Social Conservatives: The Republican Party’s Dilemma


Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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104 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’m pretty socially conservative by some measures of how that’s measured and that’s pretty much *WHY* I support gay marriage.

    Theocons are one flavor of social conservatives, but there are a lot more flavors out there.Report

  2. Avatar George Turner says:

    If you could get social conservatives to change, they wouldn’t be socially conservative. ^_^

    Besides, someone needs to keep us tied to the 20th century instead of dragging us back to the 7th, rehashing ideas that have failed everywhere they were ever implemented.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

      7th, 20th, both in the past. It would be nice if we had people in power who both remember, but not revere, the past, and look to the future.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I think social conservatism or conservative in general are very loaded words.

    Jaybird is right here that it is theocons who are the real stone for the Republican Party. There are also plenty of people who get labeled and are liberals but are operationally conservative in that they lead very quiet lives. The problem with the theocons is that they conflate liberal with libertine when it is simply not the case. Though I am probably more live and let live with libertine people even if I don’t want to partake.

    “Liberals and libertarians have been slow to see the problems with a crumbling family structure.”

    Here I am going to very strongly, strongly dissent. Liberals have not been slow to see the problems of crumbling family structure. We think several things:

    1. Alternative families or more accurately the families people choose for themselves can be adequate replacements. I was very lucky to be born to parents who love me fiercely and will be my allies for as long as they live. Other people are not so lucky. There is no good reason to force people to interact with neglectful or abusive parents (or other relatives) just for the sanctity of “the family structure”

    2. Did you see the PBS documentary this week about two working-class American families? George Packer called it a strong rebuke to the Charles Murray school of thought:

    The family is important but it has not been destroyed by secularism, the sexual revoultion, hippies, rock n’ roll, and Feminism. The family has been destroyed by a Draconian War on Drugs, a hard war on unionism and the working class/blue collar job that provided for a modest but identifiable middle class lifestyle, by the constant defunding of public schools, globalization, the neo-liberal sense of progress, crushing student debt, etc.

    The American Family is not dead because of laziness or a lack of church-going.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      by the constant defunding of public schools

      Citation needed.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        ‘School Reform’Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        I can’t speak to every public school district.

        I can’t even speak to every expenditure at my local school district.

        But I can say that the number one problem at the schools in my district are personnel, and every place this can be cut (from aides, school nurses, janitorial staff, disciplinary staff, librarians, etc)… that’s all been cut. There’s nothing left but bone.

        Whether or not the money that *is* being spent by the school district is being spent entirely effectively is a different question from “public schools are understaffed”, but there isn’t much doubt (in California, at least) that public schools are understaffed.Report

  4. Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

    I’m not sure I agree entirely, Dennis. The coalitions that form both parties are not static, and have changed over time. There was a time, when most of us were still alive, that a significant portion of the Democratic coalition stood in opposition to the cultural changes in sex roles, social mores, and racial politics that swept across the culture in the 1960s and ’70s. But, with the passing of the Civil Rights bills of 1964 and 1965, those coalitions reformed, with almost the whole of the South passing from Democratic to Republican control. (That the Democrats supported the bills understanding that this was a likely outcome gives me cause for pride and admiration to this day).

    In the 1930s through the 1980s, the ardently social conservative had no real place to call home. Even though they represent perhaps 15% of our population, the Republican party was not willing to embrace the Birchers and the ultra-nationalists. It was the confluence of these guys with the then-mainstream of the party during the Goldwater campaign–and which was solidified during Reagan’s first campaign–that forms the genesis of the political alignments we see today. With the South moving solidly into the Republican corner, that was enough to win the Republicans most national elections for 30 years.

    There are other possible outcomes and coalitions, of course; and I think that the four tiers that make up the current Republican party–the social conservatives, the nationalists and war and security hawks, the libertarians, and the “business” conservatives–are so wobbly that some reformation is almost inevitable. They don’t share much ideologically, and the internal contradictions are pretty fierce, as evidenced by the Republicans to coalesce around an agenda more coherent than nihilistic obstructionism.

    I keep hoping to see a coalition of the pragmatic non-ideological centrists, the “good government” reformists, the libertarians, and rising working- and middle-classes, to coalesce around a platform of minimalist, but activist, government, a relative hands-off approach on cultural refereeing, and a commitment to building a robust, competitive, and non-corrupt economic infrastructure.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “In the 1930s through the 1980s, the ardently social conservative had no real place to call home. ”

      Southern Democrats would be very socially conservative, and many Republicans would be, as well. There was no clean separation, but that’s rather different from ‘no real place to call home’.Report

  5. Avatar T. Greer says:

    “GOP modernized its stance on same sex marriage, then a whole tide of voters will come and vote GOP”

    The GOP’s problem with SSM isn’t that there is a tide of voters who just want to be Republicans but won’t because of that issue. The problem is as long as SSM is the issue, the GOP is playing defense. It doesn’t have the time or focus to make the economic arguments it wants to make because SSM and like culturally tinged issues provoke such outrage.

    My feeling is that decentralization is the best solution to this problem. The culture wars must be taken off of the national stage. Michael Lotus and James Bennet wrote twenty pages or so on this in their excellent America 3.0 From my review of the book:

    Key to the program is the goal to “push as many contentious issues as possible to the most basic local level as possible, and then reducing the transaction costs as low as possible (229).” In other words, let each community decide its own policy on social issues but make it as easy as possible for people to switch from one community to another. If state senators in Connecticut want to ban the ownership of assault rifles – let them! If a small town in Utah wants to require every teacher to carry a gun with them to school – let them! If you do not like the policies in your community, move to somewhere new. The end result will be drastic idealogical sorting, as people move to the communities who have the laws and services they want their government to have.

