Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The electoral future of social conservatives

This article, which inaugurates a three-part series, goes over a lot of ground quite well. The big question is whether social conservatives can handle the generational change, in its leadership and in the electorate. For social conservatives, that means seriously considering whether and how to broaden their agenda. For Republicans, it means remembering that social conservatives aren’t necessarily economic conservatives or (this isn’t the same thing) business conservatives.

Update: A number of social conservatives (anonymously) say they’re just waiting for Fred Thompson to announce. The stakes, they think, are high:

"It’s the moment of truth for conservatives," says one of the Christian conservative activists. "Either social conservatives rally to stop a Giuliani nomination and victory for him in November 2008 or our issues -- abortion, same-sex marriage, the preservation of the family -- are permanently off the Republican Party agenda."

I’m not sure I’d be quite that apocalyptic, though I think there is a case to be made for that position, if one assumes that generational changes are diminishing the prospect that, even in the not too distant future, it wlll be much harder to assemble electoral and legislative majorities in support of "traditional family values." There is, of course, also the propensity of politicians and their consultants to be tempted by the strategy and stances that won the last time, so that a Giuliani victory in the primaries and (most importantly) the general election would spawn all sorts of sincere flatterers.

Update #2: The WaTi article I just cited may have been the fallout from
this event.

Update #3: Here’s the second part of the series.

Discussions - 4 Comments

The comment from the anonymous social con is wrong. A Rudy nomination may be very difficult, due to social con opposition, some of which is distressingly vehement. A Rudy presidency might not happen, due to social con defections in the general. But a Rudy presidency would not end Republican politicians' support for social conservatism. There is simply no mechanism for linking one outcome to the other. A more likely way in which social conservatism might be driven from the GOP would be for social cons to take the threatened third-party or stay-at-home or leave-it-blank route in all elections, not only when voting for president.

The "third force" concept, mentioned in this article and touted by some social conservative leaders, is wrong because it's way out of date. In the '70s, when the New Right and social conservatism got going, there were still a substantial number of genuine social-conservative Democrats in Congress. Today, there are very few, I believe, who are equally socially conservative. In addition, the median position and leadership position in the Democratic caucuses has moved even further to the left. Finally, in these days of narrow congressional majorities (another difference between now and the '70s), to support even a genuinely social- conservative Democratic candidate, if you can find one, means to increase the chances that the Harry Reids, Schmuck Schumers, Ted Kennedys, San Fran Nans, Barney Franks, Charley Rangels, etc., will run Congress. Not a good strategery, folks.

But a Rudy presidency would not end Republican politicians' support for social conservatism.

Currently sitting Republican office holders who are socially conservative would not be greatly affected, although they would have little voice in a Giuliani administration. Future Republican candidates for office would be much more likely to be liberal on social issues. (I'll play along for the moment with the notion that Rudy is conservative in other ways.) There is not getting around that fact that this would shift the party left. It seems badly to want to go left, I admit. I assumed that after the 2006 elections it would shift right.

Should the Pres be a social conservative? Heck in Constitutionalist view of Federalism, the issues that really effect social conservatives are first and fundamentally local and state issues and it is in this area that social conservatives are best suited. What we should expect from our federal politicans is to do no evil, and on this front Rudy's election will not harm social conservatives over that of any democrat candidate. In fact as Mayor a good number of his policies and sucesses could be labled social conservative, esp about the need for individual responsibility and the crack down on vice, etc.

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