UPDATED: Social conservatives battle fiscal conservatives for the soul of the Tea Party

by CynthiaYockey on December 2, 2010

Newsweek interviews dear Andrew Ian Dodge on the battle between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives to set the message of the Tea Party and control its message, money and power. The Republicans who just swept into state and federal offices ran on fiscal conservatism and the economy. I am shocked that social conservatives now are trying to force them to make social issues their priority instead of doing the work they promised to do to create jobs and improve the economy.

However, I suspect if I were a better student of American elections, I would find that this isn’t the first time social conservatives have gotten elected by posing as fiscal conservatives and then indefinitely postponed doing anything remotely connected to fiscal conservatism while putting their social agenda first and foremost at every opportunity. I intend to raise my voice along with Andrew’s to ensure that this time they will keep the promises that got them elected and that the fiscal conservative agenda will be the one that that has the priority.

H/T Hot Air Headlines.

Update, 12/3/2010, Fri.: Dan Riehl takes Karl Rove to the woodshed on compassionate conservatism — which I gather is the preferred term for social conservatism when it is combined with fiscal liberalism — and the battle for the soul of conservatism. Read the whole thing because I left out some good parts:

Bush’s so-called compassionate conservatism was pure GOP establishment political bullshit. America is and will continue to be paying the price for it in increased debt, taxes and regulation for years.

To the extent a genuine sense of individual American independence and liberty is allowed to continue to be compromised by a GOP establishment more interested in political power and control, as opposed to a serious appreciation for individual liberty, American conservatism will continue to suffer, if not one day disappear.

We are facing some hard truths in America’s ongoing history. I get that. The genuine American truth that needs to be conveyed, in fact, trumpeted, in this difficult time, is that, government can not do everything for you. In fact, there is very little that it has proved itself capable of doing efficiently, let alone well.

(snip)

The more I hear from Karl Rove, the more I think about the potential, if not genuine need, for a disastrous split on the Right, leading to a third party move in 2012. If the GOP wants to go down the road to hell and statism with the Democrats, fine, let them. But they have no right to expect principled conservatives to follow them to their own end. I’d rather conservatism wither and die on the vine alone while standing for something more than the latest gee whiz slogan from just another GOP political hack like Karl Rove.

I think we have the potential for a split on the Right if social conservative leaders persist in trying to hijack the energy, money, power, and enthusiasm that fiscal conservatism has won for the conservative movement since 2008, when Obama began minting brand new fiscal conservatives in round-the-clock shifts. I don’t think it is inevitable, but when the Right is dominated by people who are offering a supremely intrusive churchism as the alternative to statism, and if they can only be satisfied by gaining supreme government power rather than the achievement of the stable and prosperous social order they profess to want, then, yes, it is time for conservatism to re-define and re-create itself.

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  • JustMe

    “However, I suspect if I were a better student of American elections, I would find that this isn’t the first time social conservatives have gotten elected by posing as fiscal conservatives and then indefinitely postponed doing anything remotely connected to fiscal conservatism while putting their social agenda first and foremost at every opportunity”

    If you can remember all the way back to the 2000 election that would be a good example.

    “Another test of leadership is tax relief.
    The last time taxes were this high as a percentage of our economy, there was a good reason We were fighting World War II.
    Today, our high taxes fund a surplus. Some say that growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend.
    But they’ve got it backwards.
    The surplus is not the government’s money. The surplus is the people’s money.
    I will use this moment of opportunity to bring common sense and fairness to the tax code. And I will act on principle.
    On principle every family, every farmer and small businessperson, should be free to pass on their life’s work to those they love.
    So we will abolish the death tax.
    On principle no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government.
    So we will reduce tax rates for everyone, in every bracket.
    On principle those in the greatest need should receive the greatest help.
    So we will lower the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and double the child tax credit.
    Now is the time to reform the tax code and share some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills.”

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/2000_George_W._Bush's_Republican_Convention_Acceptance_Speech

    He gave the SS reform a half hearted try and the perhaps the death tax but he didn’t mention the prescription drug program then either. YMMV.

  • The GOP can’t win if its candidates bait-and-switch. Social conservatives don’t have to take a hike. They have to tell the truth and keep their promises. So candidates elected on fiscal promises should make keeping those promises their priority until they have delivered. If instead they claim a mandate to do whatever they want, it’s reasonable to conclude their intent all along was to deceive voters to gain power. That’s going to get Obama re-elected in 2012.

    Social conservatism does not belong in government because government is the realm of coercion. Social conservatism belongs in the realm of persuasion.

