Good description of some analysis still bubbling up around the lid that hasn’t yet closed on the November elections.
It’s how Ramesh Ponnuru characterizes the commentary on the Social Right.
In 2002 and 2004, Republicans ran hard on social issues
and the courts — and scored victories at every level of politics. In
2006 and 2008, they left those issues off the table, and got walloped.
It follows, naturally, that the social issues are to blame for the
At least, that’s the conclusion that a chorus of commentators has
reached. They are attempting to persuade Republicans to soften or
downplay their party’s social conservatism and hide its social
conservatives in order to resume winning elections. About this campaign
to sideline the social Right, three things can be said with a fairly
high degree of confidence: It is predictable; it will fail; and it is
Let’s see….To what else might wishful thinking apply?
How about the religious vote and abortion?
The president of Planned Parenthood claims the election
results showing a majority of Catholics supported pro-abortion
candidate Barack Obama means Catholics now support abortion.
She’d like to think.
Yet polling data specifically on Catholics and abortion finds otherwise.
A Marist College poll conducted in October found a majority of
Catholics take a pro-life position and almost one-third of Catholic
voters who say they are “pro-choice” on abortion actually oppose all or
The Marist survey found 63 percent of Catholics say abortions should
be permitted in none or almost no cases by opposing all abortions, all
abortions except to save the mother’s life, or all abortions except to
save the mother’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
That puts 63 percent of Catholics opposing about 98 percent of all
abortions, according to Alan Guttmacher Institute information about
when abortions are done.
And Guttmacher is the research wing of Planned Parenthood.
Rod Dreher’s calling some bluff, too. You can’t scapegoat religious conservatives for GOP failures.
White evangelicals (and, to a lesser extent, Mass-going
Catholics) are the GOP’s backbone. Just more than a third of President
Bush’s 2004 vote came from white evangelicals — and they turned out for
McCain in comparable numbers. Cut social conservatives loose and you
get a GOP that, as blogger Daniel Larison archly puts it, is “the party
of all the remaining Episcopalians, Californians and New Yorkers who
prefer lower taxes.”
In fact, far from being the demise of the GOP, the coming generation
of evangelicals, Catholics and fellow travelers can be the seeds for
the conservative movement’s intellectual rebirth.
This will involve a keener understanding of conservatism. Dreher did
an exceptional job of defining this for a newer generation in his
article and book on Crunchy Cons. It has come of age now.
All political problems, traditional conservatism
teaches, are ultimately religious problems because they result from
disordered souls. In the era now dawning, Americans will learn again to
live within limits — and together. Religious conservatives are
philosophically positioned to lead the way, but we can’t do it by
pouring new wine into old skins.
We’re going to have to learn to think and talk in terms — and not
overtly religious ones — of building up civil society and its mediating
Meanwhile, let the social liberals harbor their distractions. And social conservatives who want to build a future…
…should deepen contacts with faithful Roman Catholics,
whose church’s social teaching offers a more comprehensive approach to
politics from a religiously conservative standpoint. There’s also much
to learn from British Catholics G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc and
their theory of subsidiarity — a decentralizing, “small is beautiful” approach to economics that appeals to some libertarians.
It’s what works. Something the Obama administration might well pay attention to, since they’re all about pragmatism.
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