The "47 percent":
Even if there was some valid lament in there about a culture of dependency, the phrasing was about as harmful as possible, because it suggested that as president Romney wouldn't "worry" about those people - that is, wouldn't govern with their needs in mind, because he deemed them uninterested in self-sufficiency.
If you believe that conservative ideas work, you hopefully believe that the formula - a decent education, hard work, prudence, thrift, and a dollop of ambition - can and will work for anyone and everyone. "Some of you people are just hopeless" is an awful political slogan, and one that actually strengthens the case for liberalism: If a significant chunk of the citizenry is indeed unable or unwilling to care for itself - not merely failing to do so in response to incentives created by liberal policies - then some entity must step in to do that, and the state is probably best equipped for this task.
The Sandra Fluke "slut" argument:
This was a winnable argument for conservatives: In essence, Fluke expected Catholic institutions to violate their core principles and pay for something they deemed wrong, simply because she really wanted it. But the Right's legitimate points quickly got drowned out in the brouhaha over Rush's use of the S-word.
We roll our eyes at the Democratic party's deification of Fluke, at Obama's reassuring phone call to her, at her speech at the convention in Charlotte, and at her sometimes sparsely attended appearances on the campaign trail for Democratic candidates. But grassroots conservatives greeted every Fluke appearance like a bull seeing a waving red flag; quite a few among us enjoyed bringing back the S-word and mocking her as a nymphomaniac.
Gay marriage and sexual taboos:
It seems to be a knee-jerk, not-really-in-jest comparison when some conservatives discuss the issue of gay marriage: If two men or two women can get married, why not a man and an animal?
Now, think about how this argument sounds to any gay or lesbian or to anyone who loves them - to their mothers, fathers, brothers, and friends. It takes a consensual relationship that more and more Americans see practiced by their friends, neighbors, and relatives and equates it with criminal acts, among the most reviled in our society. Put another way, if some jerk in a bar came up and compared your relationship to your spouse to bestiality, you would probably be sorely tempted to knock his teeth out.
Are gays and lesbians welcome in the GOP or conservative movement? Arguments and jokes like that send the signal they aren't.
Abortion and rape:
Todd Akin and then Richard Mourdock confirmed every wavering woman's suspicion of pro-life conservatives when the former suggested that he understood nothing about the biology of human reproduction and when the latter contended that rape-generated pregnancy "is something that God intended to happen." Yes, some women who have been raped have carried the child to term and wonderful people have been born as a result. But many women, maybe most, are horrified by the idea that the law could require rape victims to bear the children of the men who assaulted them. For a pair of aspiring GOP senators to utter awful comments, colossally devoid of empathy for the victims of rape, cemented the image of a party so mean they couldn't even remember to mention the plight of the mother.
Is increased government dependency and the crushing debt it brings the critical issue facing our country? I believe it is. The culture war cannot be won in the political arena, and the Right should stop trying to win it there. It is causing a distraction that is obscuring our larger economic and liberty issues. We win those arguments and votes. Every 4 years Americans vote for culture, and "mean" and "nasty" Republicans stand no chance in political votes on culture. We should stop trying to until we change the culture outside of the political arena.