Will Intransigent Social Conservatives Sink Economic Liberty?

by Stephen H. Miller on November 29, 2012

Roger Simon, at PJ Media, tries to tell social conservatives some truths:

But first, a heavy dose of reality: Unlike abortion, where public opinion is going in the social conservative direction for various reasons (including sonograms), on gay marriage, it’s the fourth quarter, the score is about 80-0 and you’re on the your own five yard line with two minutes to go.

De facto gay marriages have existed in significant numbers in every one of our major cities and a lot of our suburbs for decades. Every year, the vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage is greater, recently winning in several states, and is likely to increase since the young vastly favor it. If you don’t think it’s going to be a fait accompli in the Western world in twenty-five years (probably considerably sooner), you’re living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

But see the blowback below Simon’s column from his commenters. Many are those who will not hear.

A large number of social conservatives seem unable to to move beyond the fabled “Reagan Coalition” of the 80s that brought together economic libertarians and the religious right. It was electorally successful through the Bush years, but those days are no more, at least in terms of the political acceptability of anti-gay animus. And so, the question posed in the heading.

More. Walter Olson writes in a Washington Post op-ed:

Despite the GOP’s historic identification with individual liberty and with getting the government’s nose out of citizens’ business, no one expects it to endorse same-sex marriage anytime soon. But one plausible path would be a GOP call for leaving the issue to the states, with New York going one way, for instance, and Texas another. That would probably capture a consensus among a broad range of active Republicans, fit reasonably well with the party’s other ideological stands and still distinguish its position from the Democratic Party’s support for same-sex marriage in its 2012 platform.

The GOP has left itself little room to maneuver. When some in the Romney campaign took an interest in the “leave it to the states” position this fall, they discovered that the candidate, like several of his former rivals for the nomination, had already signed a pledge circulated by the National Organization for Marriage committing him to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Although many national polls now show support for marriage equality, the national Republican platform continues to endorse the same deeply out-of-touch proposal.

If and when the party’s leadership changes its mind, a whole lot of suburban Republicans will be murmuring under their breath, “About time.”

{ 28 comments }

Tom Scharbach November 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

A large number of social conservatives seem unable to to move beyond the fabled “Reagan Coalition” of the 80s that brought together economic libertarians and the religious right. It was electorally successful through the Bush years …

The coalition was “electorally successful” because it took the skin off our backs, fueled by social conservative animus toward gays and lesbians. The result of that “success”? Anti-marriage amendments in roughly 30 states, bans on adoption, “don’t say gay” laws, and all the rest.

… but those days are no more, at least in terms of the political acceptability of anti-gay animus.

I don’t carry animus toward the social conservative voters who made the “success” possible. For the most part, social conservative voters were motivated by religious conviction or by fear. Wrong-headed they might be, but the rank-and-file did what they thought right.

I can’t say the same for the economic conservative Republicans who bought “electoral success” off our backs. They cut a cynical, Faustian bargain to gain power, sacrificing principle for power.

The economic conservatives should have fought back, as the moderates tried to do. The moderates got kicked out of the party, but at least they can look themselves in the mirror.

Houndentenor November 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Okay, wait. So you actually think that you can talk the religious right into dropping their objections to gay rights or even gay marriage because it’s becoming politically unpopular to hold that position. Really? What bubble do you live in? That doesn’t sound like an argument that’s going to work for any fundamentalist Christian I ever met. Have you ever actually met any?

Lori Heine November 30, 2012 at 1:14 am

Some social conservatives are actually adult enough to reason with. They will come around, and some already have. But those operating out of real religious zeal will never change their minds. God calls them on the big thunder-box every day and dictates “His” every whim into their dear little ears.

Those people would fly planes into buildings — if they had the guts. They can’t be won over, so they need to be soundly defeated. No prisoners. Scorched earth.

They think they want a fight. Let’s take it to them.

