympathies. As recounted in “A Conspiracy So Immense,” Joseph Welch, a lawyer for the army, responded indignantly, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” When McCarthy tried to continue, Welch demanded that the chairman call the next witness, prompting applause from the gallery.

McCarthy’s tactics have been used more recently in American politics as well. Many times in the past, liberal politicians have accused conservatives of racism, a charge that, like that of being a communist, is easily made and not easily dispelled. Many conservatives, from Trent Lott to Shirley Temple, have been accused of racism. Often the charges are based on seemingly innocuous remarks, political “dog whistles” that only those in the know can decipher. (Ironically, pundits on the left are very adept at picking up these dog whistles.) Even discussing the health hazards of fried chicken can be construed as racist. To many liberals, any opposition to President Obama is rooted racism. Even Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain was targeted with accusations of racism.

Now some conservatives have adopted the McCarthyistic tactic of making wild and unsubstantiated accusations toward political opponents. The new pejorative is the charge that a conservative is a “RINO,” a “Republican in name only,” or perhaps the equally dismissive term, “establishment.”

The term “RINO” is not new. A 2009 list of the top 10 RINOs on Human Events cited the American Conservative Union voting records as an objective standard upon which to gauge a Republican’s liberal tendencies.

The current RINO hunters reject this objective standard. In many cases, Republicans accused of RINO-ism are among the most conservative senators according to the American Conservative Union (Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Tom Coburn, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain to name a few). Several are on the National Journal list of the 15 most conservative senators (Pat Roberts, Tom Coburn, and John Cornyn). One Tea Party Facebook user attempted to explain away this apparent inconsistency saying, “The ACU rating has become a joke since the ACU got infiltrated by the establishment.”

Anti-RINO activists claim that some Republicans “actually agree with the liberal position to some extent.” When asked who these Republicans are and on what issues they “agree with the liberal position,” they are typically able to only supply a generic list of alleged RINOs. The accusations are typically not specific.

In some cases, the RINO hunters base their accusation on procedural votes like the debt ceiling increase earlier this month. Senator Ted Cruz forced fellow Republicans into an unpopular and unnecessary vote to invoke cloture. Cruz then criticized the Republicans who voted for cloture without explaining how the GOP senators could have won a battle against majority Democrats according to the Washington Post. Other anti-RINO activists are similarly silent on how Republicans can force legislation through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Other Facebook users indicate that some RINOs are so devious that they may even establish conservative voting records. One user commented that even though some Republicans, such as Mike Huckabee and John McCain had conservative voting records, he considered them RINOs because he doubted their sincerity and backbone.

As with charges of being a communist or a racist, an accusation of RINO-ism can be difficult to shake. The amorphous, subjective nature of the charge makes it difficult for targets to fight the smear. Any objective evidence, such as American Conservative Union ratings, is dismissed as biased or unreliable, tainted by “establishment” forces or the mainstream media.

Criticism of the RINO hunters is frequently met with attacks like those experienced by Drew Pearson. For example, many conservatives who have written columns critical of Ted Cruz have found themselves cast as “RINOs,” “establishment,” “progressives,” or even “closet Democrats.” Even conservative stalwarts such as Thomas Sowell and Charles Krauthammer are not immune.

Anyone who is not in total and enthusiastic agreement with the self-appointed “true conservative” mavins is subject to the RINO charge. This includes former Tea Party heroes such as Senator Marco Rubio, who made the mistake of proposing an immigration reform plan in 2013. Rather than debating the plan on its merits, Rubio was attacked for supporting “amnesty.”

Such bullying is not consistent with the conservative principles of truth and justice. Indeed, these tactics have more in common with Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (numbers five, six, eight, and 12 in particular) than anything from the playbook of Ronald Reagan, a man who, some anti-RINO activists privately admit, might be considered a RINO today. Nevertheless, the attacks on alleged RINOs will likely continue until conservatives finally see through the baseless accusations and begin to ask, “Have you no sense of decency?”

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Monday, February 17, 2014

Conservatives, Christians and the poor

When it comes to the poor, conservatives and Republicans have a reputation for being heartless. While this reputation may not be deserved, it is one that must be addressed if Republicans wish to be given the chance to lead a country where the labor rate has fallen to a forty year low and the poverty rate is at a 50 year high.