    Their book has some very good suggestions for what a new conservative movement should/coul look like. Much recommended to readers left and right.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Localizing issues makes sense for some things but not others. If the R’s really embrace it they will end up doing what they do with all the principles they say they have. It will be a rigid dogma which they don’t have the flexibility to adjust when it doesn’t fit. Two examples: same sex marriage. Already people talk about it being a state by state issue, but that leaves the problem of a gay couple becoming unmarried when they cross a state line. As it is, my marriage in AK exists throughout the US, why does a same sex marriage change? What happens when a married couple is moved through work to a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage. But this isn’t just a liberal issue. Gun rights folks have loudly complained that they are following the laws in their state but when they cross a border all of a sudden they are out of compliance or are a criminal. In fact the NRA seems to be pushing to squash states rights on guns so that gun owners don’t get caught by some darn liberal states laws.

      In each case there is a real argument that laws should be national. I’d like to see people think the consequences of pushing a “great sorting”. I know if a liberal said “lets put in place policies that lead to people moving all around” there might be just a little suggestion that liberals were engaging in the devils own social engineering..Report

      • Avatar T. Greer says:

        ” If the R’s really embrace it they will end up doing what they do with all the principles they say they have. It will be a rigid dogma which they don’t have the flexibility to adjust when it doesn’t fit.

        A cynical view. Perhaps it is true, but then this is really an argument against having political principles, not localization specifically.

        “. In fact the NRA seems to be pushing to squash states rights on guns so that gun owners don’t get caught by some darn liberal states laws.”

        I don’t really like the term ‘states rights’ because states don’t have rights, people do. States are instruments, not agents.

        This is a pretty good example of where things might have to change. If the GOP was serious about letting locals set their own policies then they would need to be ok with some states being much stricter on this than other things.

        The GOP loses when it turns these debates into national issues. In a way we all lose. Plutarchs love cultural issues of this type. Wrote I in a different forum:

        As in the antebellum, today’s hyperpartisanship has its uses. The issues are real enough, and the cultural divide between each party’s demographic “base” is wide. Politicians take advantage of this with over-the-top rhetoric, turning all issues into a cultural crusade against the radicalism of the progressive left or the bigotry of entrenched conservatism. The accuracy of these attacks is unimportant. The antebellum party system allowed Southerners to define themselves as ‘Whigs’ or ‘Democrats’ instead of ‘slavers’. The current system serves its purpose just as well, allowing plutarchs to define themselves not in terms of power or privilege, but as part of a culturally cohesive group that represents ‘real’ America. With partisan issues taking the fore, politicians, lobbyists, and corporate big wigs can plunder the American economy and strip American citizens of their liberties in a decidedly bipartisan fashion.

        As long as things like SSM or gun control dominate the national debate, the real structural problems that threaten the Republic – crony capitalism writ large, domestic policy that has created a permanent under class, widespread surveillance of of U.S. citizens, the growing distance between individual citizens and the levers of power – will remain out of sight. If the GOP is serious about meeting this challenge head on then they need to find a way to end these debates on the national stage. Localization allows them to do so without compromising their social conservative base.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I don’t think its cynical actually. Principles are great. I’m sure i’d love them if i had any but, you know, i’m a liberal. The thing with the way people talk about and use their principles does tend to be as dogma that must be maximally adhered to. Whether it works or not is less relevant then upholding some principle as if it was a factual truth about how the world worked. Of course the R’s don’t do that, because at some point they are confronted with the fact that principles are usually better seen as guidelines or preferences but still need some flexibility and thought. Many people on the right and the libertarian wing are drawn to viewing things as True Principles which are obviously correct and everything must bend to.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      “The GOP’s problem with SSM isn’t that there is a tide of voters who just want to be Republicans but won’t because of that issue. ”

      Really? There’s a tide of voters that want to back a faction that is completely beholden to Corporate welfare, finance capitalism, and preferential treatment for the rich, if only they could get SSM right? (The snarky side of me says we have a faction for these people already: Neo-Liberals). The people you describe here, are the Republican ruling class – they are the people in the room when Romney made his 47% speech. Republican economic policies are no longer “conservative” economic policies. Not even conservatives believe Republicans when it comes to economic philosophy.

      See, even the social conservatives are beginning to wake-up to the fact that they have been used for political cover by a faction that is using their votes to enact economic policies that do not have the common good in mind.

      I think the SocialCon narrative makes democrats feel better because the real alternative is that a solidarity type movement that social conservatives are increasingly concerned about will possibly cause interesting realignments.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Key to the program is the goal to “push as many contentious issues as possible to the most basic local level as possible, and then reducing the transaction costs as low as possible (229).” ”

      The last clause doesn’t follow from the first clause.

      But it does add variety! Whether or not you are married could change as you drove down the highway!Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      My feeling is that decentralization is the best solution to this problem. The culture wars must be taken off of the national stage.