DCBuck November 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Rather than scorched earth, I say let the Talibangelicals have their way – nominate a Santorum, Bachmann, or other loon and let’s see just how palatable they are to independents, moderates, and the general populace. The loss they would suffer would make this last election look like a squeaker, and the GOP might finally grow a pair and send them once and for all into the tundra where they belong. As long as the Talibangelicals feel the GOP nominees are not “pure,” they will continue to live in their delusion that the only way to win is by running one of their own. It’s the only way I can see to shut them up, once and for all.

Houndentenor November 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I would say you have a point but these are also folks who believe the world is 6,000 years old. Facts and logic are not going to sway them.

DCBuck November 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Who’s talking about trying to reason with them? As I said, let the baby have his bottle. Then they’ll have no excuses left as to why nobody’s buying their schtick.

Gus November 30, 2012 at 5:02 am

“But first, a heavy dose of reality: Unlike abortion, where public opinion is going in the social conservative direction…”

The opening line of the quote is a bit off. More and more people are personally going in the social conservative direction, but they want abortion to be safe and legal for others. Social conservatives will not be satisfied with that much of a win and will continue to push for an outright ban, then move on to banning contraception as interfering with nature and nature’s God. The battle over the summer was not about “free contraception” it was about contraception itself. The same will be true for civil marriage equality.
Social conservatives view their time on earth as good vs evil with no exceptions, no gray areas. Unless they are actively engaged in the battle against what they consider evil in this world, they are lost.

Jorge November 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

A large number of social conservatives seem unable to to move beyond the fabled “Reagan Coalition” of the 80s that brought together economic libertarians and the religious right. It was electorally successful through the Bush years, but those days are no more, at least in terms of the political acceptability of anti-gay animus.

Several things.

First, if that’s the only sticking point you can cite, I think you are going too far with your generalization.

Second, I think it can be reasonably argued that the prevailing politics of the 1980s included a fair amount of anti-black and anti-Hispanic animus, and there was definitely anti-female animus. But wait, didn’t we pass the Civil Rights Act and uphold affirmative action? Yes, but there was still a lot of maneuvering in the aftermath, and between events such as the appointment of the nation’s first female Supreme Court Justice and a shakeup at the US Commission on Civil Rights, the Reagan administration was in the thick of it.

So I think we can draw the conclusion that social conservatives are going to go the way of the dinosaur just because they oppose gay marriage and the country supports it. They will continue to be disaffected and their political dissatisfaction will express itself in subsequent issues that are an interest to gays. The talk show hosts and other right-wing opinion people are already hypervigilant about certain ideas that are currently non-issues–if they ever do become issues, they will be more prepared to oppose them than their supporters are to defend them. They’ll have to win eventually.

Jorge November 30, 2012 at 9:09 am

So I think we can draw the conclusion that social conservatives are going to go the way of the dinosaur just because they oppose gay marriage and the country supports it

Should read “I don’t think we can draw the conclusion…”

Don November 30, 2012 at 10:17 am

As with all political movements, coalitions come together to achieve goals and break apart once those mutually-beneficial goals have been more or less achieved. Economic conservatives have won a huge battle over the last 30 years. The landscape has changed. Much like the sexual revolution, women’s rights, etc. changed forever after the 60s and 70s. Is everything perfect? Neither women nor economic conservatives would argue that. But are things generally settled in their favor? Definitely.

After resounding defeats on a number of fronts that used to work, the Republican party is having to reinvent itself. Social issues, immigration, tax policy. Everything is on the table. They have to put together a new coalition because they won so many of the battles they once waged.

I’ve been saying since 2004 that the Republican party is running out of steam. They are today where Democrats were in 1980. Both parties were seeing a winning coalition breaking apart due to success. Social conservatives may indeed start staying out of politics. I hope so. Mostly because I believe it is the wrong venue for their crusade. Legally mandating their worldview is a poor idea. They couldn’t even convince their own supporters to do much when they had power. Republican pols on the national stage could only stomach so much.

