Note the Reaction of the Social Conservatives

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.

17 thoughts on “Note the Reaction of the Social Conservatives”

  1. “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.”

    I’m assuming you mean with ONLY the former type of social conservatives in it, and if so I totally disagree. If that were the case, the National Review crowd would have written off the huckabees a long time ago. Look at an electoral map and count the states where it’s safe to assume that the reason it’s red is because of conservatism on social issues. The bottom line is neither the huckabees nor the national review crowd have what it takes to accomplish anything without the other group. I don’t see it so much as a rift as I see it as a diverse party. There are multiple different priorities that can lead one to support conservative candidates. that’s a far better position to be in that being a monolithic party with a one size fits all platform. Candidates can loosely work together but run their local campaign on the issues that appeal to their voters. I think you’re buying too much of the liberal/progressive hype, letting them make you feel guilty or ignorant about associating with a party that still has those hateful bigots in it.

    I’m definitely the National Review type, but I take a very pragmatic approach to politics. Throw the huckabees just enough of a bone to keep them happy and otherwise ignore them. It doesn’t take much of a bone, all you have to do is be the lesser of two evils. On many of their issues, all it takes to accomplish that is silence. Barack Obama says he’s pro choice and supports gay marriage, Mitt Romney says nothing, or better yet says it’s a state issue. Who is huckabee voting for?

    My pragmatism also has left me a little confused at why conservatives would want Akin to quit. He is clearly an idiot, but I’m hoping the conservatives are speaking out publicly against him and behind closed doors are trying to figure out ways to help him win. Any impact he’ll have on any other race is totally negligible compared to just handing over a senate seat. I think when all is said and done he’ll still win, and Romney will take missouri. The one poll that showed obama taking the lead seems to be an outlier and hasn’t been replicated. More recent polls have missouri basically where it’s been all along. The news is fresh now, but by november people will remember why the didn’t like mccaskill and obama to begin with.

    The Akin thing could be a bit of a blessing in disguise actually. Dems are convinced that they can win an election based off a perceived war on women and I think they’re way overplaying that hand. I don’t think that message appeals to nearly as many voters as they think it does, and after a while a number of on the fence voters will find it silly to keep talking about it in light of the issues they’re actually facing on a daily basis.

    1. Great comment. Thanks for replying. The only thing I would note is that if the Huckabees cost the GOP coalition the Independent vote, in most places it’s going to throw the election to the Democrats. I’m generally of the opinion that the GOP’s position on abortion and gay marriage are not hurting it in this particular election. I’m more concerned about how that’s going to affect the image of the GOP among younger voters, particularly the gay marriage question, where there’s a significant gender gap.

      My issue is not so much that the Huckabees are in the coalition, but that when they dominate the primaries they seem to be picking shitty candidates who aren’t ready for prime time. Sometimes that’s been with the help of the Tea Party, in the case of O’Donnel and Angle. Unfortunately, winning in politics is about a lot more than someone just having the right ideas. They also have to be viable candidates.

      1. The gay marriage issue is done and over with. That battle has been fought and won. Sooner or later conservatives will stop talking about it and it just won’t matter anymore. By the next presidential election, I’m guessing the GOP candidate will go with the state’s rights position, soon to be followed by full on support. Abortion is an entirely different story. Young people are far more pro life than the media would like people to believe and I think this is actually a strong position for the GOP.

        Agree about viable candidates, Ron Paul supporters hate to hear it. I’ve never really considered Mitt a viable candidate either, the fact that he’s in this election speaks volumes about Obama. Mitch Daniels would be polishing up his inauguration address by now if he’d ran….

  2. I guess that I am desensitized out here in Harry Reid land what with having a Senator who says something stupid and insensitive every single day. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in MN.

    Seriously though, I made my peace with the SoCons years ago because there aren’t enough like me and I have to be in a coalition with someone. They only want a few things (which I generally disagree with) but the collectivists want everything. So I swallow my disagreement and accept their positions as part of the price of winning on things I care more about. And frankly, I am more comfortable with SoCons than with other members of the coalition like NeoCons, the NRO crowd, and the country club republicans. O’Donnel and Angle would have won the last time if they hadn’t been abandoned by the 3 above groups. These people drip with social elitism as much as any liberal.

    1. “I made my peace with the SoCons years ago because there aren’t enough like me and I have to be in a coalition with someone.”

      Two thoughts:

      First, I flashed back to a British propaganda poster from the 1940 – 1941 period of WWII. It’s caption was “Very well, alone!”

      Did England consider capitulation?

      My second thought is, look up and read Nock’s c. 1937 essay, “Isaiah’s Job.” Don’t worry, the biblical allusion only serves as a metaphor, not preaching, but, Isaiah despairs that he is the last of the righteous left in Israel, and God tells him to think again.

      We seem to have a fairly decent representation in the comments above (especially Sebastian’s) so, just because the SoCo element has created a massive, effective “shout them down” network in the coalition of the right, doesn’t mean any of us are alone.

  3. Um, Akin doesn’t seem to have hurt Romney in the slightest:

    Mason-Dixon MO poll: Romney up 50/43 over Obama « Hot Air

    When National Journal buries a lede, man, they really bury it.  A new poll from Mason-Dixon in Missouri of 625 likely voters shows what everyone already suspected — that Todd Akin had blown a five-point lead in Missouri’s US Senate race and now trails by nine, 50/41 [see update], to Claire McCaskill.  But what many didn’t expect was that the crash-and-burn of Akin would not damage Mitt Romney at all.  In the 9th paragraph out of ten, we find out that Romney leads Barack Obama in the critical swing state, and it’s not all that close:

  4. Good post. I have a friend who is is the former and he fits your description to a T. He is hard core religious, but I think he’d rather see a smaller government than a religious one.