      If you go back and look at the county-level maps from the Republican primaries (those before all of the social conservatives withdrew), it’s pretty clear that this is largely an urban-vs-rural thing. Here in Colorado, we’re having an interesting post-legislative-session dustup that reflects that. Our rural legislators have “discovered” this year that the urban/suburban Front Range has lost much of its interest in extending some of the privileges that the rural areas have been given over the years, and the Front Range has the population (hence votes) to do what they want. As a result, we’ve had some interesting proposals from rural Colorado since the session ended. First was the proposal for eight counties to split off and become a new state (a subject discussed here at the League). Then there was the proposal that seats in the state House of Representatives should be allocated one per county, independent of population. People think the US Senate is disproportionate; Colorado county populations run from El Paso at 645,000 to San Juan at 690. One of the things that our rural legislators are conveniently ignoring, though, is the large flow of public funds from urban to rural areas.

      So, I’m willing to entertain decentralization of some of the social issues if the rural areas whose position are opposed to those of the urban/suburban areas give up the subsidies. It’s pretty easy to change the state accounting so that we can tell how much each county contributes to the state revenue streams used to fund various things. Don’t want to teach evolution in biology class? Fine, pay for your own schools (I’ll note that the rural school districts recently lost a case in the Colorado supreme court for which the premise was, not only couldn’t the rural schools afford their school operating expenses, they couldn’t afford maintenance on the buildings either and needed more assistance). Want to ban abortions? Okay, just don’t expect any more for social services or public health than you put into the pot. Assault weapons? Cool, just pay for your own roads.

      One of the items from this past session that seems to have the rural areas pissed off more than usual is that rural electric coops will now be required to meet a reduced form of the state’s renewable energy mandate that has applied to investor-owned utilities for the last several years. Their basic argument appears to be, “But we’re too poor to afford renewable electricity.” My counter tends towards, “Given the history of the REA (now RUS), a more honest statement is that you’re too poor to afford electricity at all.” Seriously, one of the too-often overlooked aspects of the New Deal was that it made a big commitment to keep rural America from falling into permanent second-class status, where it was clearly headed. I am sometimes afraid that contemporary rural America is going to piss off the cities and suburbs to the point that they wind up consigned to that status after all.Report

    • Avatar marriage is for the free says:

      The libertarian position would be that neither the state nor the federal government should be in the business of sanctioning marriage. We have the right to form our own social institutions, to form our own relationships and live lives as we please, as long as no one else is hurt along the way. The Catholic Church does not always recognize my marriage, depending on the views of the priest I am dealing with. And that is fine, because it is their right to recognize or not recognize what I, and my family, recognize as marriage. But the government? What gives them the right to say one thing is a marriage, and not another?

      The only legitimate interest the government has, and the only activity it should be engaged in, is in the regulation and sanctioning of domestic partnerships for tax purposes and for the protection of children, who are most vulnerable citizens. It is not much different than the formation of business entities. Beyond that, the government should butt out.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      I’d like to point out that true localization would be a 100% policy change for the GOP. Right now, they are for doing things on whatever level gives them their desired results – if the city does something that the GOP doesn’t like, if they can they’ll pass a state law banning cities from doing that. If a state is doing something they don’t like, they’ll push for federal laws, etc.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        One of the key issues of this conversation, and most irritating to me, is that people are just pulling sh*t out of their *sses about the GOP, taking their rhetoric to be reality.

        The reality of the GOP is that it’s radical, not conservative, economically destructive, not productive, and federalist/non-federalist as needs be (or rather, as desires be).Report

  6. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Mike, my boyfriend’s brother just told me he’s not a Republican any more. Maybe your team will be able to win him back one day, but I doubt it. I’ll argue with my friend Andrew about gun control and estate taxes all day long, but he still didn’t vote for Romney.

    Sure, you can’t win without the social conservative votes. But you can’t win without Mike and Andrew’s votes either. On the one hand, it’s an impossible choice. But on the other hand, it’s really, really easy.

    Septuagenarians without gay grandkids vs. fiscally conservative millennials. On the one side, more gun loving-tax hating young men turn 18 every day. On the other side, more grandchildren are born every day too. As one of these demographics grows, the other shrinks. The math here is not hard. Unfavorable, certainly. But not hard.

    So stop lying to yourself about a reconciliation between the various factions of the GOP. You’re going to lose. But you can either lose by alienating the next generation, or lose with honor and demonstrate the the party is no longer the home of racists and homophobes. It’s not going to get you enough votes in 2016, and it’ll be tough in 2020, but at least you’ll have a chance of winning ever again ever in the 21st century.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Septuagenarians without gay grandkids vs. fiscally conservative millennials.”

      Since the GOP hasn’t been fiscally conservative since about the time that the first ‘millenial’ was born, which party are you talking about?Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Adding on – this is a perfect point. The decisions made to make the GOP fiscally destructive were made in the early 1980’s; the only changes since then have been to reject some remaining real fiscally conservative actions from the mid/late 80’s.

        If we took 1980 as the decision point (when the ‘Laffer Curve’ party got the Presidency), a child born at that inflection point would now be 33 years old, and legally old enough to run for the Presidency in 2016. If they had had a child when they were 25, that child would be ~8 years old.Report

  7. Avatar Jason M. says:

    “More deeply, it is deeply fitting and consistent (as we’ll see in greater depth below) that the GOP be an economically and socially conservative party, since economic dynamism creates churn and disruption in people’s lives–churn and disruption which can be alleviated either through big government which destroys freedom and kills the goose that lays the golden eggs, or through vibrant cultural, social and local institutions.”