I don’t think social conservatives should admit they are wrong. That ain’t gonna happen. But they may find putting their efforts into their churches and their communities and not the laws of the land more satisfying and more effective. It just may take them a while to realize it. Or maybe I’m just a deluded fool for hoping.

DCBuck November 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I couldn’t have said this any better. Sadly, I’m afraid their toxic grasp on the GOP will continue for at least a few more losses. I grew up in the fundamentalist church, and I can tell you that they are a very headstrong and fanatical lot.

Pauliji December 4, 2012 at 7:05 pm

It seems to me that I recall very little political activity from the “social conservative/evangelical values voters” until the 1980′s when Jerry Falwell and his lapdog Ralph Reed went on their crusade to harness this religious fervor to their own devious and dishonest ends. They lied to their base in order to harness their huge numbers. The leadership saw the power and money that would flow to them, but the power elite which coaxed the religious masses into voting their religion never intended to follow through on any of the promises. The Bush administration was openly dismissive and condescending to the fundies behind closed doors. They didn’t deliver on a single promise to these guys, except for giving them a place at the trough, through the faith based initiative program, further corrupting any honorable intentions which might have been there in the beginnings. Now we are left with a group of religious social conservative who have been paid so much lip service that they have come to expect the republican party to automatically toe the line. But they still aren’t getting what they really wanted in the beginning. And they never will. It was never on the table. They have been fooled all along, and they’ll eventually get good and sick and tired of the whole corrupt business of getting into bed with politicians. They will have little option other than to simple fade back into the woodwork, like they always have in the past. It’s cyclical, and we’re seeing the downtrend of the current cycle. Once upon a time, they managed to pass prohibition. This time they won’t get even that much.

TomJeffersonIII November 30, 2012 at 12:32 pm

1. Very few Americans want to outlaw abortion outright. Likewise, most Americans do not believe that abortion should always be illegal. This is actually where the law tends to fall.

2. Reagan-Bush 1 era was a wee bit before my time. However, it seems like it was more of a Nixon Era Coalition; i.e. State’s rights (over civil rights), letting big business do whatever it wants (and calling it free markets) and then playing up to socially conservative buzzwords about “law and order” and “traditional family values” and “no special rights”.

Nixon and company basically started it up, pushing the GOP further to the right. Reagan and Bush kept pushing it further to the right, especially on “religious-cultural issues” largely based on the idea that its the only way to distract voters who probably agree more with the Democrats on certain economic issues.

Is any of this going to change? Why should it?

Mario November 30, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Reagan did anything BUT push the GOP to the far right. In fact, Reagan today would be regarded as a soft moderate on social issues along the lines of Romney and Giuliani. In 1975, while governor of California, Reagan actually helped defeat the nation’s first anti-gay measure. Although Reagan states publicly that he thought homosexuality was a mental disorder, he also believed so strongly in limited government that despite his own opinions he didn’t want government to grow so large it would seek to to socially engineer society. Imagine any politician embracing such ideology today!
Some people are so far to the Left today, they think everyone is a right wing extremists, so there is no reasoning with them.

DCBuck November 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm

THANKS for injecting some fact here, Mario.

@Tom: While a majority supports legal abortion, they also do not favor “on demand and without apology,” as those on the left believe. Polls have shown support for things like parental notification, and I believe there is majority support for things like a counseling and waiting period. The problem is that on this particular issue (as, sadly with many other issues), the loony fringe in BOTH parties is in firm control and have made this yet another “either-or” issue to the detriment of the nation.

Houndentenor November 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Yes, Reagan was once a libertarian on social issues as evidenced by your reference to his stance against the Briggs initiative. However, he reached out to the religious right in 1980 and was never heard to say anything pro-gay rights ever again. He sold out the party to the extremists.

By the way, I don’t know very many people all that far to the left any more. What I do see are a lot of people so far to the right that even Reagan would seem like a communist to them. And they are loud and often have their own radio and tv programs.

