This started as a comment to this diary, but expanded into diary length.
In the years I was growing up (1950s and 1960s), Republicans had the image of being the party of country club, social registry, WASP establishment, using the government to promote big business perks at the cost of everyone else. In practice the legislators divided the pie with the majority Democrats – they got some money for their big business clients while the Democrats spent money on social projects (Great Society and all that).
On foreign affairs, things were better: Republicans and the Scoop Jackson Democrats (along with Walther Reuther and Big Labor) were able to maintain and strong defense working majority.
Vietnam broke up the unwritten agreements, pushing the Democratic Party and Labor to the left and anti-defense. (Now the 60s (actually the 70s) radicals have infiltrated and are now in charge of our government under Obama – but that’s another story.)
Meanwhile the Republican establishment found themselves facing a 3-stool Conservatism movement that invigorated a moribund party. However, the status quo interest in the Congressional leadership and Party leadership, coupled with the personal failings of key leaders and attendant inconsistency with public values of Conservatism led to internal fracturing, with the moderates vilifying social conservatism (with some inadvertent help from excesses by some leaders of the interest groups) to try to regain the ascendancy, ignoring in the process the radical shift in the Democratic party, a blindness which persists today in their behavior in Congress.
George Bush let Congress run riot early on (due to his political weakness following the 2000 Florida debacle and his non-confrontational instincts and country-club instincts of politeness) and then took a hands-off approach to this conservative vs. Rockefeller conflict. His acquiescence to Rockefeller Republican “business as usual” regarding big government and spending, and his passivity in defending his programs left an opening for the Obama phenomenon – and his excessive deference to his advisors led to the TARP debacle that sank McCain and emasculated Republicans attempts to reverse the plunge to socialism that TARP has initiated.
What social conservatives need to do is to shore up our small government bona fides, and subsume our social issues to conform to federalist, small government principle. On abortion, as mentioned above, that means emphasizing the desire to return this to state and local level debate and decision-making: which means our goal is to reverse Roe vs, Wade rather than aiming for the courts to impose a Federal anti-abortion policy. Plus a continuing forthright commitment to protecting vulnerable life – which is the most persuasive argument we have.
Gay marriage is a conundrum because it is the state courts that are usurping the legislative and civic debate in favor of imposition – but this will have to be fought at the state level. Attempting to get the federal government involved is shooting ourselves in the gonads given the political realities of the current administration and of Congress in the foreseeable future.
The bottom line is that if social conservatives can promote agenda items in a small government context, then we have the upper hand against moderate canards about socons wanting Federal government interference in private affairs – which will then expose big government moderates for what they are, without the diversion of “government in your bedroom” hysteria.
I’m not sure how to handle the libertarian – conservative disagreement over national defense – but Obama and the Democrats extreme anti-defense and appeasement actions may enable common cause against an existential threat from the left for the time being – especially if those of us strong on defense take a somewhat more cautious approach to foreign military campaigns.
And Obama may provide the chance for some rapprochement with civil libertarians and we also start to see Obama and the Democrats utilize the WOT necessary infringements and twist them to start suppressing domestic dissent. There’s nothing like seeing the beginnings of a real left dictatorship to create an alliance on civil liberties between conservatives and libertarians.
So I see some hopeful trends if we keep our focus on the real dangers of the ongoing Revolution by the Democrats and stop fighting last year’s battles.
Whether the moderate can see the forest for the trees is unclear, but social conservativse at least can clear away underbrush. Inertia is difficult to overcome; but the failure of moderates to perceive the new political environment in this new age will be fatal.