    This is the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too fantasy that’s been proffered by modern conservatism since Reagan. You can’t alleviate the “churn and disruption” of economic dynamism with vibrant cultural, social and local institutions that have already themselves been churned away by that same economic dynamism.Report

    • Avatar fledermaus says:

      Wow, it’s like you read my mind with this comment. I have seen first hand the effects of instability and uncertanty with regard to life’s basics. People under stress make poor or harmful decisions. Others realize that no amount of playing by the rules will let them get ahead and just check out.

      It is interesting how uncertanty and instability is really bad when it affects rich people. But somehow the poor should have no problem adapting to frequent and massive disruptions to income and living situation. Instead the GOP set up people to fail and then blames them for failing. It invites madness.Report

  8. Avatar Kazzy says:


    Thanks for your willingness to be reflective. As I’ve tacitly addressed in my ‘bad liberal’ posts, I think it important that we, both as individuals and as collectives, be willing to look in the mirror, determine what we stand for, and carve a path to achieving that.

    A few things stand out to me in this piece…

    1.) Wasn’t the Tea Party, at least theoretically, supposed to be the financially-conservative/socially-disinterested party? Weren’t they supposed to be the “real” party of small government? I realize they’ve morphed into various things and serve as a bit of a rorschach test, but they also seemed to get a lot of support, and much of it from social conservatives. Maybe that was just frustration with the GOP or excitement about something new or signaling, but that was my outside-looking-in understanding.
    2.) Part of the issue, as I see it, is that the two parties are much farther apart on social issues than economic issues. I mean, the big tax argument during the Presidential election came down to whether rich people should be taxed 38% or 35% or whatever. It wasn’t progressive income tax versus flat tax… it was percentage points within the same system. Meanwhile, on the social front, we have SSM legal or illegal, abortion rights expanded or restricted, drug war ongoing or ceased (this is less of a debate in the mainstream, admittedly). I don’t know what issues are going to move the needle, and as a whole, we’re really susceptible into thinking those few percentage points of taxes are a really big frickin’ deal (which tells me it is more about what they signify than about what they actually are… go up to 38% and it’s a stepping stone to 70% and go down to 35% and it’s a stepping stone to a flat tax), but it seems like there is room for a GOP party of social moderates.

    I told a conservative friend recently that I’d be much more willing to consider GOP candidates if it wasn’t for their social polices. So count me among those who would become a swing voter on economics but gravitates towards the side that pursues the social agenda I prefer, which undoubtedly is the Dems right now.

    Lastly, I think the last quoted piece has a really strong point to it. It is really easy to conflate “defending the institution of marriage” with “hating gays” because so many who claim to be doing the former ignore other, and sometimes far bigger, threats to marriage. As someone who is not yet 2-years married, has a young son, and has been to umpteen weddings lately, I see first hand the value of marriage. For a while I was very much, “Whatever… let people get married… it’s not that big a deal.” But I’m starting to see that it is. I’m starting to see that a callous attitude towards marriage can have deleterious effects on our society. So I would support many of those ideas expressed in the quote. But you know what group of people I tend to find have some of the most solemn and reverent views of marriage? Gays. They wouldn’t fight so hard for it if they weren’t going to take it seriously. Sure, once that right is secured, we’ll likely see our share of gay weddings in Vegas chapels between complete strangers, but it is unlikely to ever surpass the rate of that happening with straight couples. So, I’ve gotten on board with the idea that marriage is something worth protecting; I just don’t think gays are what it needs protecting from. So when social conservatives want to fiercely protect marriage but their only perceived threat is gays… it raises an eyebrow and makes it impossible for me to support them. I guess what I’m saying is that the GOP can be the party of protecting marriage AND still embrace SSM. But I think you already knew that.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      ” Wasn’t the Tea Party, at least theoretically, supposed to be the financially-conservative/socially-disinterested party? Weren’t they supposed to be the “real” party of small government? I realize they’ve morphed into various things and serve as a bit of a rorschach test, but they also seemed to get a lot of support, and much of it from social conservatives.”

      Yes – one which arose juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust as the right lost an election. And their morphing was lightening-quick – suspciously quick.Report

  9. Avatar DRS says:

    Liberals and libertarians have been slow to see the problems with a crumbling family structure.

    Good thing the GOP have Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump to set them straight on the importance of stable family structure, eh? And any other politician who didn’t get caught banging his assistant recently.

    If social conservatives genuinely have the interests of the GOP at heart – and I personally don’t believe for a moment they do, it’s strictly a (you’ll pardon the expression) marriage of convenience as long as they get to hear what they want from politicians, but for the sake of argument – then they might want to consider focusing on those aspects of American society that aren’t exactly making it easy for families to prosper. And they can start by reading some parts of the Bible that don’t appear in Revelation:

    Proverbs 14:13: ” He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honors him has mercy on the poor.”

    Proverbs 22:16: “He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want.”

    Amos 5:11: “For as much therefore as your treading is on the poor, and you take from him burdens of wheat: you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine of them. ”

    Job 31:13-14: “If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God rises up? and when he visits, what shall I answer him?”

    2 Timothy 2:6: “The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.”

    Ecclesiastes 5:8: “If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”

    Deuteronomy 24:19: “When you cut down your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

    Amos 8:4-7: “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.”