Even though not all conservatives are Christians, liberals often cite two Biblical passages in support of government programs to aid the poor. In Matthew 25:45, God admonishes religious people who are about to be cast into “eternal punishment” that “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Another common citation is the story of the rich young ruler found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In the story, Jesus told the man to “sell all that you have and give to the poor.”

They have a point.

Even though there is no indication that Jesus intended for that specific instruction to be applied to anyone other than the one individual to whom it was addressed, there is ample evidence in the Bible that God wants people to help the poor.

Jesus said in Matthew 26 that the poor will always be with us. No amount of private funding or government aid can eliminate poverty, but if Christians were fulfilling God’s commandment to help the poor there would be much less need for a government “war on poverty.” According to Pew’s Religion and the Public Life survey, there are an estimated 246 million Christians in the United States while the Social Security Administration notes that the median income of Americans is $44,321. This means that if each Christian tithed 10 percent of their income, there would be almost $1.1 trillion available to churches and charities.

Helping the poor should not be limited to writing checks. Much of the benefit derived from both the recipient and the giver is in the human contact that results from the act of giving. When people help others, they feel better about themselves. When the Bible commands Christians to put their faith into action, it does not offer a buyout option.

Two groups that offer Christians, or anyone else for that matter, a chance to help the poor are located in West Georgia. The Rapha Clinic, a medical clinic with several locations in West Georgia and Eastern Alabama, serves the uninsured free of charge with a staff of volunteer doctors and nurses.

In nearby Villa Rica, volunteers from the First United Methodist Church make hundreds of sack lunches for the town’s underprivileged children. The church took on the task of providing the children with food during the summer break when they would not get free meals at school. During a ten week period last year, the volunteers prepared and delivered more than 10,000 sack lunches according to the Times-Georgian. The ministry hopes to double that number this year and expand into even more areas of the county. As the group expanded, it was given a formal name, the “By HIS Hands Summer Lunch Ministry.”

Throughout America and the world, Christians like Sue Brockman, who was instrumental in founding the Rapha Clinic, and Derek Porter, the pastor of the Villa Rica First Methodist Church who started the summer lunch ministry, are helping the poor and sick. In fact, Christians have been helping the poor since the days of Christ. Some Christian charities are small, centering on a single town or county. Others are now large groups with a presence in many countries. The Red Cross was founded by a Christian businessman after witnessing the destruction of the Napoleonic wars. The Salvation Army was founded by a Christian evangelist and remains explicitly Christian, as does CARE, which stands for Christian Action Research and Education. Many hospitals and colleges were founded by Christians of various denominations.

Just because Christians have a rich history of charitable and humanitarian endeavors doesn’t mean that the rest of us should rest on our laurels (halos?). One of the big rationales for the growth of the welfare state has always been that churches and private charities have not done enough to help the poor. The New Deal began the displacement of private and religious charities by the federal government. This process was continued by the Great Society of the 1960s.

This liberal policy of government enforced charity runs afoul of several aspects of Biblical teaching. The most obvious is the admonition in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that everyone “must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Congress and the IRS compel us to give, however reluctantly, and could not care less whether we are cheerful or not as we submit our tax returns.

Second, the Bible clearly values honest work. People who are legitimately in need should be helped, but those who are capable of working should support themselves and their families. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’” Charity should not go to people who could be working to support themselves. Many government programs actually encourage people not to work because they lose their benefits if they do.

Jesus, in Luke 16:1-2, commanded Christians to be good stewards of their resources. A good steward is not wasteful. Government often is. Fraud and waste in government programs are common, although no one can be sure of the exact extent. The universal nature of many government programs such as Social Security and Medicare means that precious resources are spent on the wealthy, who could provide for themselves, rather than the truly needy. Even in the best case, government “charity” funds flow through a huge bureaucracy with an expensive overhead which takes a large percentage before the first dollar reaches the poor.

Government programs also ignore the Bible’s warnings against incurring debt. Proverbs 22:7 warns that “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Paul writes in Romans 13:8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another….” and admonishes “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings” (1 Corinthians 7:23). What, then, would God think about borrowing 40 cents on the dollar and confiscating money from workers trying to feed their families to pay for a wasteful and inefficient system that encourages the poor not to work?