  5. I don’t generally consider myself a social con, except for the two issues you cite. On abortion, I believe that what is being aborted is a human being. Based on that belief, how could I support abortion? I know that you don’t share my belief there. That is why I don’t think of most pro-choice types as murderers.
    On gay marriage, I just don’t see the benefit of having government get involved, but I can see all sorts of economic pitfalls. And that’s before we get to the slippery slope argument.

    The main reason I don’t consider myself part of the social con wing of the party is because those people aren’t economically conservative. They think that the government is like some giant charity that extracts its donations through force of law. I don’t believe it is the job of the government to save or protect the “less fortunate”. That’s what charities and the church are for. These people are what I refer to as big government conservatives.

    1. My beliefs are pretty much akin to yours, Motor-T, and I agree that the best method of advancing social/moral conservatism is through SMALLER federal government.

      I believe without federally forced tax-payer support and forced public and sometimes even private endorsement of destructive lifestyles and behavioral choices, the non-traditional social movements will die from their own consequences.

      The State and local governments are authorized to codify the moral standards of the community, a natural right to freedom of association. The original colonies and their subsequent States were created with that sovereign power, and nothing in the Bill of Rights changed that; indeed, the 1st and 10th Amendments reinforced that principle and even Thomas Jefferson himself in a letter to Samuel Miller dated 25 December 1808 confirmed it. Link:

      I realize my hope for a small federal government and free States able to effect the moral will of their people is a pipe dream, but if fiscal conservatives (which I also am) want smaller government to be free to keep, invest and give away their own money as they themselves see fit, I’ll happily join them in a coalition to accomplish that.

      Believe it or not, Ron Paul was ny first choice for Republican nominee, even though his libertarian view does not endorse federal establishment of Christian moral values. Why? Because like the Founders, he believes that is the exclusive jurisdiction of the sovereign States. Ron Paul’s personal beliefs are very similar to yours and mine, Motor-T, which may seem surprising to some. But he believes as we do, that the moral progress is best advanced at the family, local, and State levels, not by the central government.

      Just one thing though: the forced giving of charity (welfare, Medicaid, food stamps) is not a social conservative (nor Biblical) policy; that is a liberal policy of forcing their religious tenets upon us! Where’s separation of church and Congress when we need it?!!!

      Great post, Sebastian!!!

      Respectfully, Arnie

  6. Something else to consider is “stealth.” The Huckabee types use it BIGTIME. The “National Review” types don’t.

    Many apparently “secular” issue-organizations (e.g., two of our national gun rights organizations, and most of their state-level spawn) are fronts for the Huckabee faction (for want of a less worn-out, politically charged term.) That might not seem like a problem, until you notice the biases in the candidates they praise, the personalities the showcase, etc.

  7. Ask the anti-abortion crusaders HOW they are going to enforce their abortion free nirvana. They either have to put a TSA agent in every doctors office, clinic, ER and back alley in the country or adopt the chinese model of every woman having to prove she isn’t pregnant every month. Both “final solutions” would require millions of new government employees to “save” the babies. I don’t see a way to square that with a “smaller government” model.

    1. I’m guessing that they would enforce it the same way current late term abortion bans are enforced. Are then current enforcement methods too draconian?

    2. There are more subtle ways to enforce abortion bans: for example, the boyfriend of a woman who goes to have an abortion without his consent can sue her for loss of progeny. (It’s sad that women have more reproductive rights in this regard–they can abort at will, pretty much, and if they choose to have the child, they can then suck the father dry, and the father has no say in it one way or the other.)

      Or a father can write a daughter out of his will.

      Of course, I’m a so-called “anarcho-capitalist”; thus, I would even extend these types of “enforcements” to something as serious as first-degree murder.

      Just because something ought to be banned, though, doesn’t mean it automatically leads to a police state. Otherwise, we’d have to have police monitor us completely, to prevent murder itself!

  8. You mean you couldn’t care less. Could care less means you do care. Couldn’t care less means you don’t care.
    “I could care less if someone has the right religion”.

    I know this opens me up for the easy ICCL retort.

  9. I don’t know if you’re drawing a hard line between these two camps, or asserting something like a bi-modal distribution of voters.

    That is, if we have an axis with one large lump around a line labeled “National Review” and another around a line labeled “Huckabee”. I’m guessing that most voters who could be called conservative cluster around one or the other.

    It’s a very good question how many voters are single-issue (in one or the other camps), and how many vary between major issues depending on who is running and what problems are viewed as important.

  10. 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.

    Something that many younger people do not know is that much of the “social conservative” movement to which you are referring are fairly recent arrivals in the Republican Party. Into the 1970s, many blue collar, socially conservative sorts, especially in the South, Midwest, and even many Northern urban centers, were Democrats. PBS had an interesting documentary some years ago about the Democratic Party in West Virginia managed to drive this faction out in the 1970s by their aggressive support of homosexuality, premarital sex, and the teaching of evolution. One especially notorious example was a locally prominent civil rights attorney named Fred Phelps who received an award from the NAACP for his crusading efforts to end racial discrimination. Phelps was an important Democrat as late as 1988, and there are some amusing pictures of Phelps with Al Gore, because Gore needed Phelps’ support in Kansas. One of Phelps’ sons was an invited guest to the 1992 inauguration of President Clinton. After being disbarred, the elder Phelps ended up as Rev. Fred Phelps, and you know the rest of that story.

    Yes, this category of social conservative believes that the government performs an important function. The same essential belief that the government should prohibit discrimination against homosexuals leads this other category of big government sorts to support laws prohibiting homosexuality.

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