    Malachi 3:5: “And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, said the LORD of hosts. ”

    And of course, who can forget this one – do I really need to remind everyone who said it? : “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    So there it is: a good start would for social conservatives who love their Bible so much to actually read the whole thing. The writers of the Bible are pretty clear that those who oppress and do down the poor, the laborers, the widowed and orphaned are not doing the Lord’s work and are going to pay the price big-time when they die. So maybe they can start being more vocal about other things than abortion, same-sex marriage, and birth control.

    I’m not holding my breath until it happens though.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      Per my comment above, this is precisely the language of Social Conservatives… not, to be sure, Republicans… but that’s the rub, the term conservative really has no meaningful connection to the Republican faction. Moreover, the term conservative does not always align well with christian or traditionalist. So what is weird about the SoCon hate is that Solidarity is the thing around which SoCons could realign — if only the Democratic party were willing to have an open mind about Abortion, there would be “tides” of social cons that would come flooding in.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        People way overestimate how many people are one issue voters. Change D positions to no abortion and few SoCons might venture over…a few. SoCons are more comfortable with R’s because of other view conservative views and out of shared history. Those things don’t go away quickly. I’m also not sure what kind of open mind the D’s could have about abortion that would satisfy SoCons. D’s are never going to go for the no abortion or maximally limited positive SoCons want.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          Right, which is my point about SSM above… change that one thing and the Republican faction still has a disastrous vision of the common good (and international imperialism); what “tides” of people are longing for that?

          I agree with you about political inertia… but that’s my point about DRS’s comment above, many SoCons are interested in Economic Justice and (Global) Solidarity… they just aren’t welcome on the other side; so the increasing sentiment among SoCons is one of being trapped and alienated. If you are getting your picture of SoCons from Fox news, you’re not getting it at all.Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            So-Cons can’t do anything until they’re welcomed somewhere? Really? They can’t set up programs and do things on their own through their churches? They’ve got to wait until someone invites them in to – somewhere? Seems kind of passive wishy-washy to me but then I’m Catholic. I don’t do Baptist well.

            Why can’t they do what environmentally aware evangelicals have done and set up their network to do the work they believe in? Like this group:

            You don’t have to join a political party to have an effect on the world. In many cases it helps your work if you don’t.Report

        • Avatar DRS says:

          Why on earth would the Democrats want the So-Cons in the first place? There’s nothing to be gained from the association and much to lose. No, if the So-Cons wanted to influence the Democrats – and they don’t – they’re about a decade too late. The best time to make friends politically is when the party needs you – some So-Cons should have jumped in 2004, when it would have made a difference and got them heaps of gratitude. Now – meh.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            Responding to your original post, it would be to gain allies and traction for an actual solidarity project for economic justice. Because for all the chest beating and self adoration, the democratic deliverables on economic justice are pretty sucky.Report

            • Avatar DRS says:

              Marchmaine, I find it hard to take you seriously when you pen sentences like the one above: Because for all the chest beating and self adoration, the democratic deliverables on economic justice are pretty sucky. It doesn’t strike me as something that would be written by someone who was sincere but rather a regurgitated talking point. And I can do my own thinking, thanks.

              If you’d like to discuss what the goals were and why it didn’t work, then that might be interesting to read about.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                As you wish; I suppose it surprised you that someone did you the courtesy of taking such an ill mannered and condescending post seriously by raising their hand and saying, “Yes, we do believe those things, looks like you all need some help.”Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                I’m devastated. Truly. Still reads like nothing but talking points. But since you’re not going to do more than that, then I guess you can be written off without regret.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                DRS, Marchmaine is actually one of the good guys in this debate. Or if you’re really cynical, the best you’ll get. He’s not merely a politically driven SoCon. His comments at this site have revealed deeper thoughts on all this stuff that are worth listening too. Maybe, anyway.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Then I look forward to reading his deeper thoughts, whenever he chooses to reveal them. Which I believe I asked him to do, rather than a sweeping condemnation of un-described activities.Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              “Responding to your original post, it would be to gain allies and traction for an actual solidarity project for economic justice. ”

              In which case one would not want social conservatives, who hate economic justice.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Some of them, probably most. It would be interesting to do a study and see a cross between social conservatives and believers in the pernicious idea of the Prosperity GospelReport

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                See my previous comments about red states being William Jennings Bryan country. I would add to that huge numbers social conservatives hold prosperity gospel in contempt for being theologically in serious. Joel Osteen tends to stay away from and hedge on abortion and homosexuality, among other things.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Sacrifice women in order to get the theocon vote? Sounds like a perfectly terrible bargain.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Hmmm. Would a ban on medically unnecessary late term abortion be a compromise worth making?Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            Who is to decide what is “medically unnecessary”? If So-Cons can accept that only a woman, a man and her doctor can be the deciders, then a compromise would probably be possible. But don’t bet on it.

            But you’re all assuming the So-Cons are legitimately interested in participating in a political party. They are not. And the Republican leadership is only just realizing it. It would have happened sooner, if not for 9/11 and the decade of war that followed.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I lean towards viability as a cut off, with exceptions, but I am was wary of limits on report inductive freedom, so it’s a tough question. But I think it goes without saying that social conservatives are not interested in compromises of that sort, though. Even if they were interested in them short term, bringing them into the Democratic fold threatens to eliminate the only pro-choice political party long term. It’s a straight up Faustian bargain.Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

              Which brings up am under discussed point. If the gop difference in social issues and some of the economically liberal socons switch parties, that’ll affect the other party.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think the SoCons are doing this the right way, actually, given the political realities on the ground and see no instrumental or ideological reason for them to join the Democrats. They’re implementing an effective strategy yielding the intended results – increasingly more state-level restrictions on abortion rights. Liberals disagree with the policies, of course, but that’s to be expected. Same with SSM.

