I’ve generally found their are two types of social conservatives. There are ones who are mostly dedicated to the ideas of smaller government, and restoring fiscal and regulatory sanity, but are also personally religious and are generally on board with many of the socially conservative planks in the GOP platform, such as opposing abortion and gay marriage. But mostly their public activism is motivated around reducing the size and reach of government. The other type are the people who have come to politics purely through their social conservative values. They might offer lip service to smaller government, but their ultimate objective is to advance socially conservative ideas though the use of government. Their patron saint is Mike Huckabee. I believe the distinction between these two groups is perhaps the start of a rift within the Republican coalition, and that rift has never shown itself more strongly than with the recent Todd Akin affair.
The former group, the personal SoCos, joining with many non-SoCos (which I’ll call the National Review types), have pretty roundly condemned Akin, and joined the chorus demanding he step down from the race. The latter group, the political SoCos, now represented by their patron saint, have largely stood by Akin. See, Akin apologized, and Christian forgiveness being what it is, they have decided it is time to move on. But politics isn’t about Christian forgiveness, and no amount of that is going to overcome the fact that Akin is now down in the race he was once ahead in, and it’s looking like his dumbassery is even hurting Romney in Missouri, a state that has generally been getting more red as of late.
I bring this up because I think it’s possible for the Republican coalition to survive and thrive with the former type of social conservatives in it. We mostly all want the same thing, and while they’d probably have difficulty joining a coalition in a party that supported abortion rights and gay marriage, that’s largely not what drives them toward political activism. The latter type I think is hazardous to the coalition, because it’s their social conservative values that are driving their political activism, and they are less concerned about jeopardizing the goal of reducing the size of government. Indeed, they may even be fine with big government provided that it is controlled by social conservatives to serve socially conservative ends. I think in the long term, the big tent that the GOP would like to represent is going to have to have a moment of reckoning with the Huckabee branch of the Party, and the Akin controversy may provide the vehicle for that to happen.
Ordinarily, what I’ve called the National Review types, have always been uncomfortable with the inclusion of the Huckabee branch of the party, and Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” before that. The problem encountered is that the National Review types can’t win on their own. They can bring money to the table, but they don’t bring enough activists, organizations or votes, so they choose to coalition with the people who are personally socially conservative, the former group in my example above. These folks bring everything to the table the National Review types don’t. The problem is that the former personal SoCos are not all that uncomfortable with the Huckabees being part of the coalition, and thus would unlikely join any movement within the coalition to marginalize them. If Missouri costs the GOP control of the Senate, or McCaskill ends up being a key vote to prevent Obamacare from being repealed, I am hoping, perhaps against hope, that many personal SoCos will see that the cause of small government is being sacrificed on the altar of the Huckabee wing of the party. My hope is that they will see that candidates need to have better qualifications than just mirroring their own religious beliefs, and having the right views on a handful of social issues.
The coalition needs people who can carry small government values, which should be, after all, the best way to promote family values. I could care less if someone has the right religion, and the fact that Huckabee was once a preacher means about as much to me as the fact that Joe Wurzelbacher was once a Plumber. While I’m personally pro-choice and favor civil marriage for gays, I don’t think any of that is going to matter much if the country bankrupts itself, and the rest of us with it. The primary issue is that the government has run out of other people’s money, and facing that, has just decided to switch the printing presses into overdrive. Picking a candidate because he has the right religion, or the right views on abortion or gay marriage, is roughly analogous to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and it seems many of the Huckabee folks in the Republican Party are as energetic in this rearrangement endeavor as the Democrats.