    Also, social conservatives have done a lot to create the Left by purging from the Right groups that really would best be served by fiscal conservatism: gays, women, Jews and blacks. The more members of these groups that realize their future and America’s future depend on the liberty and prosperity provided by fiscal conservatism, the less the GOP will need social conservatives.
    Cynthia

  • Ben,
    Social conservatives are great supporters of children being murdered by their mothers — and fathers. To say they all oppose this is a grave injustice. However, they target primarily the post-born gay teen-ager and keep their hands clean by tossing them out and letting the street kill them. Ask Randall Terry and Alan Keyes.

    The words for the uniformity of belief you embrace and covet for the Right are “Gleichschaltung” and “totalitarianism.”
    Cynthia

  • Peter

    Yeah but Dubya never called himself a fiscal conservative. He billed himself as a compassionate conservatice, remember? That’s where the prescription drug program came from.

    Dubya never figured out the difference between Washington Democrats and Texas Dems. He easily rolled the Texas Dems and got much more fiscal conservatism done down here in the Bible Belt than he ever did in Washington. Still, one of his proudest acts as Governor was how he led the fight to bring water, sewers and electricity to the Border Colonias. So the prescription drug plan was pure Dubya. The No Child Left Behind was Dubya getting rolled by the Washington Donks. Dubya wanted No Child Left Behind, Teddy Kennedy gave him No child’s Behind Left Alone.

    I’ll say it again, if you want to beat the social conservatives you will have to do it at the precinct level, It is the socons that man the phone banks and walk the precincts. They are the ones who drive the elderly to the polls and do all that unheralded and unpaid scutwork, without which no Republican ever wins. When I was active in party politics it was the libertarians singing the same song that Cynthia is. They never showed up for the hard work. Now it’s the fiscal conservatives. Writing won’t change the party. Complaining won’t change the party. The only things that will change the party is by adding one of the needed ingredients to a campaign. Money or work. Otherwise, be run over.

    • Peter,
      You are quite right about “Money or work. Otherwise, be run over.” However, it does seem that socons supplement this with frequent purges of their rivals and enemies. But bait-and-switch is just not going to work this time — there are too many new fiscal conservatives like me who expect promises to be kept, you know, what with the fate of the nation hanging in the balance and all.
      Cynthia

  • Lori Heine

    What Ben, and people like him, do not seem to understand is that the difference between libertarian conservatives and social conservatives is not a matter of piety or morality. It is about the proper scope and function of government.

    Social conservatism is inherently incompatible with the Tea Party message. Soc-cons believe in big government coercion — as you say, Cynthia — and not in persuasion. Evidently they fail to place enough trust in the very principles they claim to espouse to be able to argue them in a truly free arena of ideas.

    Either we will have a small, efficient, non-intrusive and non-obstructivist government — as the Tea Party said it wanted — or we will have a big, inefficient, intrusive and obstructionist, tax-and-spend government — as both the Left and the social Right want.

    We simply cannot have it both ways. And the fools who babble about “social conservatism” would do well to remember that any government big enough to intrude unwelcomely in one group of citizens’ lives can just as easily do (as it eventually WILL do) to others.

    • Attmay

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on that. Just like our blogger, I abandoned the left because, after 9/11, they refused to fight the sworn enemies of things I assumed they believed: the equal treatment of women, gays and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities under the law, religious freedom, freedom of speech. And the more I looked at them the more I see they never believed in those things.

      Let’s start calling social CINOs (conservatives in name only) what they are: Christian heterosexual authoritarians. They are the other side of the same coin as leftists because they want to use the power of the state to instigate control. They use the same arguments to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples that the left uses to ban Four Loko and trans fats or make it a crime not to own health insurance. “It’s good for society,” they whine. Society is just the way individuals interact with one another. Without the individual, society is nothing but an abstract, and a culture that does not regard the rights of the individual as sovereign and place responsibilities and expectations on him or her on that basis will eventually sink into a despotism. Barack Obama is a despot for the same reason that Pat Robertson is a despot.

      • Attmay,
        CINOs: brilliant! I was wondering today if CINOs even realize they are not really fiscal conservatives because they intend to get to the fiscal stuff just as soon as they have implemented all their social conservative goals to their satisfaction, so the fiscal goals are just continually put off — not consciously renounced, just eternally pushed into an ever-receding future — so, as a practical matter, they want credit for having the fiscal goals without ever doing anything to implement them or even realizing their fiscal and social goals are antithetical. For example, most of the regulations strangling entrepreneurs and small businesses are at the state level. Is there a conservative/Republican uprising from the recent legislative victories to remove these obstacles for these job creators? Absolutely not! There are gays and women to demonize and use as fundraising cash cows — never mind that they were elected on the basis of their promises of fiscal conservatism.
        Cynthia

        • Attmay

          They learned it by watching Obama.

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