                What all that means for the “greater good” is a bit unclear to me, since it seems the logical conclusion of the SoCon strategy is increasingly institutionalize the differences between people at the state level. Red and Blue states will become increasingly entrenched in radically worldviews as time goes by.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                They probably are. At least until the national party can’t wait win without anything its priories (contra popular wisdom, when and if they Do I think they are as or more likely to look at their economic platform than their social one).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What economic platform?Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:


              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I’ll throw in 30% (according to my Little League coach it was important that we give 110%).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And that’s why we have ballooning deficits.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                We should ban Little League.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                What about them?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Or mandate a different math.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                “Freedom Math”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “I have my math, you have yours. End the oppression!”Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                “…some of the economically liberal socons switch parties …”

                And how many economically liberal social conservatives are there in the USA?

                From the available evidence, not enough to matter at the federal level or in any of the 50 states.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                A lot of social conservatives are more economically liberal than they realize. Their economic preferences follow their social preferences. Many red states were once quite economically populist but shifted to the right on economics because that was the party that embraced their views on other matters. Coalitions determine views a much add views determine coalitions and social views trend to be less malleable for a lot of people.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The solid South was also solidly pro-New Deal. Very sensibly, since projects like rural electrification did a lot for it. That didn’t end until the Democrats became the party of civil rights. (Something I didn’t know until I was double-checking things: in 1960, Alabama and Mississippi rejected both Kennedy and Nixon as too pro-civil-rights, and chose unpledged electors who voted for Harry F. Byrd/Strom Thurmond.)Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                It’s not just the south that was economically populist. The 1896 nap looks very familiar. William Jennings Bryan Dominated Bush country.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain says:

                When I was a lad, my grandfather would tell me Great Depression stories. I always liked the ones about the big turnout that the Communist Party got when they held meetings at the rural Iowa Grange halls.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            “Hmmm. Would a ban on medically unnecessary late term abortion be a compromise worth making?”

            The social conservatives have spent the past few years proving beyond any honest doubt that they want both a ban on abortion, and also reduce access to birth control.
            And that they are not trustworthy – make a deal and they’ll break it when convenient.Report

          • Avatar Patrick says:

            @ Still

            Like I said over here:

            I don’t see the UK model as being acceptable to either the pro-choice or the pro-life crowd.

            However, in terms of concessions, I see the pro-choice crowd being able to live with it. I don’t think they’d generate much outrage if such was the law of the land.

            I don’t see that on the side of the pro-life crowd. I see this:

            Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith

            (a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
            (b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
            (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
            (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

            … and I see a collection of exceptions that would immediately be targets for restriction.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      Awesome post. If the greater part of social conservatives actually believed in the Bible and applied it to their politics, rather than just applying the parts that were convenient to them and demanded little of them but self-righteousness, America and American politics would be much improved.

      Anyone who speaks the language of contempt for the poor, as all too many who call themselves Christian conservatives do, or who advances policies that empower the rich at their expense, has no business calling themself a Christian.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        Amos, in particular, is one short 8-chapter script for a Democratic SuperPAC infomercial in the next election. Most enjoyable.

        It’s actually quite interesting how much of the Bible is dedicated to making sure people understand how important it is to protect and treat honourably what we could call the vulnerable in society and how little the Bible is interested in sex. Quite the reverse of what you might expect from public discourse.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      I’m confused on

      Ecclesiastes 5:8: “If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”

      Doesn’t that tell you to quit marveling at the oppression and STFU?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        The passage is on Ecclesiastes’ theme of there being “nothing new under the sun”. The author observes that oppression and injustice by the powerful against the powerless are neither unusual nor unexpected. That does not mean that it is right or Christian for us accept them, as all the above-quoted passages illustrate.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        It’s the absence of pronouns. Ecclesiastes is really a stodgy read. The whole of Chapter 5 is mostly about “God is watching everything you do – SO DON’T MESS UP!” But each verse is a non sequiter and it reads something like a sleep talker’s ravings:

        Basically from “…marvel not…” on, it’s this: “don’t worry, someone Up There is watching and he’s bigger than the biggest guy Down Here.” The idea being, of course, that the earthly big shots are so going to get it in the end.Report

        • Avatar DRS says:

          Personally, I think 5:1 was written by someone on ‘shrooms: “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.” I imagine a Life-of-Brian-esque line of worshippers holding up one foot and hopping into the local temple.Report

  10. Avatar Barry says:

    Going back to the original quoted article, I want to point out the author’s dishonesty. He implies that the GOP and its policies are associated with increased economic growth. That’s not true, pure and simple.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Old French proverb: Vouloir prendre le lièvre au son du tambour. He wants to capture rabbits to the sound of drumming. Bunnies don’t like drums and Gobry is preaching to the choir.

    The American Lower Middle Class are deeply unhappy with both political parties. They aren’t voting. The lower your income, the less likely you are to vote, and this has become increasingly true over time. Politicians have stopped paying attention to these folks: it’s a vicious circle

    Gobry would tell us it’s all straightforward and it just isn’t. But let’s just suppose it was, to advance the debate. To win the lower middle class vote requires money from high income types. Lots of money. There’s no appealing to these people directly without huge sums of money. The lower middle class isn’t terribly political, proven by their failure to vote. The few you do get — are Single Issue Johnnies.

