The Santorum Surge

Social Issues and the Santorum Surge, in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, presents James Taranto’s interview with conservative politico Jeffrey Bell. An excerpt:

Social conservatism, Mr. Bell argues…has a winning track record for the GOP. … The populist nature of social conservatism perplexes liberals, who think less-affluent Americans ought to side with the party of statist economics. … Yet Mr. Bell notes that social conservatism is largely a working-class phenomenon: “Middle America does have more children than elite America, and they vote socially conservative, even though they might not necessarily be behaving that way in their personal life. They may be overwhelmed by the sexual revolution and its cultural impacts.”

Santorum is “the most consistent and unapologetic social conservative in the race,” Bell notes.

I imagine Obama would beat Santorum in a matchup (at least that’s the conventional wisdom held by the elite, for now), but Santorum’s surge points out the extent to which we’ve failed to convince working-class America that gay equality is a positive development. Instead, gay rights has been perceptually lumped with both the over-expansion of state intrusiveness and the “sexual revolution”—phenomenon of the left that are viewed (and with some justification) as having destabilized traditional social bedrocks like marriage and community.

There’s a price to be paid by making gay rights part of the agenda of the left, and the Santorum surge may be part of that price.

More. Along the same lines, social conservative columnist Star Parker hails Santorum’s rise, linking it to “three recent left-wing victories”—the appellate ruling that California’s anti-gay-marriage Prop. 8 is unconstitutional; the orchestrated attacks on the Susan G. Komen foundation that led to the reversal of its decision to withdraw funding for Planned Parenthood over the latter’s abortion services; and the administration’s refusing to grant religiously affiliated organizations an exemption from Obamacare’s employer mandate requiring provision of free contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization.

The liberal-left supports all three actions; the social right opposes all three. Some of us hear the Sesame Street ditty, “which one of these things is not like the other.”

15 Comments for “The Santorum Surge”

  1. posted by The Santorum Surge | QClick Radar on

    [...] Santorum Surge Independent Gay Forum Sun, February 19, 2012 3:43 PM UTC Independent Gay Forum Rate  Loading … Share (function() { var po = document.createElement('script'); [...]

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Santorum’s surge points out the extent to which we’ve failed to convince working-class America that gay equality is a positive development. Instead, gay rights has been perceptually lumped with both the over — expansion of state intrusiveness and the “sexual revolution” — phenomenon of the left that are viewed (and with some justification) as having destabilized traditional social bedrocks like marriage and community.

    With respect to your suggestion that “working class America” is somehow more resistant to marriage equality than the rest of us, I would quietly remind you of Nate Silverman’s work on this question.

    In 2009, Nate Silverman studied the correlation between numerous factors and a state’s propensity to ban marriage equality. Silverman found a very strong correlation between the “religiosity” (rates of weekly church attendance, number of white evangelicals) and resistence to marriage equality. The other variables Silverman looked at (race, education levels, party registration and so on) “either did not appear to matter at all, or became redundant once we accounted for religiosity”, as Silverman put it.

    Silverman reworked the model in 2012 to adjust for the accelerated trend toward acceptance of marriage equality in recent years, but has not found any reason to change his earlier conclusion that “religiosity”, and in particular, the relative number of white evangelicals in the mix of weekly church attendees, is the most significant correlation to resistence to marriage equality.

    There’s a price to be paid by making gay rights part of the agenda of the left, and the Santorum surge may be part of that price.

    I would put this a different way: “There’s a price to be paid by decades of political cynicism by pro-equality conservatives, unwilling to call out and resist social conservatives in order to achieve short-term political gain, and the Santorum surge may be part of that price.

    To the extent that “gay rights [is] part of the agenda of the left”, it is because pro-equality progressives have put in thirty years of hard work to ensure that “the agenda of the left” includes “equal means equal”.

    If pro-equality conservatives had done some work over the last thirty years. instead of aiding and abetting social conservatives in hijacking “the agenda of the right” to win the “culture wars” elections that Bell highlights , “equal means equal” might now be part of “the agenda of the right”, as well.

    I am sorry to be so blunt about this — I realize that I am on the border of being rude — but it is very frustrating to see you and your colleagues on the right constantly complaining about the success of progressives in turning the Democratic Party around on this issue, while you have done worse than nothing at all in your own party of choice. It is not our job to change the Republican Party. It is your job, and you haven’t done it.

    If you want to know why social issues have such strong play in the Republican Party at this point, look in the mirror.

  3. posted by Spaniel on

    I predict that the Santorum surge is about to turn into the Santorum slide. With the Oklahoma personhood bill passing, and the Virginia bill mandating vaginally probe (whether medically necessary or not), the Republican party has broadened the vulture war to include sexually active women. Add yo that Santorum’s personal objections to contraception AND his supportsr’s proclamation that the best contraception is an aspirin held between a woman’s knees, and Ithomk we will be seeing him slide in the polls. You don’t have to be tot marriage equality to be against the government meddling in your sexual and reproductive choices.

