Staunch_Libertarian wrote a post earlier that attempted to discuss, in a civil fashion, social issues and the conservative movement. However, the attempt got off to a shaky start, when s/he stated:
The three-legged stool is falling apart, and in my opinion the social conservatives are the most divisive leg. I wish to do two things here. One, I want to articulate why I don’t think social issues are conservative at all.
Unfortunately, this seems like it was quite the wrong way to begin a discussion in a civil fashion, especially when one considers that social conservatives are one of the strongest and most loyal legs of the Republican stool. Now, this is not to say that fiscal and defense conservatives are not vitally important to the party. As a member of those groups, I would be undermining myself to make such a claim. But, often, to listen to members of the latter two groups, one would have a hard time knowing if there should be a D or an R next to their name. When the main point espoused by the Democratic presidential candidate is that he wants to lower taxes for 95% of Americans (regardless of how impossible that is), with no clear rebuttal or plan from the Republican candidate, speaks volumes about the current situation.
Social issues have become the identifying mark of the Republican Party. This fact is a double edge sword. The SoCon platform is not strong enough to draw away voters who agree with it but traditionally vote Democratic, such as African Americans, but it is strong enough to push away potential voters who lack the political courage to confront the left’s ideas that SoCons are rabid, frothing at the mouth Christians. The positive fact is that social conservatives come out to vote, and they do so with more loyalty than anyone else. On November 4th, 2008, the SoCons came out, while the fiscal conservatives were nowhere to be seen. This is striking, considering the fact that this Presidential cycle was largely devoid of the typical debates on social issues.
So why is the Republican Party tearing itself apart at the seams? Why are so many of the intelligentsia focused on removing the SoCons from the political debate, where they will inevitably find somewhere else to lend their support? This could only serve to weaken the party. To me, this excommunication drive comes down to misinformed notions such as those of Staunch_Libertarian, who claim that social conservatism is not conservative at all. This can only be true if we narrow the definition of conservatism to be the same as Libertarianism. But the two are not the same! Not only that, we’d also have to kick out the leg of the defense conservatives, as they also do not live up to libertarian ideals.
The key is instead to understand what it means to be a conservative, what the most basic principles are, and then work from there to understand why certain conservatives choose to support the leg that they do. From there, we can see what aspects of society are leading us away from these ideals, and attempt to use our principles to fix them.
But first, we need to understand what it means to be politically conservative in this country. In my mind, the conservative movement is centered around the following:
1.) Belief in a limited government which is contracted with its citizens to minimally interfere in their lives and to defend them from harm.
2.) Belief in a specific moral order that grants us both rights and responsibilities
3.) Belief in a system of values which enable individuals to best maintain their rights. This system includes hard work and family as a cornerstone.
I’m sure some will disagree that these may not be exact tenets of conservative thought, but they seem close enough to me. By stressing one property over another, we fall into different categories which all serve to prop up the Republican stool. We may not always agree that one specific tenet is more important than another, but in general, our guiding beliefs come from these core conservative principles.
In a later diary entry, I will focus on what aspects of our society and nation are problematic, and how all three groups can attempt to come together to solve them, using our principles as a guideline.