    The Republicans lost because Romney wasn’t likeable. Reagan won because he was an affable man. Bush43 was a human being: for all his faults, people thought they understood the guy.

    I don’t buy all this about how Reagan’s vision of fighting deficits and inflation was the winning strategy. Carter set the Reagan Recovery in motion by deregulating the Savings and Loans, melting the glaciers of capital in them. Real wages declined under Reagan. Reagan’s policies increased poverty and Bush the Wiser was left to pick up the pieces. Restez ivre – ainsi évitez la gueule de bois == stay drunk, thus avoiding hangovers.

    All this is moot: Reagan was a popular president because he was a nice guy. Ultimately, as with all the rest of our long-term associations, from marriage to whom we work for to the friends we make, our political choices are predicated on intangibles. We’re a republic. We give power to people for periods of time, with sufficient leeway (or so we think) to make the tough decisions.

    But politics is mostly about money. The people who pour money into politics don’t take sides in these partisan debates. They’ll switch out in a heartbeat.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Carter set the Reagan Recovery in motion by deregulating the Savings and Loans, melting the glaciers of capital in them. ”

      IIRC, they were deregulated under Reagan. As for their problems, it started with a bout of inflation, which hammered institutions which lend money on 20/30-year fixed rate mortgages, money which is withdrawable upon demand.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        You remember wrong. The S&Ls were deregulated in the last days of the Carter administration. I worked as a consultant to FSLIC as Receiver when they all went bust.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Something had to happen with S&Ls. Their business model (invest primarily in mortgages and pay accordingly low interest on savings) didn’t work any more. But that something didn’t have to led to massive looting of the federal treasury. Anyway, it seemed massive at the time. Now we know better.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            I don’t know what you mean. The S&L business model worked reasonably well. They paid great interest on savings, to the point where rate wars were commonplace.

            Everyone else in the market was greedily eyeing all that capital, tucked away in FSLIC-insured accounts. They found ways to get that capital and they did. I know what went on in the S&Ls because I had to literally pick up the pieces when they failed.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              What I’m saying is that what you’re saying is pretty consistent with what Mike’s saying.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              S&Ls did not pay competitive interest on savings when inflation was roaring in the late 70s/early 80s, because the sorts of investments they’d made (as I said above, largely mortgages) wouldn’t support it. As puts it:

              From 1966 to 1979, the enactment of rate controls presented thrifts with a number of unprecedented challenges, chief of which was finding ways to continue to expand in an economy characterized by slow growth, high interest rates and inflation. These conditions, which came to be known as stagflation, wreaked havoc with thrift finances for a variety of reasons. Because regulators controlled the rates thrifts could pay on savings, when interest rates rose depositors often withdrew their funds and placed them in accounts that earned market rates, a process known as disintermediation.

              Basically, if you’re investing short-term deposits in long-term loans, you’re at the mercy of interest rate fluctuations, and the high interest rates of that period killed the S&Ls. Most went quietly into liquidation. Other did what you describe, which was finding a way to loot the assents and leave the FSLIC holding the bag.

              It’s funny how often we’re told that politicians are the last people that should be given power, and now rarely the equally valid point is made about businessmen being allowed near large amounts of money.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Competitive — with what? The inflation of the 70s had many causes. Gas prices, Nixon’s wage and price controls, that’s just a start. To say the S&Ls failed because they weren’t “competitive” flies in the face of the facts. The S&Ls rates were regulated because of the “rate wars” of those times, which some folks might confuse with Actual Competition.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Competitive — with what?

                Banks and especially money funds. Because they could switch to short-term, high-yield investments, they could afford to pay higher interest. Honestly, this is all well-known. Look up “disintermediation”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                This is well-known Wiki Gospel, you mean: hardly a substitute for the facts beyond a few interesting terms. The S&Ls represented a clear dividing between speculation and the retail banking sector.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Whats fact can you offer in opposition?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Regulation QReport

  12. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    He’s right about rejecting social conservatism not being a viable path for the Republicans. Social conservatives are simply too large a part of their base. The deeper problem in that current Republican economic policies only serve the wealthy, at the expense of everyone else.

    I’m positive there are more working-class social conservatives than there are libertarians, and if the GOP chooses to make a serious change in direction, its decision will be which one of those groups to court. (There’s also the anti-war, anti-security-state people, who overlap with the libertarians; but I think the militaristic and authoritarian element of the GOP is simply too strong for it to jettison. Those people are going to either find/found a third party or be content with minute gradations of “lesser evil” between the two dominant parties.)

    I don’t think Gerson and Wehner’s policy proposals are the right ones, mostly because I’m suspicious of the way they’re phrased, given their source (“eliminating…harmful incentives for poor and unwed mothers” sounds like a positive gloss put on removing social supports for some of the people who need them most). But the Republicans have more to gain from developing economic policies that address people’s needs, policies that aren’t just constant tax cuts and deregulation regardless of context or policy suitability, than they have to gain from throwing out social conservatism.Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      The way the GOP could court both social conservatives and libertarians is outlined in my comment below. I am fine with voting for someone who proudly states that he disagrees with Hollywood’s morality or that he preaches against homosexuality *. What I will not vote for is someone who wants to legislate or regulate these things.