DCBuck November 30, 2012 at 4:20 pm

And the Dems in the 80s were speaking out en masse in support of gay rights? Sorry, I remember the 80s . . . What planet are you living on? It was well known that Reagan had no problem in hiring gay people; he spent $5.72 billion on AIDS while in office . . . All in all, a pretty solid record, considering the times.

“By the way, I don’t know very many people all that far to the left any more. What I do see are a lot of people so far to the right that even Reagan would seem like a communist to them.”

Totally agree with the second part, and Jeb Bush recently said as much.

But the first part??? Wow. You really ought to get out more. Let me throw out some names for you: Waxman, Waters, Sanders, Stark . . . If these people aren’t way out on the loony left fringe, I’m the King of Norway.

Houndentenor November 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm

I could easily name far more elected officials on the loony right. What would that prove? The loony left is the fringe of the Democratic Party, but the loony right is the base of the GOP.

As for Democrats in the 70s and 80s, you are right. We had to drag them kicking and screaming to the place of supporting gay rights. It took a lot of work. But that wasn’t my point. My point was that Reagan sold out his social libertarian views to pander to the religious right. It worked. It brought people whose economic interests would be better served by Democrats into the Republican party and forged a coalition that won them many elections over the next few decades. It also changed the party and that former fringe group of (mostly) southern Evangelical Christians now control the party. Check out a southern state gop convention. It looks more like a tent revival than a political meeting. You might even see people speaking in tongues. This isn’t the country club party any more, unless you are in an urban area or in the middle of a deep blue state.

When I read the posts and comments on this site I’m repeatedly stunned to observe that the people who write these things don’t seem to know any social conservatives personally. Lucky them! What’s so surprising over the last few years is not the crazy shit that people say. I’ve heard people say the same racist, sexist and anti-gay crap all my life. It’s that people in important positions say it out loud with no awareness that anyone around them might object. They are so used to living in a bubble of like-minded people (or more often, people just too afraid to say anything for fear of being ostracized in their church or workplace) that it goes unchallenged. At to that a constant barrage of the same batshit crazy shit on Fox News and talk radio 24/7 and you find people with a distorted worldview that they think the vast majority of Americans share. They don’t. I don’t know what changes that. There is no talking to such people. Yes, I know that there are liberals who live in a similar bubble. I lived in NYC for 17 years and knew a few of them, but there are far fewer of them and they are not in control of the Democratic party the way the religious right dominates the GOP. You know we are in trouble when GOP presidential candidates have to pretend that scientists don’t actually know how old the earth is for fear of alienating their base.

Jorge November 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I could easily name far more elected officials on the loony right. What would that prove? The loony left is the fringe of the Democratic Party, but the loony right is the base of the GOP.

No it isn’t, and no it isn’t. Perhaps DCBuck needs to prove that the people he named wield power and that others are afraid to stare them down, which is something he may or may not be able to do. The real test would be whether any of the people he mentioned turn against their masters and lap dogs at the same rate a fringe rightist–say Ron Paul–does.

When I read the posts and comments on this site I’m repeatedly stunned to observe that the people who write these things don’t seem to know any social conservatives personally. Lucky them!

I find myself repeatedly surprised at how so many people, not entirely on this site, don’t know any religious/churchgoing conservatives personally yet still make caricatures out of them.

Tom Scharbach December 1, 2012 at 12:01 am

And the Dems in the 80s were speaking out en masse in support of gay rights? Sorry, I remember the 80s . . . What planet are you living on?

Planet Earth, working (along with many others) to bring change to the Democratic Party, as I’ve been since then.

A fact for you to ponder: In 1980, the Democratic Party platform opposed discrimination based on “sexual orientation”, the first language included in any party platform endorsing equal treatment for gays and lesbians. I urge you to search through the 2012 Republican Party platform — 32 years later — and see if you can find language to that effect. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do, DC.

Since 1980, we’ve not stopped working, and we’ve turned our party around, to the point where the 2012 platform supports equality clearly and explicitly. That’s what we did.

Meanwhile, what did you do? You supposedly pro-equality Republicans cut a deal with the devil,- bringing in hard-core social conservatives in hopes that you could ride the tiger’s back to power. It worked for a while. You rode anti-marriage amendments into power. But now the tiger has turned on you. It has taken over your party and it isn’t going to let go any time soon.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just your problem. It is a problem that has set us all back at least a decade in our struggle for equality.

Thank God you guys got beaten this year. Otherwise, we’d have Romney sitting in the White House, with the near-certainty that we’d end up with two more Scalia clones, setting us back another couple of decades.

DCBuck December 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I find it funny when lefties try to rewrite history . . . especially when it comes to the Republican Party. It’s kind of like PETA rewriting the history of pork products . . . and about as accurate.

First, Hound, let’s look at what really happened prior to 1980. Interest rates and inflation were both double digit. There were energy shortages. Our military was in shambles, as evidenced by the disastrous hostage rescue attempt. Remember “Reagan Democrats?” This was the group that led to 12 years of Reagan-Bush. Not saying the Southern Strategy wasn’t in the mix, but without the Reagan Dems, he most likely would not have gotten elected. Thus, any real or perceived shift in his social positions were massively dwarfed by the more pressing economic and foreign policy issues that united the various groups under the Reagan tent. But, as the Bush I years progressed, these Reagan Dems began peeling off, leaving the Talibangelicals an open opportunity to seize far greater power.

“I could easily name far more elected officials on the loony right. What would that prove? The loony left is the fringe of the Democratic Party, but the loony right is the base of the GOP.”

It’s clear you’ve been guzzling the Dem Kool-Aid, which is all de rigeur these days. Oh, no, my freind . . .When we have the very sitting President of the U.S. on record as favoring wealth distribution, the loony left is in as much of a firm grasp of the Dems as the loony right is with the Repubs. By the way, I’d be more than happy to match you a loony leftie for every loony rightie you cite (I’ll see you a Durbin for your Bachmann and raise you a Boxer). There are more than just “a few” of these loons running your show, as evidenced by the equally batshit crazy things spouted every day over at FOX’s polar opposite, MSNBC. At least FOX tries to put some lib dem sacrificial lambs on in a lame attempt to counter the Talibangelical echo chamber. . . I have yet to see MSNBC do the converse . . .

Jorge, just as an example, Harry Reid informed Obama that they will not even consider any changes to that failing Ponzi scheme we all know as Social Security to avoid the fiscal cliff. And, voila! Obama omitted SS from his proposal.

And, Tom, you are actually a big argument in favor of Obamacare, as you clearly need access to quality opthamologists, as your reading skills are definitely subpar. Here’s what I actually said:

“And the Dems in the 80s were speaking out EN MASSE in support of gay rights?”

Yes, nondiscrimination was in your platform back then, but it was about as popular with your rank and file and politicians (hence, the EN MASSE) as rug burn. Remember, I was talking about the 80s; NOT the times since then. The first gay kiss on television did not come until the 80s were long over. Having an openly gay politician was a rare oddity. Gay marriage was unheard of. Also, please see my facts on Reagan Dems above, which you consistently miss.

I don’t deny that the dems are light years ahead on gay rights, and you should be congratulated for most of your efforts (and where did I criticize that in anything I wrote, BTW?), but I’d also remind you that your guy, ol’ Happy Pants, totally sold us all down the river, all the while you were working for/volunteering/donating to the cause, and most lib dem gays think he’s still a swell guy to this day.

And, again, I’ve been abundantly clear in multiple posts that I am an independent. So, let me spell it out for you in all caps, so your reading will be aided:

I AM AN INDEPENDENT.

