Social Conservatives Make An Empty Threat

Social conservatives are seeing their clout slip away, but there's not much they can do about it.

Elephants Fighting

With the GOP headed into an annual meeting in California starting tomorrow, some social conservatives are warning the RNC that they could bolt the party if the leadership fails to endorse their agenda on issues like same-sex marriage:

Some social conservatives are threatening to decamp from the Republican Party if officials do not recommit to their issues.

In a letter to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the leaders of 13 social conservative groups demand a reaffirmation of the 2012 party platform, which calls for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.

“It’s one thing to say the Party is open to all. It’s quite another to suggest that the Party should retreat in midstream from their own platform,” the authors write. “In so doing, the GOP further confuses voters about their own identity.”

The letter, first reported on by NBC News, is in response to the RNC autopsy released last month, which described a generational split on “issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays.”

The social conservatives argue that the party can increase its support with minority voters by championing social issues and will only lose support from its base by running from them.

“Republicans would do well to persuade young voters why marriage between a man and a woman is so important rather than abandon thousands of years of wisdom to please them,” they write. “We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.”

The group argues that existing gay GOP groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud shows that there is no need to change party orthodoxy to create a bigger tent. “We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally,” they write.

They also suggest that better communication with social conservatives, “the experts on how to articulate those positions,” would have avoided some of the gaffes made by Republican candidates last year.

A resolution reaffirming the 2012 platform passed out of the RNC’s Resolution Committee Wednesday and will get a vote from the full RNC on Friday, RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.

The letter repeats an argument that social conservatives have made in the past, namely that they key to getting minority voters to give the GOP a second look is to maintain the socially conservative agenda that they are advocating. In essence, they are arguing here that African-Americans and Latinos tend to be church goers in a higher percentage than other segments of the population, and also tend to be more sanguine about endorsing things like same-sex marriage. So, the reasoning goes, the way to attract these voters is for the GOP to become even more socially conservative. The problem is there’s no reason to believe that they are right:

As I noted in this December article in The Blaze, Prince George’s County in suburban Washington, which has a substantial black majority among registered voters and has won national attention as a microcosm of black political trends, was hard fought territory in Maryland’s Question 6 fight. In the end, the county split about evenly, Question 6 trailing by just 1 point; the measure was carried to a 5-point statewide win by a strong showing elsewhere in the Baltimore-DC corridor, notably including many Republican suburbs.

Because P.G. is so large and has so many overwhelmingly black precincts, it afforded an opportunity to investigate whether black voters with socially conservative views are any more likely to vote Republican than those with more socially liberal inclinations. Toward that end, I identified those black-dominated precincts with the strongest social-conservative leanings, as measured by the size of the margins by which they disapproved Question 6. If the “GOP minority inroads” thesis was correctly identifying a genuine trend, you would expect to see signs of a healthy black crossover vote for GOP candidates in those precincts. Instead, the black precincts that most strongly opposed Question 6 were also among those where the GOP got buried most completely, with Mitt Romney getting only (in typical showings) 3, 5, or 6 percent of the overall vote. The down-ticket Maryland GOP candidates, who all happened to be strong social conservatives, were getting beaten just as decisively, including in Senate and House races where all the relevant candidates were white. The GOP’s social-conservative senate hopeful, for example – who ran well enough to carry 13 of 23 counties statewide against lackluster white liberal Sen. Ben Cardin – did even worse in P.G. than Romney, winning only 6 1/2 percent of the vote county-wide and a good bit less than that – as little as 2 percent in one precinct – in the most socially conservative black P.G. neighborhoods.

You can find evidence for a similar lack of crossover votes in California. Back in 2008, you’ll recall, Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage was on the ballot along with same-sex marriage. On the Presidential level, Barack Obama received 74% of the Latino vote in the state while John McCain received 23%.  On Proposition 8, though, the Latino vote split 53% for “yes” and 47% for “no.” In other words, a majority of California Latino’s voted for Proposition 8 at the same time less than a quarter of them voted for the candidate of the socially conservative party. Not only is it apparent that there was no boost to the Republican vote from these socially conservative Latinos, we saw that most of the the people who voted “yes” on Prop. 8 also voted for Barack Obama. One imagines that if you did the kind of precinct level analysis that the author quoted above did in Maryland, you’d find the same thing. The idea that being socially conservative helps the GOP attract minority voters is, quite simply, rubbish.

Beyond the merits of the claims that the letter makes, though, lies the fact that the threat that social conservatives are making about leaving the GOP are just utter nonsense. Without the Republican Party, social conservatives are essentially powerless. There’s no way they’d be welcome in the Democratic Party, for example, and if they tried to form a third party of some kind all they’d end up doing is make a swath of red states more competitive by denying votes to Republicans. As much as they might whine about “RINOs” and the like, it simply strains credulity to believe that these people would be willing to engage in a political strategy that would end up helping their political enemies. In some sense, then, social conservatives need the GOP far more than the GOP needs social conservatives. At some point, the RNC is going to realize this and you’re going to see the party’s desire to win elections take precedence over the willingness to pander to people on issues like same-sex marriage and even abortion. At that point, social conservatives will find their political power incredibly weakened, but they will also find that they’ve got no choice but to accept what’s happened to them.

FILED UNDER: General,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. There’s no way they’d be welcome in the Democratic Party, for example

    EHHHHTTTT! Eeeh! Sorry Hans, wrong guess. Would you like to go for Double Jeopardy where the scores can really change?

    Social conservative are welcome in the Democratic Party. You only have to scroll up to see where you acknowledge it yourself with respect to Hispanic voters, a majority of which supported both Obama and Prop 8.