Finally, there are the unintended consequences of government programs. According to Census data, more than 30 percent of children today live in single-parent families, a three-fold increase from the 1960s when the Great Society declared war on poverty. Factors in the increase include government entitlements, birth control, the declining marriage rate, and others. Given the strong link between poverty and broken families, it seems likely that many government programs perpetuate poverty by discouraging marriage.

If conservatives hope to be successful in scaling back government entitlement programs, then conservatives and Christians must become even more willing to step up and give sacrificially to help the poor and sick. Even if government entitlements go away, the poor will remain.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GOP infighting is about money, power, not ideology

In recent months, a struggle for power has been going on within the Republican Party. Although cast as a struggle between “true conservatives” and the “Republicans in name only” of the party “establishment,” in reality the struggle seems to be one more concerned with what strategy the Republican Party should take and a competition for donor dollars. The ultimate prize is control of the party itself.

Nowhere was the power struggle within the Republican Party more evident than in last year’s attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. Even though Republicans unanimously voted against Obamacare and unanimously favor its repeal, the party became bitterly divided over the defund strategy which, as Examiner explained at the time, could not work because Obamacare had already been funded and the Democrats had enough votes in the Senate to block the effort, even without President Obama’s veto.

If the defund effort could not succeed, why was so much emphasis placed on persuading Republicans in Congress to vote for what turned out to be an utterly destructive strategy? Part of the answer may lie with the Senate Conservatives Fund, an advocacy group headed by Matt Hoskins, a former aide to South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. The Senate Conservatives Fund was one of the few winners in the government shutdown. Politico reported that the group raised more than $9 million in 2013, a record for a nonelection year. The group raised almost half of that total, $3.7 million, in September and October as the government shutdown loomed and was in process.

Much of the money raised by the Senate Conservatives Fund is spent attacking sitting Republican officeholders who are deemed insufficiently conservative. Recent targets of the group include majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). In fact, Politico reports that of the five candidates for 2014 elections funded by the Senate Conservatives Fund, only one is running for a Democratic-held seat. The rest are challenging GOP incumbents.

Responding to Republican criticism of his tactics, Hoskins argues in Politico, “If they don’t want to be criticized by conservatives, there is an easy solution: They can stop voting with Democrats.” He goes on to charge Republican incumbents with “help[ing] the Democrats to enact their liberal agenda.”

Do Hoskins’ charges against Republican lawmakers hold water? According to the American Conservative Union, an organization that rates legislators every session, Mitch McConnell is a “Defender of Liberty” with a 100 percent conservative voting record. Lindsay Graham is a “conservative” in the eyes of the ACU with an 89 percent record. Roberts, Cochran, and Alexander have lifetime records of 83 percent, 79 percent, and 77 percent respectively although their 2012 ratings are lower.

Money that goes to “true conservative” groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund is money that does not go to the Republican Party or more established candidates. Politico reported last week that Karl Rove’s Crossroads groups had raised only $6.1 million in 2013, a 98 percent decrease over 2012. Similarly, a Politico report from October 2013 noted that at least eight of the most outspoken Republican congressmen had not donated to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political wing of the House Republican caucus. Georgia’s Rep. Tom Graves is among those who had not given money to help the party.

As Tea Party and “true conservative” groups act to defund the GOP, where is the money going? The Center for Public Integrity reported that Tea Party groups rarely involved themselves in electoral politics. Two exceptions were Patriotic Veterans, a group that ran ads against Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and for Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) in 2012, and Patriot Majority USA, a Democratic affiliated group that ran ads attacking Republicans. Casey and Kinzinger both won their respective campaigns.

An analysis of the FEC filings of many Tea Party groups by the Sunlight Foundation shows that they frequently attack Republican incumbents nearly as much as Democrats. Tea Party Patriots has yet to spend money on the 2014 campaign and in 2012 spent almost all of their money on Ted Cruz with only token amounts to Mitt Romney and Kevin Brady (R-Tex.). In 2014, Freedomworks is spending more to attack Republicans John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell than to target Democratic senators Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Mary Landrieu (La.). In 2012, Freedomworks opposed almost as many Republicans as Democrats. Many of the Republicans the group did support lost their races.