      The solution, in other words, is to say “personally I disagree with this, but I believe it is no business of the government to interfere in others choices.”

      I would not JOIN the GOP, but I would be more likely to select them over the alternative.

      * the left’s equivalent is someone saying they would never offer someone a job at less than this amount, but that they would never force others to agree with them. I could vote for this Democrat.Report

  13. Avatar dexter says:

    Blaise, President Reagan might have been likable, but he was not a nice guy. And I don’t forgive the bad things “my” side does. Senator Landrieu is sending me emails telling how she we much America needs the keystone pipeline and trying to pass a bill that allows prayers at marine rallies. I am not forgiving.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The point isn’t whether or not Reagan was a Nice Guy, though many people thought he was, especially Monsieur Gobry. The point is this: Reagan’s policies were not why he was elected, nor indeed any other politician. Policy comes in a distant second, long after Personality. Senator Landrieu backs the Keystone Pipeline because she represents powerful oil and refinery interests who have every reason to want that oil to be refined in her state.

      As for prayers at Young Marine rallies, there’s no prayer in formations of actual Marines — unless they’re being shot at in some shithole, in which case they’re doing a lot of praying on their own. The Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Department is running this program. It all depends on who’s leading the prayers and if everyone’s obliged to pray along. Personally, as a religious person, I despise all this prayin’ and yammerin’ on about Jesus outside of religious services. But that’s Louisiana for yez. In competition for the collectively stupidest state in the Union.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        In competition for the collectively stupidest state in the Union.

        When my father lived in Nahlins, he always used to say Looz-yan was the most illiterate, ignorant state in the country – except for Mississippi! Take your pride where you can find it!

        In fact, thinking about that some more, I think he said this in response to the police action against the media christened “Super Sniper” who was holed up in the Superdome. In attempting to apprehend the guy cops shot at a heavy steel door they thought he might be hiding behind and one of the bullets ricocheted back killing one of the officers.


  14. Avatar Roger says:

    This reads to me similarly to what I see in NewDealer’s comments and posts, though from the opposite side. There seems to be a hidden assumption that the most effective way to address marriage, sexual practices or Hollywood (or from the other side, unemployment, labor mobility, education) is from a top down perspective.

    The mindset: “We have a problem. Put me in charge and I will give you this solution.”

    This is the mentality which I abhor in both parties. The reason is that it rejects or at least ignores the first question which needs to be answered; is this even a problem which can and should be best solved from the top down? Is there a single solution, and is it something we have to all agree on?

    Granted, every blue moon, there is a type of problem best solved in a centralized, command, top down, uniform fashion. I could elaborate what these types of problems have in common, but won’t for brevities sake.

    What I will focus on is that this paradigm neglects the power and potential of decentralized, voluntary problem solving of individuals and groups. It pretends there is no such thing as a complex adaptive system apart from centralized command.

    There are huge problems with forcing everyone, with different values, needs and perspectives to comply with one direction. When those that abhor same sex marriage try to use the coerciveness of government to accomplish their aims, they are guaranteed to harm those that disagree with them. The same for those trying to coercively decide what the terms of employment can be from the left.

    The problem with the both parties is that they both neglect the power and potential of decentralized freedom. This is not a surprise. Power and influence is the currency of politics. It is almost always in the politician’s interest to set themselves up as savior. Never waste a good problem, it can always be leveraged into more power.

    What IS surprising is that people fall for it. Politics degrades into tribalism, and we should expect more from ourselves.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      The problem is as Greg pointed out above is that sometimes to often top-down solutions are necessary to ensure equality and an equal outcome. Or at the very least to kick the most reactionary states into gear. This is especially true for civil rights but also a whole lot of issues. I know you disagree and we will probably never see eye to eye on this but big issues and problems can often only be solved with a top-down, centralized, national framework. Possibly international for things like climate change.

      It seems popular among some libertarians and/or conservatives to argue for entropy. That we can never solve all problems and often attempting to solve problems will make the issue worse. I don’t like this kind of “benign neglect” attitude because the people who argue for this tactic often seem to not be directly or at all hurt by whatever problem is being debated.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I’d also like to argue that in a democratic system, no policy decision is really top-down. If a policy decision is made by the elected representatives and leaders of the people and these officials are subject to removal through the democratic political process than its not really top down. Even in the case of sweeping court decisions there is enough democratic pressure that its not top down.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Yes. I agree with both NewDealer and Lee in many respects. Some problems do require top down central coordination.

          The first question is can it be best solved top down? If the answer is yes…then fine.

          An important aspect of this initial question is if it something we actually have to all agree on…

          Dennis was arguing (well, linking) for central political influence on the nature of marriage and the content of Hollywood. I disagree that either deserve a yes to the question.

          If the GOP quit trying to tell us what to do, many of us would be more forgiving of their personal morality.

          I could argue similarly against the left. Both parties conveniently forget to ask the first question.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Top down/bottom up approaches can work too. That’s what’s being attempted with health care (at least with electronic health records) right now… Mandate fuzzily, and let the market decide.Report

  15. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I know the picture is trying to say that woman plus man equals baby but all I see is woman plus man equals little person suffering from rickets.Report

  16. Avatar Thablack Liberal says:

    Social conservatives CAUSED the problems of the family by keeping families apart and tearing them apart with their war on “drugs”Report