    It’s these particular “my way or no way” social conservatives that we can’t stand.

    This was rich:

    “We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally,” they write.

    Please…..

    As the son of a lesbian mother, I deeply resent the unkind way these jerks treated my mom. That’s no “insinuation.” It’s just an accurate accounting.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Bears shit in the woods, the sun rises in the east and, gee whiz, evangelical Protestants (a/k/a “social conservatives”) threaten to leave the GOP if they don’t get precisely their own way on their pet issues. No shizzle.

    Speaking of which, have you ever stayed for any appreciable length of time in a small town either in the South or in the Mid-West? Count the number of Protestant denominations for which you observe churches. Then for extra kicks go ahead and count the number of different churches within the same denomination and within either a walk or a short drive from each other. That’s not coincidental. And the dots pretty much connect themselves, don’t they?

  3. Spartacus says:

    Doug wrote:

    In some sense, then, social conservatives need the GOP far more than the GOP needs social conservatives.

    I don’t believe there are any blue states that the GOP could turn red if they got rid of the SoCons. However, there are probably several states that would go from red to blue if the SoCons left the GOP.

    There’s no reason to be in the GOP if you’re not a SoCon. On both fiscal matters and foreign policy, GOP policies are a complete disaster. At least on social issues, the GOP makes an effort to deliver what it promises.

    All of this is probably a moot point, however, because there is now almost no ideological diversity amongst GOPers. I don’t have the link handy, but a recent study showed that just about everyone in the GOP believes the same thing on every issue. Consequently, most of the people who believe the GOP is good on fiscal matters and foreign policy are also SoCons. Stated differently, the GOP is comprised of people that are wrong on everything.

  4. Toward that end, I identified those black-dominated precincts with the strongest social-conservative leanings, as measured by the size of the margins by which they disapproved Question 6. If the “GOP minority inroads” thesis was correctly identifying a genuine trend, you would expect to see signs of a healthy black crossover vote for GOP candidates in those precincts. Instead, the black precincts that most strongly opposed Question 6 were also among those where the GOP got buried most completely, with Mitt Romney getting only (in typical showings) 3, 5, or 6 percent of the overall vote.

    Because “social conservatism” isn’t really about principles, it’s a form of identity politics. And not suprisingly the people most susceptible to the identity politics argument on the gay marriage issue were also the most susceptible to the identity politics argument on the Obama v. Romney issue.

  5. Franklin says:

    social conservatives, “the experts on how to articulate those positions,”

    I actually made an audible snort when I read that.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    In 2000 I voted for the dead guy. Who here can beat that?I feel the need to point out that in 2002 Jean Carnahan voted for the AUMF in Iraq. And no, I did not vote for her in that election. One could say that was a stupid non-vote because Talent was elected in her place. However, in 2006 we dumped that f’r’s ass and elected McCaskill instead. (who on some days is not much better than Carnahan, but is ALWAYS better than Talent (or Akin).

    So-cons can take their votes elsewhere. Some how or other, I don’t think that will help their cause.

  7. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    “It’s one thing to say the Party is open to all. It’s quite another to suggest that the Party should retreat in midstream from their own platform,” the authors write. “In so doing, the GOP further confuses voters about their own identity.”

    This was actually quite funny! Because no one is under any illusions as to what the GOP is or is not, which is to say, busted, broke, and kerfutzed beyond all hope of repair. Worse, the seeds of what come after have yet to be sown.

    “The social conservatives argue that the party can increase its support with minority voters by championing social issues and will only lose support from its base by running from them.”

    What, all three of them? It’s not even a wash. These people do not, in fact, exist.

    “We deeply resent the insinuation that we have treated homosexuals unkindly personally,” they write.”

    Writings such as these are just baffling. Hate is enshrined in the GOP platform. Why deny it? Aren’t we all “hate the sin” and such? Never mind hate knows no boundaries sinner v sin, once unleashed. Adults long ago grew out of the need for made-up words like sin.

    Meanwhile, we do without opposition that would check the awful powers granted to the executive during the criminal enterprise posing as the 43rd — soon to be the 44th — presidency.

  8. legion says:

    There’s no way they’d be welcome in the Democratic Party, for example, and if they tried to form a third party of some kind all they’d end up doing is make a swath of red states more competitive by denying votes to Republicans.

    Spot on. I must disagree with @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb)‘s main point:

    It’s these particular “my way or no way” social conservatives that we can’t stand.

    in that it’s not that the GOP would lose the Social Conservatives – it’s how the GOP _defines_ Social Conservative. Normal people think of SoCons as devoutly religious, using their faith and morals to guide their politics. The problem is, within the GOP, a SoCon is actually a barely-disguised zealot who wants nothing in the world more than to impose their particular faith on everyone around them. For all political intents, _all_ the self-described SoCons in the GOP are the “my way or no way” types – the remaining few who actually are moral (and haven’t disavowed the party for its blatantly un-Christian platform) are not numerous or vocal enough to have the slightest impact, in or out of the party.

  9. @legion: Good point, but I would offer that “barely-disguised zealots who wants nothing in the world more than to impose their particular faith on everyone around them” are just one type of social conservative. And while they would find no home in the Democratic party, all the others could without too much uncomfortable squeezing.

  10. legion says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Yes – on this I agree. I’m just not sure how many of those types of SoCon are still _in_ the GOP, even if they haven’t actually come all the way over to the Dem side yet.

  11. Mikey says:

    This just showed up in my news feed: FRC’s Tony Perkins: Stop giving to GOP

    Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is calling on social conservatives to stop donating to national Republicans until the GOP stops going wobbly on gay marriage.

  12. @Franklin:

    Totally agree with you