For its part, so far in 2014 the Senate Conservatives Fund’s biggest recipient is Matthew Bevin, the Tea Party challenger to Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. In second place, the group ran ads against Mark Pryor, but in third place was Christopher McDaniel, the primary challenger to Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran.

For all his bluster, Hoskins has not been overly successful in electing his brand of conservatives. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, of the 11 candidates supported by SCF in 2012, only three were elected. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was the notable winner and list of losers contains such now infamous names as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Nevertheless, failure is also profitable for Hoskins. The SCF has paid approximately $535,000 to Hoskins and his company over the past three years.

The assaults on sitting Republicans are doubly tragic because, not only do they waste money that could have been used to campaign against Democrats, it also forces other Republican and conservative groups to spend more money to defend conservative incumbents. This sometimes makes strange bedfellows. Bloomberg reported that labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce came together to fund Defending Main Street, the super-PAC of Ohio Republican Steve LaTourette.

One candidate who did not get support from the Tea Party was Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. In spite of claims that the GOP “establishment” hung Cuccinelli out to dry, Time reported that several vocal Tea Party critics of the Party did not fund the Republican candidate at all.

The biggest question for conservatives is why Tea Party groups are spending more to unseat the Republican Senate majority leader than to unseat Democrats in key Senate races. To win control of the Senate and have a chance to begin rolling back the Obama agenda, Republicans need to win at least six Senate seats. If Tea Party and “true conservative” groups really want to advance a conservative agenda, they would do better to attack Democrats than a successful GOP senator with a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.

Given that many of the “establishment RINOs” have voting records among the most conservative in the Congress, it seems likely that there are other motives for the attacks on what would more accurately be called the Republican Party’s “Old Guard.” In addition to financial incentives to attacking sitting Republicans, the current struggle is essentially a battle for control of the party pitting the young Turks against the current Republican leadership.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Medical marijuana bill might pass in Georgia this session

On February 1, Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Consitution reported that Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would legalize a medical form of marijuana for use in treating epileptic seizures in children. Even more surprising is that Peake hopes to have the bill become law within a matter of weeks.

The bill, dubbed H.B. 885, has been given the nickname of “Haleigh’s Hope Act” for Haleigh Cox, a Monroe County four-year-old who suffers from severe seizures. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spokeswoman Patti Gregory told the Macon Telegraph that hospital sees hundreds of children like Haleigh who have as many as 100 seizures each day and who don’t respond to other medications.

The bill would allow cannabis extracts and compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD) to be recommended by doctors at academic research hospitals. CBD is a non-hallucinogenic oil derived from the cannabis plant. Although there has been little research so far, there is anecdotal evidence that CBD can help some young victims of acute epilepsy.

Rep. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) told the Telegraph, “The evidence that’s there relating to seizure disorders looks like when it is added on, it sometimes has very dramatic results.” Watson, a medical doctor, was the first cosponsor of Peake’s bill. Galloway reports that about 90 members of the 180 seat House of Representatives have also signed on to cosponsor the bill.

“At present, there has not been enough evidence-based research around the use of CBD studying its safety and tolerability in children with seizure disorders, and thus should not be used generally,” CHOA’s Gregory said. “However, we are in support of legislation that would allow clinical research by academic institutions.”

The Georgia bill would not be an attempt to usher in de facto recreational use of marijuana as medical marijuana bills have been in some states. The text of the bill contains a clause that explicitly rejects the recreational use of the drug. The proposed law would not allow stoners to self-medicate by smoking a joint.

“What I kept hearing when I jumped into this thing is that (the bill) needed to be tightly restricted, very regulated, managed by doctors, limited in scope, in oil-based form. That’s what we drew up,” Peake told the AJC. “We had to fight the perception from some of my colleagues that we were going to go down a path allowing 6-year-olds to smoke a joint and that we were going to have pot shops on every corner. Or that any physician in the state could prescribe it.”