  4. posted by Houndentenor on

    I could be very wrong, of course, but I can’t imagine that the GOP leadership and the big donors are going to allow Santorum to get the nomination. I’m not sure what’s about to unfold, but they just can’t allow that to happen. By next year he’ll be a footnote in the history of presidential primaries. Stay tuned. It’s likely not going to be pretty.

  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The liberal-left supports all three actions; the social right opposes all three. Some of us hear the Sesame Street ditty, “which one of these things is not like the other.

    Yes, but not aggressively asserting it to social conservatives, tacking advantage of a “teachable moment”. It doesn’t have to stay that way, Stephen. You and other pro-equality conservatives could break the silence.

  6. posted by Houndentenor on

    Republicans could support equal rights for gay people if they wanted to. No one is stopping them. That is not the fault of liberals.

    • posted by Spaniel on

      Your point is made through the Republicans who broke rank in the last year and voted for marriage equality in New York and Washington.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        Or if we look across the pond we can note that David Cameron has come out for full marriage rights for gay couples. This is the same political party that a few decades ago passed the bill that didn’t allow any mention of homosexuality in the schools. One wonders how long it will be before the GOP has anyone in a leadership position who is for gay rights.

  7. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Republicans could support equal rights for gay people if they wanted to. No one is stopping them.

    Republicans, including a significant number of gay and lesbian Republicans, have chosen to keep the “culture wars” alive, for precisely the reasons that Jeffery Bell posits (in close elections, the “culture wars” add Republican votes, both by energizing the base to turn out and by peeling off a percentage of Democratic votes).

    The court and legislative decisions of recent weeks ensure that 2012 will be a “culture wars” year, particularly if the economy continues trending toward recovery.

    It has been interesting to see Santorum play the “culture wars” as a weapon against Romney in recent days.

    Romney can’t attack Santorum on extremism, because to do so would play into the “Massachusetts liberal” storyline, and Romney can’t join Santorum, either, because to do so would play into the “Romney will say anything to get elected” storyline.

    So Romney will dump millions into negative ads Michigan and Ohio, trying to nail Santorum as a “Washington insider” and “earmark king”, and count on surrogates from the Republican establishment to try to argue that Santorum as nominee will mean an Obama blowout. I won’t be surprised to see personal attacks on Santorum’s character and fitness as the war with Romney heats up over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be watching Faux News and Rushbaugh to see how they play it, as well. As you said, it won’t be pretty.

  8. posted by Jorge on

    “Middle America does have more children than elite America, and they vote socially conservative, even though they might not necessarily be behaving that way in their personal life….”

    Huh???

    Humph! Most of my family is the reverse.

    but Santorum’s surge points out the extent to which we’ve failed to convince working-class America that gay equality is a positive development.

    Well I’m glad to finally see someone else who realizes this, although I come to a slightly different conclusion.

    “…or became redundant once we accounted for religiosity”, as Silverman put it.

    That’s either bad reasoning, bad explaining, or bad science.

    I could be very wrong, of course, but I can’t imagine that the GOP leadership and the big donors are going to allow Santorum to get the nomination.

    It’s no big secret that they support Romney. What’s the difference?

  9. posted by Lymis on

    “There’s a price to be paid by making gay rights part of the agenda of the left, and the Santorum surge may be part of that price.”

    Your premise appears to be that the gay community looked at two groups who were effectively neutral on the topic and then decided, for unstated reasons, to actively go after liberal support rather than conservative support.

    Keeping gay equality completely distinct from conservative and Republican politics is most definitely on someone’s agenda, but claiming that it’s on the gay side of that equation is ridiculous.
    The reverse is true. Gay rights became part of the liberal agenda because liberals were either willing to support gay rights, or at least not focused on tossing gay people to the curb at every opportunity.

    The conservative movement, and even more clearly, the Republican Party, has, in contrast, not only actively opposed gay equality, but put opposition to gay equality so central to their platforms that it serves as a single defining litmus test – be staunchly Conservative on every other issue, but pro-gay, and out the door you go.

    • posted by BobN on

      Back in the early 70s, you could find — and we did find — gay-supportive Republicans. WE didn’t choose to court the “social conservatives”, the GOP did.

  10. posted by Suzy on

    The problem with the GOP playing Culture Wars, round 923425, is that this time, the numbers are no longer on their side. Yes, it motivates their base, but the base is already motivated to be anti-Obama. Meanwhile, it’s alienating more people than before, and especially anyone under 40, and women of all ages, who will need to swing over to support the Republican candidate if there’s to be any hope of success. Attacking contraception and gay marriage is not the way to solve that–it’s pretty much the opposite of what you’d want to do.

  11. posted by JohnInCA on

    … you’re blaming gays for the GoP being hard-line social conservative?

    Eh, why not. It fits right in with the times… we’re to blame for 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, Iran/Iraq, IEDs, BP Oil Spill, and now the GoP being hard-line social conservative. I’d ask if global warming was next, but blaming us for that would mean acknowledging it and I don’ t think Republicans are allowed to do that.

  12. posted by TomjeffersonIII on

    Oddly enough, I seem to remember reading something not too long ago about how Santorum initially started out his political career as being (generally) pro-choice and much more moderate on social issues, until he had ambitions for higher office.

Comments are closed.