Saturday, December 08, 2007

Social Conservatives Provide the Edge

The constant bashing of social conservatives from the Left is a tiresome saw. This type of rhetoric suggests that social conservatism has no place in American politics. But the Left has only its own excesses to blame for the rise of social conservatism as a political force.

This NRO interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez of Mark Stricherz is fascinating. Social conservatives didn’t suddenly spring up from nowhere. They have always been an important constituency in America. Critics love to claim that they are little more than the racists of the Old South with a new mask, but in fact, social conservatives were responsible for the demise of the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

Until fairly recent history, social conservatives were fairly well spread between both major political parties. But that changed beginning in 1969 when a new coalition that included feminist activists began to take control of the Democratic Party’s presidential wing. Stricherz says, “If the national parties in the late 1960s and early ‘70s had stayed the same, feminists likely would have aligned with the Republican party, which seemed to be their natural home.”

But “a group of New Politics leaders used a reform commission, which was chaired by Senator George McGovern, to hijack the national party.” The group was able to get the delegate selection process changed to wrench power away from party bosses. One of the provisions they enacted was to require that delegations be made up 50-50 of males and females. The newly formed National Women’s Political Caucus “told their members to run as Democratic delegates.”

As radical feminists gained power in Democratic Party presidential politics, they made it clear that their number one issue was “the legalization of abortion.” They proved that they expected “the party to muzzle those who disagreed with them.” Marginalized social conservatives started fleeing the party in droves over the next few years. Not only did the hard uncompromising stance of abortion advocates turn the Democratic Party more to the left, the incoming social conservatives turned the Republican Party more to the right. This situation both necessitated and enabled the formation of political power groups based specifically on social conservatism.

Today it is possible to vie for the GOP presidential nomination with something less than a pro-life stance. However, it is not possible to seriously seek the Democratic presidential nomination without subscribing to unrestricted abortion on demand. Stricherz explains why this is bad for Democrats. Like it or not, there are a lot of socially conservative American voters, even in the Democratic Party. But when it comes to presidential elections, most of these people end up voting for the candidate that is most socially conservative.

This, claims Stricherz, is why Democrats have lost six out of the past nine presidential elections, and why “only one Democratic candidate” during that time “has received more than half of the popular vote.” He suggests that there can be bigger issues that trump the candidates’ social stances, such as having a foreign war going down the tubes. But in the absence of such issues, the most socially conservative candidate has the edge.

If both parties nominate social liberals, the GOP’s edge in the presidential election will vanish. Stricherz says that it is only a matter of time before the current power brokers in Democratic presidential politics are toppled by another power group. It’s happened time after time, and it will happen again. “The obvious candidate,” says Stricherz “is Hispanic Catholics.” But before they can rise to the occasion they must “develop a leadership class, a political elite of lawyers and businessmen.”

Hispanic Catholics are far more socially conservative than the current Democratic power brokers. We may yet see the day that the Democrats will nominate a socially conservative presidential candidate. If both parties had pro-life candidates, contends Stricherz, the national debate would move from “whether unborn infants deserve legal protection” to “which protections should be enacted and whether government should spend money to help save unborn children and their mothers.”

Republicans would lose their edge in presidential elections. The fit for social conservatives in the GOP hasn’t been that comfortable for any of the party’s factions. If the Democratic Party were to become less hostile to social conservatives, some would no longer feel bound to the GOP and would wander over to the Democrats. Some groups that are now in the Democratic Party might wander to the other side as well. Once again, the entire face of American politics would change. I wonder if this would result in less inter-party hostility.


Jason The said...

I really love your supposition of 1. this being an unwanted "hijack" and not a movement of the willing, 2. any woman who wants the right to choose is simply a "radical feminist" and not just a woman who wants to both vote and control what happens to her body, and 3. that the inter-party hostility is a result of the Democratic shift to the left, and not the GOP pandering to the divisive religious zealotry of fundamental Christian organizations.

These "concern troll" commentaries (only written by those on the right) giving advice to Democrats is nothing short of laughable. Democrats don't need to cater to the social conservatives, they simply need to stop cowering in fear of the Republican attack machine that has for too long framed and poisoned our Presidential and local political discourse. To assert that inter-party hostility is caused by any party other than the one that accepted (willingly) the Swift-Boat veteran campaign, and fully embraced smear campaigns rather than discussion of policy and principle is not only naive and lacking true understanding, but is also a complete misrepresentation of what has happened in American politics for the past 50 years.

And from the looks of things, Republicans have already lost their edge in Presidential elections. Not since Reagan have Republicans been victorious for their policy or proven results of agenda, but rather have won elections due to the failure of the Democratic Party to truly accept it's identity and voice with pride and strength.

This idea that it's "bad for the Dems" to stray too far from the trenches of social conservative policy is simply the whispered last breath of the GOP losing it's relevance and focus in the face of progress and inevitable change.

But then what I call enlightenment or revelation, you will surely call erosion and degradation. That is the trick of personal perspective. To truly assess a situation with intelligence, one must place oneself in the other's shoes, not condemn with generalizations and judgmental conclusions of entire paradigms of belief, as you have done here.

Charles D said...

The problem of "social conservatism" is that it's cardinal purpose is to force "big government" to intervene on behalf of its social agenda - to ban abortion, to ban gay marriage, to permit religion in schools, etc.

The Constitution specifies what rights the government is prohibited from infringing, not what rights individuals are permitted to exercise. It hardly seems conservative to insert the hand of government into matters in which it has no valid interest at the expense of the personal liberty of citizens.

In short, the "issues" generally raised by "social conservatives" are not the concern of government and therefore should not be the concern of politicians. The injection of these phony issues is designed to intensify the emotional appeal of certain politicians. None of these so-called social issues are of importance in the least to the future of the Republic.

Certainly Republicans will continue to pander to voters whose obsession with the immorality of American culture (as they see it) can be translated into votes.