Social Conservatism and Economic Conservatism are “joined at the hip” (Part 2)

By John Biver

Let’s start with a few of the more ridiculous arguments emanating from those who say the Republican Party should drop or at least de-emphasize the social issues.

The first argument is, they say, that the defense of marriage and the pro-life position on abortion are electoral losers. That’s nonsense. The Howard Center’s Robert Patterson recently penned an excellent article that was posted at the National Review website titled–

Marriage: What Matters:
Too many Republicans are blind to what is at stake in the marriage-law debate

His piece included these two facts:

  • In 30 states social conservatives have succeeded in defending the legal status of matrimony against elites who want America to be more like socially liberal Europe.
  • Public support for the traditional legal definition of marriage remains strong, and indeed has increased – to nearly 60 percent – since Perez Hilton heaped public scorn on beauty queen Carrie Prejean in April.

The fact is, the country is moving right on abortion. Just this year the Gallup organization posted the results of a poll under the headline –

More Americans ‘Pro-Life’ Than ‘Pro-Choice’ for First Time.”

As Patterson’s article explained, these facts don’t stop the people like the manager of John McCain’s failed presidential campaign Steve Schmidt from arguing against reality. My own view is that Mr. Schmidt is as good at understanding public opinion as he is at making sure vice presidential nominees are properly prepped.

The second ludicrous argument is that the GOP has tried and failed to win with those issues, and now they should focus on what they’re good at – which is economic policy. Don’t laugh – that is what they argue.

In light of just these facts about the public support for traditional marriage, Robert Patterson asked:

“So why aren’t the geniuses at the Republican National Committee taking advantage of this issue…?”

This column provided that answer a few months ago: they’re not geniuses. Yes, it’s true, that those at the RNC have achieved that lofty post. Do I have to bother explaining that getting elected, or appointed, or hired – doesn’t make you a genius?

Getting elected is comparable to a stupid human trick (as I alluded to here), and while the accomplishment of winning an election or any other job is laudable, what counts is what you do with and in the job that shows ability.

Too many of our supposed leaders can’t seem to grasp not only a proper understanding of economics, but what undergirds a healthy market economy – which is people. Here is how Patterson explains it (emphasis added):

“What drives the shortsightedness is that far too many in the GOP – from the business crowd to the Washington insiders, from the conservative think tanks to the talking heads on Fox News – have been slow to learn that social conservatism and economic conservatism are joined at the hip.

Without the social ideal of marriage between husband and wife, described by Wendell Berry as ‘the fundamental connection without which nothing holds,’ the prospects for limited government, civil society independent of the state, and a robust, free-market economy go out the window.”

Patterson’s article goes into some detail and is worth your time – you can read it here. The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society where Patterson works is a terrific organization. It is one of the many places the evidence is compiled that it’s a fool’s errand to believe that economic conservatism can successfully coexist with social liberalism.

Next up I’ll deliver more bad news: not only are the economic and social issues attached at the hip, they’re both connected to foreign policy.

©2009 John Francis Biver