Marijuana for research and prescription would come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse if the law is passed. This federal agency, a part of the National Institutes of Health, grows a limited amount of marijuana for research purposes. Research facilities would apply to the Georgia Composite Medical Board for authorization to conduct cannabis research and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency would create rules for storing and distributing the drug.

The bill will likely be assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee in the House. To become law, it must pass both the House and Senate before the current General Assembly session ends in March.

Originally published in Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Saturday, February 1, 2014

New poll shows conservatives outnumber liberals in 47 states

A new Gallup poll released on January 31 shows that conservatives outnumber liberals in 47 states. Although liberal identification has reached a new high in the wake of Barack Obama’s reelection, conservatives still make up the largest ideological group in most states. Nevertheless, the average gap between conservatives and liberals shrank from 15.9 to 14.6 percent since 2012.

The three states in which liberals outnumbered conservatives were Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont. Other states that rounded out the liberal top ten were Delaware, New York, Oregon, Maine, California, and New Jersey. The District of Columbia is the most liberal “state” with 38 percent of its population identifying as liberal.

Wyoming is the most conservative state with 51 percent of its population considering themselves conservative. Mississippi, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama make up the rest of the conservative top ten, all with greater than 44 percent conservatives. Last year’s most conservative state, Alabama, fell to number 10.

The swing states from recent elections all boast a double-digit conservative advantage leading one to question why Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, and Ohio all voted for Barack Obama. According to Gallup, the answer lies with moderate voters.

Even though conservatives are the largest ideological group in most states as well as nationally, the fact that they make up less than 50 percent of the electorate means that Republicans need to reach out to moderate voters, something that they have had problems with in recent years. An Examiner analysis of exit polls from 2008 and 2012 found that moderates made up 44 and 41 percent of the electorate in the two elections. In both years, Barack Obama won moderates handily. In 2008, Obama won 60 percent of the moderate vote. In 2012, he won 56 percent. North Carolina was the only swing state in which Mitt Romney was able to eke out a victory even as he lost moderates.

Gallup notes that the percentage of liberals has been slowly increasing since the 1990s and suggests that the resurgence in liberal identification may be a result of Americans becoming comfortable with the term once again. After being popular in the civil rights era and 1970s, the term “liberal” fell into disfavor in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many liberals eschewed the label and chose to identify themselves as “progressives” or “moderates.”

Originally published on National Elections Examiner

Five things Republicans should just stop talking about already

The Republican Party is doing well in recent polling. The Obamacare implosion has left the party in position to make significant gains in this year’s midterm elections. The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report shows the Republicans to be competitive in at least seven Senate seats held by Democrats. Only six seats are needed for the Republicans to win control of the Senate.

The recent Republican success is not purely by strategy. It can be said to be as much or more in spite of the actions of Republicans than because of them. For example, the most memorable strategic move by the Republican Party in the past year was the drive to defund the Affordable Care Act. The strategy resulted in a shutdown of the federal government that caused Republican approval ratings to plummet to levels normally inhabited by used car dealers and lawyers that advertise on daytime television. The shutdown likely sealed the fate of Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

Fortunately for the GOP, Democratic incompetence in formulating Obamacare is proving greater than Republican incompetence at opposing the Democrats. In a comeback that was nothing short of miraculous, only a month after the shutdown had failed and pushed GOP approval to historic lows, Republicans rebounded in the generic congressional ballot to take the lead over Democrats. The poll reported in Examiner showed a statistical tie but was a vast improvement over the deficit seen in the September shutdown.

If Republicans seriously want to win control of Congress, and eventually the presidency, they must win over moderate voters, roughly a third of the electorate according to Gallup. In order to do that, Republican candidates and supporters should avoid certain topics that make are almost guaranteed to push moderates toward the Democratic Party. Thankfully, birtherism is no longer in the headlines, but several other topics may be just as poisonous to Republican vote-seekers.

“Indefinite detention.” First, conservatives should stop talking about the nonissue of the NDAA. Examiner debunked the claim that the NDAA allowed indefinite detention of U.S. citizens two years ago, but many still believe the conspiracy theory.

