It is obvious to any paying attention that the Republican Party is dividing. We don’t have much in the way of unity. The three-legged stool is falling apart, and in my opinion the social conservatives are the most divisive leg. I wish to do two things here. One, I want to articulate why I don’t think social issues are conservative at all. Second, I want to explore how coalitions work in the political world. We all need each other, but the social issues are not of any higher importance than the other issues.
First, for me I can’t see how social issues are conservative at all. Being against gay marriage is a moral stand, not a conservative one. Values voters aren’t necessarily conservative voters. Conservative values are maximize liberty by shrinking government to allow people to make choices, reap rewards, or face consequences on their own. Nowhere in these values is there any justification for blocking consenting adults from getting married. This is an expansion of government power. I fully understand and respect the religious concerns of social conservatives. This however does not mean words don’t matter. Conservatism is about maximizing liberty and opposing gay marriage actually expands government power over individuals and shrinks liberty. It is saying that government knows best on marital matters for individuals. The same is true for abortion. Again, this matter is one where the religious matter is understood and respected, by me, but the nuts and bolts of the position are not conservative. To be pro-life and support a legal ban on abortion is to say the government needs more power to enforce its will over individuals because the government knows better than individuals how best to lead their lives. I know the argument that comes next. “Murder is within the government’s right to ban.” This all hinges on a personal belief on when life begins. Which again, is not a conservative value. You could be correct in saying life begins at conception, but that is not a conservative value nor is it binding for all individuals. Individuals in this country should be able to make up their own mind about when life begins in the womb and face the consequences. What they should not have to do is lose liberty because a certain group, maybe even a certain majority, think life begins at a certain point in time. This is what the constitution was made for. Protecting individual rights is paramount because individuals are what is important not government. In the times of the Founders it was money lenders that were maligned (like they are today). Many farmers and the like would borrow from wealthy lenders and then balk when asked to repay. Back in the days of the Articles of Confederation direct democracies in the states elected legislates voted in by the majority in debt who then passed legislation voiding debt or allowing farmers to pay back debts in worthless paper money with no interest. It was a state’s rights issue, right? The majority in the state voted to screw the minority, but hey that is state’s rights. This is why The Founders made a “new deal” with the nation that protected individuals from the tyranny of the majority. Some things are not supposed to be up for a vote. Individual liberty should not be up for a vote. Big government at the state or federal level is just as dangerous and counter to conservatism. This is not to say anyone is wrong to be pro-life or anti-gay marriage. I think it is a respectable position on both counts, I just happen to disagree with them and I don’t think they are a matter of conservatism or conservative principles. I think sometimes people confuse religious or moral principles with conservative principles. This is natural because whatever positions we hole we assume are moral or religious so conservaties in general would consider their position the moral one. However, conservatism is not a moral philosophy. It is not a religious philosophy. It is a political philosophy concerning who best should govern an individual’s life. Conservatives believe individuals, so long as they don’t hurt others, should have autonomy over their own lives and face the consequences of their choices. This can not be squared with supporting government bans on gay marriage or abortion which run counter to letting individuals run their own lives.
Second, is the matter of political coalitions. I know many SoCons will already be formulating their responses to part one, but I hope you all read how I think we can work together. I know I am in the minority in this party and I accept that with no hard feelings. This does not mean you should ignore the position I am stating. The nature of coalitions is interest. Like Madison’s vision in Federalist 10, we are an interest group. Political parties gather with various interest groups and all most give a little to get a little. This means I have had to vote for SoCon candidates for the greater good of my overall interest. These coalitions hinge on everyone helping everyone even when they disagree. Which is why SoCons are killing this coalition. The only litmus tests for coalitions are the couple of major issues everyone agrees with. This means if one leg of the coalition is for a fair tax in particular, but lower taxes in general they have to vote for the chosen candidate so long as we all agree in lower taxes even if we disagree on the fair tax. If you support a strike on Iran or Syria in particular and think we need it, but support a robust foreign policy in general you have to support the chosen candidate so long as he/she supports a robust foreign policy. In general I think this is how it has worked for FiCons and DefCons in the Republican Party. We have supported candidates that don’t agree with our specific proposals, but in general held our principles. SoCons are not so supportive, however, of people who don’t agree with Pro-Life or Gay Marriage views they hold. This is detrimental to the coalition and is likely why the coalition shrunk in 2006 and 2008. The coalition depends on cooperation by all. If I can’t trust your interest group to support my candidate even if they disagree with you, then I lose any incentive to support your candidate and we both end up losing.
There are advantages to working within the system. Often, and I understand why, SoCons see their position as obviously morally superior and as such to compromise on it is not possible. You may look at me and think there is no reason to work with me because I won’t give you anything. This is simply not true. For instance, I think we need to drastically shrink government spending including on things like Planned Parenthood. I would work with you to abolish any government assistance to provide abortions with american tax dollars. I think that makes perfect sense as a conservative principle. People are free to choose in my view, but they also must pay their own way. No american should have to help pay for abortions. That right there would limit abortions drastically. And if you notice it is a principle all legs of the party could agree on. No government assistance for abortions. So any candidate would support that and you could still hold your particular views just like the rest of us while supporting a coalition candidate that will reduce abortions. We could also agree on abstinence only education. This one is because I don’t think school’s should be teaching sex. Government shouldn’t tell children the birds and the bees. Again you may want to go further, but the coalition could go with you in general all the time. This could cut down on the fissures within the coalition for all of us.
I hope you all don’t hate me, assuming you read this.