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November 14, 2008

Liberal Republicans: Ditch Social Conservatives

As I was saying:

While a host of issues were at play in this election, the primary reason John McCain lost was the substantial erosion of support from self-identified moderates compared with four years ago. In 2004, Democratic nominee John Kerry held just a nine-percentage-point margin among moderate voters over President Bush. This year, the spread between Barack Obama and McCain was 21 points among this group. The net difference between the two elections is a deficit of nearly 6.4 million moderate votes for the Republicans in 2008.

In seven of the nine states that switched this year from Republican to Democratic, Obama's vote total exceeded the total won by President Bush four years ago. So even if McCain had equaled the president's numbers from 2004 (and he did not), he still would have lost in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia (81 total electoral votes) -- and lost the election. McCain didn't lose those states because he failed to hold the base. He lost them because Obama broadened his base.

Again, we ran a moderate much beloved by the Christie Todd Whitman set this time around. We were promised that if we did, the moderates would come flocking.

So, um, what happened?

Yet another fundamentally dishonest piece that seeks to establish on "neutral," non-substantive, wholly electoral grounds that social conservatism must be ditched in favor of social liberalism. But once again the facts do not support this.

Whitman and Bostock really wish to persuade conservatives on substantive grounds that gay marriage should be embraced, the few minor restrictions on abortion completely abandoned, and etc., etc. They should make their case forthrightly and attempt to persuade conservatives on policy, moral, and ethical grounds, rather than once again resorting to the dishonest use of exit poll data to suggest it's in our best electoral interest to do so.

The evidence for the latter point is always, at best, vague and debatable, and often simply demonstrably untrue.

Perhaps Christine Todd Whitman can explain why a born-again Christian and declared social conservative won easily in 2004 and yet McCain -- with his Northeastern reserve about talking about faith, and moderate reluctance to push the social con agenda except by half-heartedly stating his record -- lost so badly.

As NRO argued somewhat persuasively, most "centrists" are simply not terribly well-informed voters who vote almost exclusively upon the perceived "goodness" or "badness" of the ccurrent State of the Union.

Not to push my pet cause, but McCain lost because he allowed the Democrats to paint the Republicans as responsible for the subprime crisis, rather than affixing blame where it was actually deserved. Centrists with no firm positions on social issues either way simply do not vote on abortion or gay marriage in any electoral cycle, let alone during an economic crisis often described as the equal of the Great Depression.

Anyone with strong feelings on social issues is not a centrist -- they will either become conservative or liberal, as they case may be, according to their beliefs about issues. The Rockefeller Republicans are forever telling us we must become more liberal to attract such centrists -- um, why? They are either conflicted about such issues and can go either way on them, or they simply do not care about them all that much.

Why is it we need to adopt a liberal social agenda to attract people who are not animated by anyone's social agenda either way?

Again I say: Make your real argument -- the argument you wish to begin, but refuse to actually initiate or join yourselves, about the substance of these policies. Stop this lazy, dishonest bullshit manner of attempting to begin a debate on the substance of these policies while refusing to address the substance.

It's chickenshit.

There are, in fact, a lot of social moderates in the GOP who agree that the social conservative agenda should be modified. I don't object to their arguments -- I am objecting to this stupid chickenshit manner of arguing their position without actually arguing their position.

In the interests of disclosure: Were I free to construct my own fantasy GOP, it would probably look less like Huckabee's party and more like McCain's or Whitman's on social issues. Mostly. Or, at least, it would have a better balance.

But constructing one's fantasy GOP is a silly and useless timewaster. These people pose as a brave truth-tellers telling us "honesty" what must be done, but they're dishonest as hell. If they want conservatives to embrace a more moderate social agenda, they can only do so by changing conservatives' minds about these issues. This endless parade of false proofs of the electoral superiority of the liberal social agenda doesn't change anyone's minds.

What's the Matter With Kansas? Liberals believe that our bitter, clingy voters vote against their own economic interests (their economic interests aligning with European socialism, it seems) in favor of our Gods, Guns, and Gays agenda.

I don't believe that much -- I think that social cons are largely also fiscal cons and defense hawks -- but surely there is some contingent of social cons who vote Republican on values issues, but who prefer the Democrats' E-Z money economic platform.

If we ditch the social agenda, we lose these voters. Indeed, Obama got a greater share of the evangelical vote than previous Democratic candidates, suggesting, possibly, that in this cycle, with the financial crisis on everyone's mind, the economy rather than values-issues became the main driver at least some fiscally liberal, socially conservative voters.

I don't know how numerous they are. But if Ryan Sager, David Brooks, David Frum, and Christie Todd Whitman want to make the electoral case, they'd better get cracking seriously on that polling data to prove to everyone's satisfaction that we could gain more votes by a shift to the left on social issues than we'd lose.

More at Hot Air.

No More RINOs: A reader objects to the term RINOs, which, to be honest, has always struck me as unfair and overly hostile, too. I have changed the headline to "Liberal Republicans."

The term "RINOs" isn't really a useful one. For one thing, people may be Republicans for many reasons. They may also be very weak Republicans... but so what? I'll take a weak Republican over a weak Democrat any day of the week.

The term seems to set up an Us vs. Them paradigm and seems exclusionary. Given we're pretty low on chips, we can't afford that, really. So I'll try to avoid the term.

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posted by Ace at 12:38 PM

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