I recently read an excellent article by Robert W. Patterson titled, “Fiscal Conservatism Is Not Enough: What Social Conservatives Offer the Party of Lincoln.” It’s well worth your time to read it.
Economic conservatives (supporters of limited government) take pride in their grasp of a relatively simple point made by Henry Hazlitt in his book, “Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics.”
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
I’ve got some simple news for libertarians and shallow Republicans: There are “longer effects” – or not immediately seen effects – when it comes to social policy too. I know some folks who almost rise up on tip toes with pride at their own grasp of Econ 101 – but would be shocked to read that last sentence.
Patterson writes in his article that many “Republican elites would rather talk about anything but social issues.” As I said last time, you need to remember the glaring fact that since Ronald Reagan left the White House in 1989, those same Republican elites have presided over a massive failure.
That same foolish thinking is prevalent in some Tea Party quarters as well. While most of the tea party people I know understand the importance of the social issues completely, others, influenced by the Econ-only conservatives think we can have a strong and growing economy and a depraved culture simultaneously.
Patterson recognized the following as well:
“The tea parties are not venues where speakers explore how the family crisis of the past thirty years, a crisis driven by the assault of American ideals like marriage and the two-parent family that began with the Great Society and was reinforced by Supreme Court rulings, has contributed to the present economic and social crisis.”
It’s up to those who do “get it” to engage those who don’t. One of the more superficial arguments was outlined by Patterson:
“Conservatives often defend their squeamishness by claiming that matters like sex-based affirmative action, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage laws, abortion rights and federally funded contraception, women in combat, and homosexuals in the military are ‘divisive.'”
Since when is economic policy not “divisive”? During my adult lifetime the public square has been one big brawl between the taxeaters and taxpayers, between the wealth creators and the wealth distributors.
Patterson also addresses the fact that many Americans are not “comfortable” talking about abortion or same-sex marriage. All I can say is – like the desire to avoid supposed “divisiveness” – grown-ups have to get over it. The social consequences of a moral free-for-all are pretty serious. The sociological data reached critical mass a long time ago proving the societal importance of the traditional family and the harm caused by abortion.
Patterson’s article raises a critical point that I’d describe in this way: If the GOP “Brahmans” decide they can treat social conservatives as second class citizens, the Republican Party will commit suicide.
“[T]he largest single block of Republican voters is overwhelmingly socially conservative. They may not be attractive to American elites, but they deliver votes. A Washington Post poll conducted last November found that 66 percent of Republicans consider themselves ‘conservative’ on social issues; nearly half of this subset (or 32 percent of the sample) consider themselves ‘very conservative’ on social issues.”
Patterson also writes that for all the talk of broadening the party, not enough Republican candidates “appreciate the degree to which marriage referenda generate wide support among independents, the working class, Democrats, African-Americans, and Hispanics.”
“Nor were [these candidates] encouraged to tap that rich voting block, as the Republican National Committee has demonstrated little interest in translating the support of 60 percent of the American public for marriage amendments into strategies that will, in [conservative pro-family writer] Maggie Gallagher’s words, ‘elect our friends and defeat our enemies.'”
“Democrats,” Patterson writes, “play this game much better; they understand, more than the Republicans, how social conservatism threatens the liberal agenda, which is not just economic.”
“In fact, [Weekly Standard writer Jeffrey] Bell notes that the ‘left today defines itself mainly in terms of social issues rather than economics.'”
Yet some on our side foolishly call for moratoriums while the radical social left continues its onslaught on our culture. It’s time a moratorium on the use of the word “moratorium.” Let’s call it what it is: an intellectually lazy and cowardly surrender.
Up next: It’s the culture, stupid.