The NDAA is an appropriations bill that is passed annually to fund national defense. In spite of claims by some on the right, the 2012 NDAA specifically excluded U.S. citizens and legal aliens from indefinite detention. The text of the 2013 NDAA also states that the law “shall not be construed to authorize the detention of a citizen of the United States, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, or any other person who is apprehended in the United States.” Indefinite detention applies to foreign terrorists. It does not and never did apply to U.S. citizens.

“Impeachment.” Conservatives should also give up on impeachment. While most Americans seem to think that President Obama is a mediocre president with unsuccessful policies, his personal popularity remains high according to a new Associated Press/GfK poll reported by Examiner. Even if voters don’t want to send Democrats back to Washington, they don’t want to impeach Barack Obama. Pressing the impeachment issue may actually cost the GOP votes.

Even though the Obama Administration has been rocked by scandals and poor decisions, impeachment is unlikely. As previously noted by the Atlanta Conservative Examiner, the Republican House could impeach the president, but without the ability to remove him from office due to the Democratic-held Senate this would only amount to a censure and would be seen as a victory for the president.

“Social issues.” Likewise, Republicans should deemphasize social issues. Voters are split on issues like gay marriage and abortion, but they are much more united on the twin issues of the economy and Obamacare. Even though a majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion and a plurality now consider themselves pro-life according to Gallup, the country is closely split on the issue. Recent polling (again by Gallup) shows that a slight majority now supports the redefinition of marriage. It is a much better strategy to focus on issues where a clear majority agrees with the Republican position.

Only a third of voters approve of Obama’s handling of the economy according to Gallup. A similar number approves of the Affordable Care Act according to Real Clear Politics. Voters disapprove of Obamacare by margins that often exceed 20 points greater than those approving. This doesn’t mean that Republicans should abandon their principles. It does mean that they should address the issues that concern voters. Poll after poll, like this Fox News poll from last week, shows that jobs and the economy are what people care about.

“Amnesty.” In contrast to the economy, immigration is an issue where many Republicans are at odds with a strong majority of voters. The Fox News poll showed that 68 percent of voters favor allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country “and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, but only if they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check.” Even 60 percent of Republicans support this sort of immigration reform.

Although many people doubt polling data, the strong public support for immigration reform is confirmed by exit polls from the 2012 presidential election. By more than a two-to-one margin (65-28 percent), voters believed that illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be offered legal status. The issue may well have cost Romney the election after his “self-deportation” comment. It definitely cost him many votes from the Hispanic community.

In reality, there is no amnesty bill currently being considered by Congress. By definition, amnesty is a pardon or forgiveness. The immigration reform bill passed by the Senate is neither. Politico reported in July that it would take illegal immigrants ten years and thousands of dollars in fines and back taxes to obtain legal resident status.

When Republicans loudly decry “amnesty” at the mere mention of immigration reform, they are pitting themselves against the overwhelming majority of the American electorate. This is not a smart strategic move for a party that wants to gain a majority in Congress.

“RINO” and “establishment.” Republicans are a minority party. It is axiomatic that in order to become a majority party that the Republican Party must grow and attract new voters. Unfortunately, many Republicans seem to believe that the party can grow by dividing itself into factions and attacking successful Republican officeholders.

Polling shows that conservatives outnumber liberals in almost every state. A January 31, 2014 Gallup poll found that only three states, Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts (plus the District of Columbia) have a larger percentage of liberals than conservatives. In every swing state, conservatives outpoll liberals by double-digit margins. How then, did an ultraliberal candidate like Barack Obama win election twice?

The answer lies with moderates. In only one state, Wyoming, do conservatives hold a clear majority at 51.4 percent. In all other states, conservatives must appeal to moderates in order to win elections. The Democrats have been much more successful at that of late. According to Examiner’s analysis of exit polls, moderates made up nearly half of the electorate in 2008 and 2012. Obama won moderates by 60 and 56 percent respectively. If so-called “moderate” Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney can’t win moderates, what hope do self-styled “true conservatives” have?

It remains to be seen how and if Republicans can once again appeal to moderate voters, but a good start would be taking a moderate tone and trying to find common ground rather than demonizing each other over minor differences. Americans seldom vote for people who sound crazy or angry so Republicans would do well to present a positive vision in which, as Arthur Brooks wrote, they fight for people rather than against things. Conservatives cannot unite America without first uniting their own party.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner