Testing the idea that social cons are in retreat

I don’t disagree with what the AJC’s Political Insider wrote about the shift in influence among Georgia’s conservatives, from the religious right to more libertarian types. And the same dynamic was present in the tea-fueled Republican resurgence last year that saw the supposedly regionally limited GOP win big well beyond the Bible Belt.

The question, as the Insider recognized, is how long this dynamic lasts. Even as tea partyers were taking the initiative last year, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was roundly criticized on the right for broaching the idea of a “truce” on social issues while we sort out the nation’s fiscal mess.

Operating on the belief that social conservatives will still have a large say nationally in 2012 is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the subject of an interview and column today by the Washington Post’s George Will:

In 1994, when Rick Santorum was a second-term Pennsylvania congressman seeking a U.S. Senate seat, a columnist asked him how he was going to win. “Guns,” he replied serenely. Pennsylvania’s legions of deer hunters do not use assault weapons, which President Bill Clinton was trying to ban, but the hunters suspected that this, like Clinton’s wife’s health-care plan, reflected a pattern of assaults on liberty.

Santorum, then 36, won by 87,210 votes — 87,210 hunters? — out of 3,384,172 cast, becoming the first conservative elected senator from Pennsylvania since 1952. “Never,” he says today, “underestimate the power of the social issues.”

He probably will test that power — and the theory, which he rejects, that economic anxieties have marginalized those issues — by seeking the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nomination.

(snip)

Santorum does not ignore economic issues, but as a relentless ethicist, he recasts those as moral issues: “What is European socialism but modern-day monarchy that ‘takes care’ of the people?” He is, of course, correct that America’s debt crisis is, at bottom, symptomatic of a failure of self-control, a fundamental moral failing.

The first event of the nominating process, Iowa’s Republican caucuses, are, Santorum says, a bifurcated event. One part concerns born-again and evangelical Christians, who are 60 percent of caucus participants. The other part involves everyone else. This is why Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and why in 1988 Pat Robertson finished a strong second to Bob Dole and ahead of George H.W. Bush.

Three people who might have competed, or still might compete, with Santorum for voters intense about social issues include Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who has decided against running. And Huckabee, who is doing well as a Fox News contributor. And Sarah Palin, another Fox luminary, would have the most to lose financially from running. Santorum thinks “the left is trying to goad her into it,” hoping she would be weak among the independent voters who decide most elections.

Read the whole thing. Part of the answer to the question above about the staying power of libertarian conservatism is whether the tea party represents a new segment of the Republican base or largely overlaps with the social-conservative group — whose members may be choosing to emphasize different issues for now but won’t necessarily be turned off by candidates who speak more frequently about social issues.

My interactions with Georgia tea partyers suggest that the latter theory is closer to the truth. But matters might be different in places such as Wisconsin. We shall see.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook

83 comments Add your comment

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
12:27 pm

Social conservatives are no more in retreat than social liberals are in prayer, asking for forgiveness.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 3rd, 2011
12:39 pm

Tastes great, less filling. Most conservatives in my circle are both quasi-libertarian and quasi-religious.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 3rd, 2011
12:55 pm

I cannot believe there is anyone who is inclined to vote for any republican, who would vote for Chauncey if the republicans ran the ‘wrong” person. 2012 is a referendum on the current administration. Even if the republicans nominate a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood I’ll vote republican.

carlosgvv

February 3rd, 2011
1:04 pm

“Never underestimate the power of the social issues”

Like so many political sayings, this requires a translation. What he really means is don’t ever underestimate how Big Business and the Republicans have brainwased the mindless into believing that what is good for them must be good for the people. It’s all about money, plain and simple.

David

February 3rd, 2011
1:07 pm

So, Obama is so bad that you will vote for any Republican yet Bush’s first term wasn’t?

Incredible.

Question Authority

February 3rd, 2011
1:20 pm

No matter who the republicans run, I’ll vote for Ron Paul.

heartofdarkness

February 3rd, 2011
1:26 pm

I think the Egyptians have it about right, at present.

CJ

February 3rd, 2011
1:33 pm

Part of the answer to the question above about the staying power of libertarian conservatism is whether the tea party represents a new segment of the Republican base or largely overlaps with the social-conservative group — whose members may be choosing to emphasize different issues for now but won’t necessarily be turned off by candidates who speak more frequently about social issues.”

The third possibility is that the tea party seeks out candidates who emphasize socially conservative issues (guns, gays, abortion). This possibility is very different from not being turned off by social issues and is the more likely scenario given that the tea partiers are just another name for Republicans.

As evidence, despite the GOP’s expressed interest in focusing on jobs, the Republican controlled House is now planning to pass the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” to end tax breaks for health insurance policies that include abortion coverage (health insurance policies of many small and large employers include abortion coverage,). This bill is expected to pass the House with GOP support including support from tea party caucus members.

CJ

February 3rd, 2011
1:36 pm

Following up…of course, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is unlikely to pass the Senate and it would certainly be vetoed by President Obama. But the vote is important to the GOP to show Republican primary voters, dominated in many places by tea partiers, that they’re fighting the good fight on those social issues.

Darwin

February 3rd, 2011
1:38 pm

I say bring on the “dealth panels.”

Darwin

February 3rd, 2011
1:39 pm

typo – “death panels” (dang computer screen). I can hardly see anymore. Thank the Lord I’ve got employer based health insurance.

rant and roll

February 3rd, 2011
1:42 pm

In 2006 and 2008 Americans did not embrace the liberal agenda. In 2010 Americans did not embrace the Conservative agenda. In all 3 elections Americans rejected the status quo. Congress has yet to understand or embrace the will of the American people. Country before party

DannyX

February 3rd, 2011
1:42 pm

This quote from today’s Political Insider blog says it all.

Ray Newman, lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, “To no avail, now we have elected leaders making statements indicating they are going to give the people what they want.”

Those should be fighting words Tea Party! You need to go all crazy on them, we know you have it in you. Well kinda, we expected to hear all kinds of crazy let loose on the of total lack of ethical leadership in Georgia, we got nothing.

KEEP YOUR GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF MY BEER

Churchill's MOM

February 3rd, 2011
1:44 pm

Why do “those people” call themself social-conservative group when they are scoial radicals?

@@

February 3rd, 2011
1:45 pm

I’m not all that social.

But, when it comes to abortion, I’m won’t be neutral.

I am, however, into neutering.

Come on Man

February 3rd, 2011
1:46 pm

Ron Paul all the way to the Whitehouse. Let’s get busy cleaning this stink hole up.

DW

February 3rd, 2011
1:47 pm

Why do you feel the need to push YOUR religious beliefs on everyone else?

Left wing management

February 3rd, 2011
1:52 pm

“What is European socialism but modern-day monarchy that ‘takes care’ of the people?”

Isn’t it interesting how modern American conservativism started out based on Burke – as a defense of the accrued and sedimented wisdom in the monarchic institutions from assault by the radical Enlightenment-fueled mob drunk with liberty. And yet, in contemporary America the mere mention of Europe is sufficient to close an argument for most conservatives. Enough to get you head scratching, ain’t it?

Joe the Plutocrat

February 3rd, 2011
1:55 pm

Ragnar, I disagree. the GOP ran the right ticket in 2012. given the previous administration, it was clear that the GOP nomination was ceremonial at best. NO GOP nominee could undo the damage done by Bush & Co. as such, McCain was sellected as his consolation prize (and to further the illusion that “mavericks” have a place in the GOP. of greater interest – with an eye toward 2012 – was Palin. her place on the ticket was a test ballon, and the fact that she has remains “part of the conversation” (both parties!) is providing valuable data for GOP decision-makers. as I have maintained all along, she is a stalking horse, who is a formidable cheerleader, Obama/left-basher and fundraiser; and she embraces the role with great pride. don’t get me wrong, she is narcissistic and self-serving , which uniquely qualifies her for the role. but back to message. true (paleo) conservatives will never abandon their core principles on social issues, but in my estimation, they recognize the Constitutional baggage/burden that comes with these issues; just as neo-conservatives recognized the political value of campaigning on nativist, anti-gay, anti-abortion, platforms. after 2001-2009, many on the left and right are asking, “but at what cost”? so is is the tea party the property of neo-conservatives like Palin, or libertrian paleo-conservatives like Ron Paul? fair or unfair, political campaigns are about branding and taking message to market, and sadly as it seems, the process is more often driven by form over substance. of course, as I have maintained all along, it really doesn’t matter because in a plutocracy, politicians do not hold power (govern), they simply sell/pimp to the highest bidder.

Left wing management

February 3rd, 2011
1:55 pm

carlosgvv re: “Never underestimate the power of the social issues”

We should also say “Never underestimate the power of the social issues” , especially in the age of Citizens United, declining public education, and Fox News .

Keep your filthy socialist government hands of my Medicare! Yeah !!!!

jt

February 3rd, 2011
1:59 pm

Johnny Isackson is neither social nor fiscally conservative, but he still won. There is no hope for the R versus D goodcop/badcop charade generation of sheep. The post @12:55 is a perfect example.

Only time will make these people go away, and only then will we get a choice of decent people to represent Georgia. There is a Georgian Ron Paul out there somewhere.

Ron Paul 2012.

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
2:15 pm

CJ @ 1:33 & 1:36, The Tea Party movement has absolutely NO stance on social issues. The Tea Party platform is for a limited fed. govt., individual freedoms, personal responsibility, free markets & returning political power to the state & the people.

The Tea Party includes Republicans, Democrats & Independents.

Left wing management

February 3rd, 2011
2:23 pm

Linda: “The Tea Party platform is for a limited fed. govt., individual freedoms, personal responsibility, free markets & returning political power to the state & the people.”

But “free markets” do no such thing. They deliver power to the financiers and the revolving door between government and high-paid business positions. The rhetoric of “free markets” couldn’t be further removed from a policy that helps people and local institutions.

CJ

February 3rd, 2011
2:26 pm

Linda,

FYI–

“I’m proud to be called Senator Tea Party. I feel like I’m giving a voice to people who are very frustrated that Washington’s not listening,” Jim DeMint told Fox News.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/09/jim-demint-earns-stripes-tea-party-power-broker/

“You can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative” — Jim DeMint

http://hotair.com/archives/2010/11/09/jim-demint-you-cant-be-a-fiscal-conservative-and-not-be-a-social-conservative/

Troglodyke

February 3rd, 2011
2:28 pm

What social issues are we talking about? How long can the Republicans win on the gay and abortion issues? Haven’t they beaten those horses into mush yet?

If they continue to trot out those canards, they will continue to lose nationally (but win big in the backwards South). You may hate every second of it, but equal rights for gays are coming. The tide is changing. Wanna know why?

More and more, people open their eyes and see for themselves that we are hard-working, taxpaying citizens who are tired of being considered lesser because of religious stereotyping–especially since this is NOT a “Christian country” where biblical laws prevail. We are your neighbors, your co-workers, your kid’s teachers, your car mechanics, your doctors/nurses, your friends. People who are open to seeing the truth soon learn that we are not the bogeymen that religious indoctrination makes us out to be. Why shouldn’t gays be free from harassment? Why shouldn’t we have marriage equality? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to have children, or adopt them? The science is very clear.

More and more, people realize the truth. And the tide turns in our favor. Even Xtianity has had to change with the times. Homosexuality just doesn’t have the stigma it once did, especially with non-fundamentalists. And the fundies angrily want it to change back, but it won’t.

As the Religious Republicans continue to try to force the “old-time religion” down everyone’s throats, they lose standing. Moderate conservatives seem to be (thankfully) trying to get back to their TRUE conservative roots: individual freedoms and true fiscal responsibility.

Neocons should take heart; they still have the abortion wedge (though they are losing it, too–just more slowly). They also have an anti-immigration wedge.

2012 will be interesting, for sure.

Kyle Wingfield

February 3rd, 2011
2:33 pm

LWM: Your “revolving door between government and high-paid business positions” is a symptom of something other than a free market — in fact, it’s the kind of crony capitalism that is the enemy of free markets.

And neither party has a monopoly on that.

Kyle Wingfield

February 3rd, 2011
2:37 pm

Btw, Timothy Carney is excellent on the topic of crony capitalism, including his latest: http://bit.ly/eDM7N0

Slammy Wybring

February 3rd, 2011
2:41 pm

Social Con…. Sounds like a great descriptive name for all politicians.

Swede Atlanta

February 3rd, 2011
2:43 pm

Ragnar,

You expose how little you understand of the world with your 12:55 post. If the Republicans run someone from the Muslim Brotherhood you probably won’t be allowed to use a computer or speak without the permission of your husband or another male family member. You will have to be fully covered head to toe anytime you are outside your home.

So go ahead and vote for the Muslim Brotherhood. As a male I win because women won’t be allowed to work so less competition for jobs and women will be returned to their rightful, biblically-sanctioned place as subservient to their husbands (not that I believe any of that).

Common Since

February 3rd, 2011
2:44 pm

Look up “Santorum” in Urban Dictionary.

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
2:45 pm

The fed. govt. should not have ever injected itself into social issues, as well as about half of its other incompetent “services” we cannot afford.

