In recent weeks, especially with the convention ouster of Dave Fitzsimmons from the candidacy for the MN House seat in Wright County, and the challenge to Jennifer Loon in the southwest subs, both over their votes on gay marriage in the last session, the “liberty” crowd has adopted a new kick-toy – the “SocialCon”, or social conservative.
I’d like to take a moment to get some of them to think a moment.
Social conservatism tends to get linked to two issues – abortion and marriage. Those are the highest profile issues, of course; one is social conservatism’s most emotional issue (and, despite infanticide’s hideous death toll, arguably social conservatism’s greatest non-legislative victory; the abortion rate has been dropping, largely due to indirect means. It’s a start), and the other, same sex marriage, is the MNGOP (and the state’s) biggest bloody nose in recent years. It’s the issue that has led to the biggest single whiff of acrimony – the Loon and Fitzsimmons battles – in the GOP so far in this cycle.
But there is much more to being a social conservative – because there are many, many more social issues than just abortion and gay marriage. And all of them are important, most of them haven’t been decided yet, and some of them have the potential – if the MNGOP can just shed that whole “stupid party full of single-issue voters” thing – to transform Minnesota politics and make the Republican party a flaming screaming electoral juggernaut. That is, of course, a huge “if”.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”
So let’s talk about the rest of the whole, wide, social conservative world:
Education: Yep. Education is social issue. Here in Minnesota it is, in fact, by far the most expensive social issue.
And our education system is failing, and it’s failing for reasons that are inextricably tied to progressivism; in a society where no two people’s cell phones are the same, we’re to expect that a single national curriculum and methodology is supposed to effectively teach tens of millions of different children a year?
Conservative notions of…not just “the free market”, but of choice, of the ability to say “no” to a failing school or system or methodology, the way they said “no” to Pepsi Clear or Ashley Simpson or the Edsel or horse meat or any other thing that doesn’t serve the consumer’s needs perfectly enough, is the only way education is going to be saved.
And while some political thinkers and consultants say conservatives waste their time going after traditional Democrat constituencies like the inner city, it is the education issue that gives conservatism its best long-term chance of cracking that monopoly – if the GOP develops the skill to play chess rather than checkers.
But whether we look at it as matter of winning votes in the future or not, the fact is that it’s a fiscal issue as well; the current system of education (which is really more a system of political patronage with a little indoctrination mixed in) is getting more and more expensive, and is unsustainable. And things that can’t be sustained, won’t be.
Either way, it’s a social issue.
Immigration: Yep. It’s a social issue. One that has the potential to change society.
And there is ample evidence that Latinos favor an approach that is in many ways more conservative than most conservatives favor; the “high fence and wide gate”. Make illegal immigration hard, but make legal immigration much easier and more transparent. Along with that, cut down on the talk of mass deportations; most Latinos, even Latinos whose families have been here for longer than most of us honkies, have some corner of their family tree that crossed over without bothering excessively with getting their paperwork stamped.
Again, not a few checkers-playing consultants and pundits say that the issue isn’t going to win the 2016 election for the GOP. Perhaps. But it has the potential to blunt the Democrats’ overwhelming lead among Latinos.
And it’s a social issue.
Welfare, Poverty and the Family: While the DFL roots and scrabbles around with deckchair-rearranging feel-good measures like trying to raise the minimum wage, they are also fueling an inflationary cycle – via minimum wage hikes, but especially via untrammeled deficit spending – that devalues everyone’s paycheck.
Worse, Democrat policies over the past few years have made it harder for people to get out of the lowest economic classes; while social spending makes grinding poverty a viable lifestyle, only work, and the opportunity hard work leads to, actually gets people and families out of poverty.
But Democrat policies kneecap Horatio Alger at every turn. One of the surest ways to ensure you’re out of poverty by your thirties is to finish high school and not have a baby before you’re with a stable, long-term partner (social conservatives think of this in terms of “marriage”, and with good reason – it works better than cohabitation). But the welfare state subsidizes the exact opposite – and it is a truism that when you pay people to do things, even stupid counterproductive things, they’ll do them.
And the Democrats are doing their best to marginalize work; their latest spin, that Obamacare will “give people more free time”, is just slapping a happy coat of paint on selling the idea of personal economic stagnation to people. If you’re upper middle class, cutting hours is a nice fantasy. If you’re struggling to get out of poverty, it’s a financial death sentence.
Republicans, especially the conservative ones, should own this issue – which, in its own way, is the mother (single, with three kids) of all social issues.
Healthcare: It’s not just a fiscal issue. How society deals with health insurance for those who can’t afford it (or don’t want to pay for it) is, obviously, a huge issue.
Conservatives have many plans – none of them is a panacaea, like Obamacare and Hillarycare both claimed to be; any of them would have done a better job. Some still could.
Crime: If there’s an issue that the Democrats have lost, but Conservatives are too stupid to know it, it’s crime. Conservative policies – tougher sentencing, visible law enforcement, allowing and encouraging the law-abiding to arm themselves – have lowered the crime rate; the islands of high crime are the ones dominated by Democrats and their policies.
Social conservatism. It’s about a lot more than gays and abortion.
In fact, it needs to be.