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May 14, 2007

Republican Civil War Erupts In Hot Air Comments

JackM. directed me to this thread at Hot Air, in which secular conservatives (like Allah) and religious conservatives (like Bryan) are getting on each other's tits and all up in each other's business. JackStraw and others from this site are in on the action too.

The main point of contention seems to be whether the non-religious or non-social-cons are treated as "dhimmis" in the GOP. (The word "dhimmi" is used jokingly, the original commenter says, but the basic idea isn't a joke.)

I suppose it's good to thrash this out from time to time. Not that it will ever be resolved. Social cons are convinced they do nothing but "compromise for the sake of the party," which is controlled, by and large, by irreligious blue-state establishment types who only use them for votes; socially-moderate conservatives are convinced they have no input whatsoever in the party but are expected to show up on every election day to vote for whatever social conservative candidate the social conservative majority of the party has nominated from their own ranks.

It's like a family. Everyone's convinced they're the only ones making any sacrifices and everyone else is ungrateful and taking advantage of their consideration and patience.

For what it's worth, speaking as one of those secular dhimmis -- while I understand that the social cons have the biggest voice in the party, as they should, given their larger numbers (something like 2-to-1, which is a large-ish supermajority), I really do occasionally grow tired of the whining from social cons that they're the only ones expected to do any compromising.

Please. We secular cons compromise on virtually every damn social issue there is. Often we go so far to adopt the mainstream social-con position, albeit without as much passion as the actual social-cons have.

In terms of compromise, I think the secular cons -- the "1" in the 2-to-1 ratio -- basically compromise in inverse proportion, i.e. we give up twice as much, which is proper, as we have half the numbers and therefore half the electoral influence. The social cons give up half as much, which is proper, because they have double the numbers.

But some social cons often seem rather angry and petulant about having to compromise at all. And so do secular cons sometimes caterwaul about the compromises they have to make with "inflexible" social cons.

Coalition politics demands such compromises, of course. And in any event the constant whining by either side about how much each is giving in to the other is bad for the cause -- any cause, really. It just breeds resentment.

Ultimately the numbers are the numbers. If social cons can't push through the strong-form of various bits of the social con agenda, it's because they don't have the numbers. If secular cons can't change the party platform to avoid most social conservativism, it's because we don't even have close to the numbers.

So, basically, everyone should drink a nice tall glass of Shut Your Whining Pie-Hole juice and toke on some strong Hawaiian It Is What It Is weed.

JackStraw... offers an interesting comment. In response to this previous comment by a religious conservative,

Seriously, those on your side of the right are not the only ones being marginalized here. Just read a few of the comments about what some of you think of the evangelicals.

...he responds thus:

Take a good look at the primary process for the Republican nomination. Take a real hard look at the pandering the candidates do to people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Do you see anything even remotely similar to that happening with secular conservatives? No, you donít. There is a litmus test and thatís just a fact.

Look, those on the Christian right should be thrilled. They have the power and any honest assessment will prove that out. What they donít seem to like is the criticism that comes with that which is normal. If it helps, think of us as Great Britain and you can be the US. We are your allies on virtually everything but we have our own goals, too. But because of your size the screwy primary system you guys dominate the agenda.

So you can to set a lot of the agenda but you get some inbound from your friends for focusing on things that we feel are second tier issues at best. Boo hoo. Anytime you want to trade places you let us know.

I think it's that last line that says it the best.

I don't think the primary system is "screwy," incidentally. Whatever the system -- assuming no anti-democratic smoke-filled-room dealing of secular establishment blue-state types -- social cons will come out on top, as they have the numbers.

Of course secular cons would do well to remember that everyone in the coalition prioritizes differently. If secular cons consider social issues "second-order at best," well, many social cons consider tax policy to be second-order.

And if social-con abortion politics costs the GOP votes -- well, I'm pretty sure that reducing taxes on the very wealthy costs the GOP votes, too. The "wealthiest one percent" mantra is repeated constantly, and I have to imagine that's because it tests well in focus groups.

We all cost the party votes-- that's sort of the penalty one has to endure for pushing any program.

Jack M's Update: Ace asked me to chime in on this, as I am the site's resident "social conservative". There are a couple of points worth addressing, I think:

1) Social Conservatives do provide the Conservative movement as a whole with a disproportionate share of resources, both financially and in terms of volunteers and activists. To the extent that people such as Robertson and Falwell are courted, it is as much a reflection of the value of their institutional networks as it is for their policy views. Do you think John McCain visits Falwell because he agrees 100% with Falwell's political agenda, or because he relishes having the Falwell mailing lists/voter guides working on his behalf? If secular cons lack the ability to create these kind of networks, whose fault is that?

2) When serving as the majority party, social conservatives are also more likely to see their legislative agenda thwarted not by a united opposition, but by the so called blue-state "secular conservatives". Unlike the Democrats, which have a caucus that is virtually unanimous in it's approach, Social Conservatives in the Republican Party are faced with having to overcome the defection of 5-7 Blue State Republican Senators on just about any important Social Conservative policy issue. As a result, when intraparty concessions are made these concessions tend to favor the position held by a few malcontents. Rarely do bills become more socially conservative thru intraparty debate. The intraparty concessions usually only flow one way. Even more infuriating, even after major concessions are made, many secular cons still vote aginst the deal. (Example: Olympia Snowe voted against the Bush Tax Cuts, even after the White House made significant reductions in the size of the Bush Growth Plan at her request).

3) To make the above even more annoying, the Secular Cons often make no bones about their disdain for the Social Cons, going so far as to adopt the same sneering rhetoric as the militant left in deriding the very people without whom the secular cons would have no viable national platform at all. It's one thing to constantly confront outright bigotry from the left; it's quite another to have to brook it from people who are ostensibly on your side. In this sense, hearing Glenn Reynolds snark about Fundamentalist Christians being ready to adopt the terrorist tactics of Fudamentalist Muslims is particularly outrageous. Or, if we are to give Glenn a pass, should we give Rosie a pass too?

4) Does this mean that we should run the secular cons out of the party? Of course not. I recognize the important role that they have to play in keeping the power brokers honest, and in helping keep the tent as big and as broad as possible. And I don't denegrate them as kooks (unless they are Libertarian Truthers like Ron Paul appears to be), even though my side of the party is often not shown the same courtesy. Secular cons aren't the enemy, and social cons aren't a malevolent force. But secular cons would buttress their standing if they would remember to dance with the girl that brought them to the party, rather than seem embarrassed that they aren't dancing with the media's belle of the ball. And social cons should remember that while their dance partner isn't perfect, at least it isn't some fraudulently arranged date of convenience like the guys on the left side of the floor have to deal with. Count your blessings.

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posted by Ace at 05:24 PM

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