“…a wise & frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government…”
Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801, First Inaugural Speech

headley lamar

February 3rd, 2011
3:00 pm

Republican resurgence last year that saw the supposedly regionally limited GOP win big well beyond the Bible Belt

Nah,. Just proof there are idiots everywhere,

And the GOP is pretty much a regional party. The numbers drop dramatically when you leave the Jim Crowe states.

Joe the Plutocrat

February 3rd, 2011
3:05 pm

KW, “crony capitalism” – excuse my “Few Good Men/Nathan Jessup” moment, but in the United States; “…is there any other kind?” the answer is “no” because, as I have argued all along, we are a plutocracy (or, plutocractic capitalism, if you like). plutocracy – n. 1 – Government by the wealthy. A welathy class that controls a government. 3 – A government or state in which the wealthy rule.

this isn’t “class warfare” or “wealth envy”. it is an irrefutable FACT of American politics. and “wealth” does not mean Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and the Cox and Walton families. it means ExxonMobil, Bank of America. Merck, ADM, and yes, even Big Labor (unions) and the hedge funds and venture capitalist on Wall Street. if lobbyists exist, and politicians offer access to legislation via $$$, we are a plutocracy. all this nonsense about illegal immigration, the second amendment, abotion, gay rights and healthcare is just the “line” set by the bookies to lure Americans into the political casino. and as we know, the house always wins.

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
3:07 pm

CD@2:26, Your sites prove only what everyone already knows: Jim DeMint is a Tea Party Member AND a Republican.
The Republican Party’s platform includes social issues.
The Tea Party’s platform does not include social issues.
There are Democrats who are Tea Party members.
Believe it or not, there are people in this country who believe that the fed. govt. has spent us into oblivion, taken away too much of our freedoms, created a nanny state AND taken away the incentive to hire people & those same people don’t give a tinker’s whit about social issues.

headley lamar

February 3rd, 2011
3:10 pm

Federal Debt has increased far more under Republican presidents than Democratic ones.

It aint even close.

Reagan’s first term the deficit increased by 49 percent

Second term it went up 40 percent

Bush I went up 32 percent

Clinton first term 13.2 percent

Second Term DOWN .2 percent.

GWB first term up 22.8 percent

Second term up 18.7 percent

So please spare me the Republican are fiscal conservatives crap.

If anything they love to spend as much if not more than the Democrats.

Rockerbabe

February 3rd, 2011
3:17 pm

Sad day when social cons are rising. Give their overt hatred of women and their status in societ. I mean, women making reproductive and health decisions without consulting a male! Whatever are the neathandreals to do? Working to continue the denial of 30-50 million Americans the opportunity to get and keep private medical insurance at an affordable rate! Whatever is this country coming to? I mean, equal opportunity at medical care and decision making? Oh my. . .we surely will rot in hell!

rant and roll

February 3rd, 2011
3:18 pm

Senator Jim Demint claims I can’t be fiscally conservative unless I am socially conservative? What does he know – he’s from South Carolina. South Carolina the state that makes Florida look sane.

Jack

February 3rd, 2011
3:20 pm

If I could believe that republicans really were most interested in fiscal and free trade policy and less interested in all the “mumbo jumbo” birther, social crap, I would really get behind the effort.

With democrats offering no realistic alternative, I sometimes feel lost politically. If the republicans would nominate a businessman like Mitt Romney and put fiscal policy and national defense first and foremost, then I could find a political home.

Steve

February 3rd, 2011
3:23 pm

I think I’ve got the Tea Party philosophy down now. It seems it is a longing to return to the “good old days” (which weren’t so good for a whole lot of Americans).

“The Tea Party platform is for a limited fed. govt. [unless it's in your bedroom], individual freedoms [to carry weaponry and ammunition with no other purpose than to kill many humans as possible in under 10 seconds], personal responsibility [unless you can buy your way out of it], free markets [including child labor, 12-hour work days, dangerous working conditions] & returning political power to the state [to outlaw implanting chips in your head among other genius-level legislation] & the people [the white people, of course].”

gandhi

February 3rd, 2011
3:23 pm

Who cares what that pompous George (never right) Will says anywho?

jconservative

February 3rd, 2011
3:29 pm

As a fiscal conservative I do not relish the return of those claiming to be conservative who turn a deaf ear & blind eye to fiscal issues while in pursuit of their social agenda.

Since we started the social agenda stuff the National Debt has gone from $650 billion to $14 trillion. That is 35 years folks.

History proves that government cannot handle both social and fiscal issues at the same time.

Or, to borrow from LBJ, government “cannot walk and chew gum at the same time”.

I vote for getting a handle on spending. We can let the churches, social clubs and others handle the social agenda.

