The Republican nominee for president will be that candidate who best learns that there is no future in apologizing.

The Republican field is the strongest in memory. As expected, the candidates are now positioning themselves against their opponents, but just as predictably they are doing so along very narrow ideological lines.

Most of the talk to this point has been about relatively safe issues: the economy, jobs, Obamacare, ISIS, the Keystone pipeline. The left does not demand apologies for a candidate’s ideas on any of these.

It is on the hot issues that the left expects to exact Republican flesh: race, sex, climate, class, immigration, Islam and all things gay.

The enforcers of progressive orthodoxy would never call themselves “neo-puritan,” but that is what they have become.

In their mingling of law and morality, they mimic the polity of our early New England ancestors but are, if anything, less merciful. Dissent is no longer merely misguided. It is morally offensive.

As I document in my forthcoming book, “Scarlet Letters: The Ever Increasing Intolerance of the Cult of Liberalism,” leftist scolds are quick to hand out career-killing “letters” to those who offend their righteous sense of self.

As I also document, the only way to beat them is to stand your ground, to not apologize for yourself or for your political allies, even those less verbally adroit. An apology is never enough. Neo-puritans want you to grovel, and then they want you gone.

As a case in point, on the first day of the Todd Akin controversy in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney told the media: “Congressman Akin’s comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong. Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”

Here is what Romney should have said, “A credibly accused rapist is giving the keynote speech at the Democratic convention in two weeks, and you want me to denounce a decent, God-fearing man for his inelegant comments about rape? No, not happening, and if the truth hurts, get some ice on that.”

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If Romney had said something like this, he would be president today and Todd Akin would be a U.S. senator. Instead, Akin will wear his Scarlet S for sexism to the grave. There is nothing that keeps a conservative home on Election Day like a Republican candidate who grovels.

The most frightening of the neo-puritan letters is the Scarlet R for racism. Given its power, Republican candidates have been saying next to nothing about an issue that has been destroying America from within for 50 years.

If they continue to say nothing, they will give away 90 to 95 percent of the black vote as they have for the last generation or so. There is no risk to playing hardball here. There are black votes to be had and white votes as well.

I would recommend the candidates wade into the inner city en masse, starting now. “You know how you know you are in a black neighborhood?” asks Scott Walker. “You see the bars on the windows.”

“And even on the doors,” says Ted Cruz. “Some neighborhoods have so many bars they look like zoos. And who are you trying to keep out? The police? White people? Of course not.”

“Virtually every street in America named after Martin Luther King is a disgrace to his name,” says Bobby Jindal. “And who’s responsible for this? Republicans? No, they’re not your mayors. They’re not your president.”

“And please stop whining about profiling,” says Ben Carson, all but begging for his Scarlet I. “Because of that useless word we have to pretend your grandma is as much a threat to national security as the surly jihadist boarding the plane behind her.”

“As to your so-called leaders,” asks Carly Fiorina risking the Scarlet X for xenophobia, “are Jackson and Sharpton trying to bring jobs to the inner city? No, they are conspiring with your president to bring in new, illegal workers for the few jobs there are. That’s right, illegal.”

“These same clowns,” says Marco Rubio, flirting with the Scarlet H, “have signed on to the whole ‘gay marriage’ agenda. Having destroyed your families and your neighborhoods, they are now going after your churches. Don’t kid yourself: This whole movement is a dagger to the heart of Christianity.”

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” says Jeb Bush, finally growing a pair. “Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. Yea, that is a quote. Look it up. And I’m not about to evolve God out of my life.”

“Now for my libertarian friends out there,” says Rand Paul, “it makes no sense to shrug off the left’s destruction of Christianity and the family and then protest when your taxes go up to pay for the societal wreckage.”

“And to all my Democratic and independent friends,” says soon-to-be labeled ‘denialist’ Rick Perry, “your party is asking you to impoverish the nation and starve the world for a scam that has had to change its name to keep a step ahead of the evidence.”

“And hell’s bells,” Perry continues, “if California did turn into Texas, maybe those pampered bozos would learn to get off their deck chairs and go to work as we do. We’re creating jobs here.”

This can all be done with love in one’s heart. As Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson said after shrugging off his Scarlet H and forcing the suits at A&E to back down, “I judge no person and condemn no one. I only want America’s culture to change for the better.”

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