I know it doesn’t compute with you lefties when someone calls your party out, and you automatically fall into default, “he’s saying critical things, so he’s got to be a Republican” mode. Ironically, I’ve run into the same converse problem when I call the other side out. Regardless, I am thus wholly uninterested in a party that has been taken over by a loony Talibangelical fringe. I do, however, wish they would finally grow a pair and send them packing – something which I would think even guys like you and Hound would be wholly in favor of. BTW, just to show you my cred, if you think I’m going to defend either Bushes for much of anything, you’re sorely mistaken.

I’ll reserve my thanks to God until we get strong third parties in this country who will truly represent the silent majority in the middle, and who will forever reduce the unconscionable, evil and destructive stranglehold both failed, useless, and intellectually and morally bankrupt parties have around the throat of this country.

Oh, hound, one last question: You seem utterly fixated on science and evolution . . . Just curious: why are your fellow lib dems equally as fixated, yet when science has, and continues to show fetuses as a unique entity, science is quickly and clumsily tossed aside?

Tom Scharbach December 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm

And, Tom, you are actually a big argument in favor of Obamacare, as you clearly need access to quality opthamologists, as your reading skills are definitely subpar.

I will convey your concerned to Dr. Blodi, who I next see on December 12. I am sure that she’ll be amused.

markanthony November 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I think it should be remembered that even Social Conservatives are a monolithic block. Younger conservatives of all strips either support SSM or just don’t get very interested in the issue. Lots of reporters noted that Maggie G was the youngest person by a decade on SSM panel at the last CPAC. The audience was noticeably older as well.

There won’t be a coming to Jesus moment for the Republicans, the issue will just quietly start to lose votes in party committees and be red lined out of speech drafts.

Sam November 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Some of the most socially conservative people I know vote Union Democrat.

Jorge November 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Some of the most Union Democratic people I know vote social conservative.

TomJeffersonIII December 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

My suggestion to gay/bi/trans Republicans (who complain about their party’s reactionary-dark ages social views) is to get off your collective rear ends and (a) play a more active (pro-equality role) in your your party at the local/state and actually run for public office as openly gay (lesbian/bi/trans) candidates who who support equality.

Will this be an overnight thing? No. Will this be an easy thing? No. Will this suddenly make gay Democrats (or Greens or Libertarians) change their party affiliation and become card carrying Republicans? No.

However, the only way that I can imagine the Republican Party is going to change is because enough people want change and are willing to actively work for it, even fight for it, within. Basically, that is how the social reactionaries took over the GOP and pushed the party back to the Dark Ages or the Spanish Inquisition.

For example, maybe gay Republicans raise money to train/help support some LGBT Republican folk that want to run for public office as equality candidates.

Tom Scharbach December 4, 2012 at 9:23 am

But one plausible path would be a GOP call for leaving the issue to the states, with New York going one way, for instance, and Texas another. That would probably capture a consensus among a broad range of active Republicans, fit reasonably well with the party’s other ideological stands and still distinguish its position from the Democratic Party’s support for same-sex marriage in its 2012 platform.

The Democratic Party’s 2012 platform does not advocate federalizing marriage. That’s been the Republican position for years, but not the Democratic position.

So “leaving the issue to the states …” will be a reversal of Republican orthodoxy, but it will not “distinguish its position from the Democratic Party’s support for same-sex marriage”.

What will distinquish the Republican Party’s position from the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform if Olson’s proposal is adopted is the Republican Party’s lack of support for marriage equality in the states.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it?

Walter Olson’s op-ed strikes me as yet another straddle (similar to GOProud’s position that it takes no position on marriage equality other than opposition to federalization of marriage), an attempt to conjure up a way to allow the Republican Party to remain anti-equality while not sounding anti-equality.

Maybe it will work gping forward. I doubt it.

Craig January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Er, sorry, must beg to differ when it comes to the abortion debate. I have never understood why Independent Gay Forum endorses the tiny LGBT anti-abortionist fringe and ignores libertarian/classical liberal/centre-right/fiscal conservative pro-choicers, and in any case, that’s only true in the United States. Down here in New Zealand and also across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, anti-abortionists tend to be a discredited pack of religious social conservative extremists.

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