Kunfoosed

February 3rd, 2011
3:30 pm

I don’t mind fiscal conservatism. It kind of makes sense when the country is broke and getting broker by the minute. But what I can’t stand is when a conservative tells me what I can and cannot do in the privacy of my own laundry room. Keep your filthy hands off of my washing machine!

gandhi

February 3rd, 2011
3:31 pm

If the Tea Party were a real, grassroots, populist movement, I could warm up to them. Unfortunately, if you follow the money, they are just another PR front group for corporate interests, doing the dirty work the wealty elite can’t smudge their hands with. No doubt some are sincere and have noble intentions, but it’s all in service to the likes of Dick Armey.

Joe the Plutocrat

February 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

Jack @ 3:20 – stop, please, you’re making me cry. it is not possible (in a plutorcracy) to “put fiscal policy and national defense first and foremost”. if you have the time, and stomach, go to amconmag.com (the American Conservative). check out Andrew Bacevich’s piece on why defense spending is always “first and foremost” and yet, the very essence of irresponsible “fiscal policy” (waste, corruption, little, if any return on investment). this is getting tiresome; “…in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of uwarranted influence, whether sought or usought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the DISASTEROUS (my emphasis) rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” and lest you think I am “liberal” – Barrack Obama is beholden to the very same “unwarranted influence” and “misplaced power” as his predecessor. W was just less covert. infact, I would submit, W used the “social issue’ bait and switch to get to the WH, but once in place, he traded social for fiscal, and voila, a doubling of the national debt in 8 years. we need a Ron Paul in his 40’s, but I don’t think Rand Paul is the answer.

Marty

February 3rd, 2011
3:42 pm

Rick Santorum is the evil guy under the mask that Scooby, Shaggy and the gang reveal at the end of the show.

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
3:43 pm

headley@3:10, I could not help but notice that you conveniently omitted this last president. Why was that? This govt. site shows exactly what the debt was each year:

http://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt_histo5.htm

During Bush’s 8 yrs., the debt increased $4.351 T with an average of $544 B per year.
While Pelosi was Speaker, the bills she introduced that were passed added $5.055 T to the debt.
During Obama’s 2 yrs., $3.537 T has been added to the debt with an average of $1.769 T per year.

Obama raised discretionary spending about 25%. Now he want to freeze it & cut the deficit $400 B over the next 10 yrs., when the interest on the debt is $4 B PER DAY!!! His State of the Union speech emphasized “investing” in America, translated: SPENDING even more money we do not have!

Kunfoosed

February 3rd, 2011
3:57 pm

“For decades, Americans have experienced a populist uprising that only benefits the people it is supposed to be targeting…. The angry workers, mighty in their numbers, are marching irresistibly against the arrogant. They are shaking their fists at the sons of privilege. They are laughing at the dainty affectations of the Leawoof toffs. They are massing at the gates of Mission Hills, hoisting the black flag, and while the millionaires tremble in their mansions, they are bellowing out their terrifying demands. ‘We are here,’ they scream, ‘to cut your taxes.”
— Thomas Frank (What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America)

Kunfoosed

February 3rd, 2011
4:09 pm

Sorry, y’all, just love Thomas Frank and his skewering of American conservatives:

“…libertarianism is good because it helps conservatives pass off a patently pro-business political agenda as a noble bid for human freedom. Whatever we may think of libertarianism as a set of ideas, practically speaking, it is a doctrine that owes its visibility to the obvious charms it holds for the wealthy and the powerful. The reason we have so many well-funded libertarians in American these days is not because libertarianism suddenly acquired an enormous grassroots following, but because it appeals to those who are able to fund ideas. Like social Darwinism and Christian Science before it, libertarianism flatters the successful and rationalizes their core beliefs about the world. They warm to the libertarian idea that taxation is theft because they themselves don’t like to pay taxes. They fancy the libertarian notion that regulation is communist because they themselves find regulation intrusive and annoying. Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized. In the “free market of ideas,” it is a sure winner.”
— Thomas Frank (The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule)

carlosgvv

February 3rd, 2011
4:39 pm

Kyle, you need to be very careful with what you say about crony capitalism. Your Big Business and Republican buddies will drop you faster than a Republican declaring he is now a Socialist.

Linda

February 3rd, 2011
4:40 pm

A neighbor has a death in the family. The social conservative on the right takes over a homemade nutritious casserole & bread still warm from the oven. The liberal on the left sticks some extra food stamps in their mailbox.
A friend’s baby is still-born. The social conservative sends a sympathy card. The liberal sends a get-well card.