Here’s why in three words: bait and switch. Get elected as fiscal conservatives, then the instant you’re sworn in, rip off that liberty-lovin’, budget balancin’ mask to reveal the only agenda you really care about: using the coercive powers of government to impose your religion on everyone else in joyful anticipation of that blessed day when your religion IS the only law of the land. This is why social conservatism is the antithesis of fiscal conservatism: it is anti-liberty.
To illustrate this point, conservative Republicans in North Carolina are not making their state’s economy their first priority. That can wait. No, their first order of business is to legislate even more inequality for lesbians and gays into their state constitution according to an AP piece in the Greensboro News-Record:
The economy dominated the fall campaign, but leaders among North Carolina’s social conservatives believe the Republican sweep at the legislature should finally permit a vote on a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that hasn’t approved an amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Democratic leadership in the legislature has refused to consider GOP-penned bills on the issue for several years, and gay rights organizations have offered strong opposition to what it called imprinting discrimination permanently into state law.
Now, with Republicans solidly in the majority in the General Assembly starting this January for the first time in more than a century, chances for a vote in the House and Senate are fairly strong, GOP lawmakers said.
Getting elected as fiscal conservatives and then governing as social conservatives looks to me like the reason that government and spending both grow when conservatives are in power. The paradox that fiscal conservatives are pro-liberty while social conservatives oppose liberty is why so many people on the Left and independents, who OUGHT to be conservatives based on their financial best interests, cannot make sense of conservatism and reject it altogether. Well, that and the fact that fiscal conservatives open every conversation with a Leftist by declaring that the best way to get the federal budget under control is to eliminate Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service — without a word of explanation of the positive principles behind these proposals. This means that what Leftists hear is, “The best way to get the federal budget under control is to kill the disabled, kill the elderly, impoverish the elderly and free the rich from paying taxes.” For some reason, that makes Leftists love their big government programs more than ever.
Update, 11/12/10, Fri.: Dear Roger Simon asked a couple of days ago, “Is liberalism dead?” If the Republicans we elected were really fiscal conservatives, then, yes — but — bait-and-switch, bait-and-switch — so … no, not by a long shot.
Jonah Goldberg was pondering the nature of conservatives in September (boldfacing mine):
Most conservatives believe in free enterprise, strong national defense, and traditional values (variously defined). To be sure, there is a distinct libertarian faction on the right. But I don’t know that there’s a strong national-defense faction that would otherwise be in the Democratic fold (I can think of a few individuals about whom that is true — Paul Wolfowitz, for example).
Last, Bai writes that Republicans coalesced around anti-Communism. That’s true. But it would be just as true to say that anti-Communists coalesced around being Republicans. The Republican Party became the home of anti-Communists, social conservatives, and free marketers not because that’s what Republicans “are” but because that was the only place for such people to go. Seventy years ago, people of such views were scattered across both parties. As those issues came to the fore, the GOP was taken over by conservatives while the Democrats, over time, became less hospitable to them.
It looks to me like the social conservatives who took over the GOP did a lot to create the current demographics of the Democrats, too, by driving out gays, women and Jews — the majority of whom would be better served by the policies of fiscal conservatism because becoming an entrepreneur is a great way to succeed in spite of discrimination. (I’m not sure if blacks were driven out of the Right by social conservatives as much as they were seduced to the Left by the easy money of the Great Society welfare system and then kept in thrall by the grievance mongers of the race hustling industry. It occurs to me now that the grievance mongers fall into two camps: black ones who dream of domination and nation-building; and white ones — think ACORN — dreaming of using blacks as their pawns in the Cloward-Piven strategy to destroy capitalism to make way for a Leftist utopia.)