Social Conservatives Respond To Tea Party Call For Truce On Social Issues
The response from social conservatives to the call for a truce on social issues is about what you'd expect.
At least one group of social conservatives isn’t taking yesterday’s call by Tea Party groups and the gay conservative group GOProud for Congress to concentrate on social issues very well at all:
A key social conservative group is striking back at a fledgling alliance between a gay right wing organization and 15 leaders of local Tea Party chapters across the country who urged Republican leaders Monday to avoid social issues.
Citing a memo sent last week to Republican leadership, Concerned Women for America (CWA) CEO Penny Nance argued that social conservatives’ priorities for the next Congress could be easily embraced by those focused on spending issues.
“I’d like to know which one — support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, eliminating taxpayer dollars from funding embryonic stem cell research, or defunding Planned Parenthood — the signers of the GOProud letter have a problem with,” Nance said in a statement.
Nance also said “Americans voted overwhelmingly for both social and fiscal conservatives,” citing “a net 52-seat pro-life gain in the House of Representatives, an unprecedented statement that voters reject taxpayer-funded abortion and want a more conservative, pro-life legislature moving forward.”
The response from Aaron Gardner is slightly less charitable:
First, I am a limited-government conservative and GOProud doesn’t speak on my behalf. Second, I don’t take kindly to being told to stuff my issues by a demographic that represents only 3% of the total electorate – two thirds of which voted Democrat. Third, and this brings us to the bold portion above, if the Republicans and SoCons didn’t achieve a mandate then what the heck makes you think you did?
Gardner appears to be directing this comment at GOProud while ignoring the fact that the letter also came from Tea Party groups, and that fiscal conservatism is the central philosophy of the Tea Party movement. There may have been social conservatives elected two weeks ago, but the vast majority of them didn’t campaign on their social conservatism at all, and exit polls make clear that social issues of any kind were far at the end of the list of the issues that voters said they cared most about when they voted. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that fiscal conservatism has a far stronger claim over the incoming Republicans than any social issue.
Not every social conservative is rejecting the message of yesterday’s letter, though, at least not completely. Melissa Clouthier at Liberty Pundits argues that the division between social and fiscal conservatives is needless:
My concern over all the shrill rhetoric flying around on all sides is that significant progress toward a saner, smaller, more fiscally sound government will be stalled over arguments that simply don’t need to happen.
It’s painful, but some social conservatives need to face the reality that while we’re winning the cultural war-more and more people are coming down on the pro-life side-most people still want abortion legal albeit limited, with informed parents, etc. Americans have a difficult time imposing their ideas on another and abortion has been framed as a civil right. There are many more hearts and minds to be won.
I’m not counseling giving up on winning hearts and minds. I’m suggesting that social conservatives be wiser. And by all accounts they are…going after the laws to enforce parental notification, for example. Crafting legislation requiring an ultrasound. Prosecuting abortion doctors for malpractice.
And, on the national level, going after funding. Even many pro-abortion folks believe in fiscal freedom-that their money shouldn’t be used to pay for someone else’s bad choices.
Unfortunately, in trying to bridge this divide I think Melissa just makes it more apparent.
For one thing, the concern about “social issues” extends to far more than just abortion. It includes questions of whether or not there should be laws punishing people for beating someone up because they’re gay, whether or not gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, whether gays should be allowed to marry, and whether the state should be used to force someone’s religious beliefs on the rest of the public. For another, the libertarian wing of the Tea Party would likely object to some of the things Melissa lists above not because of how it impacts abortion but because, for example, the state should not have the power to force someone to undergo a medical procedure. This is why, in the long run, the prospects for detente between libertarians and social conservatives aren’t good as long as social conservatives want to use the power of the state to achieve their goals.
Nonetheless, as long as the focus is on spending and the size, scope, and power of the state, then the alliance is likely to hold. The moment social conservatives are tempted to ask Republicans to use their new-found power for other means, though, it is likely to fall apart.