The Branches of Social Conservatism
There is more than one branch of social conservatism. I’m writing this diary for the purpose of trying to clarify between the two branches of compassionate conservatism and a new type of conservatism that is on the horizon. (BTW, I did try to keep this short…but it didn’t come out that way)
The first branch of social conservatism being considered in this diary operates primarily on what is called the principle of “compassionate conservatism”.
Compassionate conservatism’s version of triangulation retains, but in a radically transformed manner, the anti-elitism injected into the party in the Nixon era. Republicans had previously used affirmative action, welfare, busing, housing, and crime to identify Democrats as elitists who took the side of enlightened opinion against working-class whites, without themselves suffering the economic consequences. By contrast, compassionate conservatism encouraged Republicans to present themselves as allies of the poor and minorities, and to insist that “liberal elites” in the Democratic party were the defenders of ineffective bureaucracies and a morally debased culture. Instead of embracing racial resentment, compassionate conservatism preached, Republicans should rebrand themselves as the party of racial solidarity — the allies of the moralizing agents of the inner cities.
As a substantive matter, therefore, compassionate conservatism sought to advance traditionally liberal ends by conservative means. [emphasis mine]
It raises a lot of questions, doesn’t it? What traditionally liberally ends are implied? Greater power of government? Greater expansion of government? Greater dependency on government? More government intervention as a means of resolving social ills?
For all intents and purposes, compassionate conservatism was “an authentic project of the conservative intellectual and political elite”, adopted for political reasons, namely as a “”forward-leaning” strategy designed to use conservative means to satisfy citizens’ (generally liberal) expectations of governmental responsibilities.”
There are social conservatives who are true compassionate conservatives, but this term doesn’t apply to all social conservatives, which leads us to the second branch of the social conservatism being considered in this diary.
Proving the mere existence of this branch of social conservatism is difficult to do at this point. It doesn’t have any definitive label that I know of. It is an “in-process” development, so to speak. Part of it results from traditional social conservatives who were left with limited options when compassionate conservatism took the lead in our nation during the past two decades. They may originally have given the compassionate conservative branch the benefit of the doubt, but this has since changed. Some traditional conservatives were simply misled and deceived by the political strategy but have since made the decision to return to their traditionalists roots.
There IS evidence that this new branch exists AND that it is growing (particularly among the 18-29 year old age group), for those who might be open-minded enough to consider the possibility. It is reflected in hundreds of articles, and in thousands of comments, each and every day. But because this branch technically hasn’t been referenced by any specific name, or at least not one I’ve been able to find, all I can do at this point is to try to present what I see being represented in this branch of social conservatism.
Someone had previously questioned the association this new branch has with fusionism. After doing some research on fusionism, I think there probably are some strong similarities between fusionism and this new branch of social conservatism. This branch staunchly supports a return to Constitutional law, putting the rule of law back in its proper place and restoring balance of power in government. It is a return to more traditional values, including the value of life itself, rather than continuance of moral relativism. It is a return to specific portions of Reaganism, i.e. limited government, less taxes, a strong military, national sovereignty, and an optimistic belief in this nation and its people. I’m not all that sure that it holds to the fusionism belief that American foreign policy should be to seek to end totalitarian regimes.
What this branch of social conservatism includes that I didn’t see mentioned in research on fusionism is that it also puts a significant amount of emphasis on the following things:
1) Spending public funds wisely (fiscal prudence, fiscal accountability, etc.) (And it’s as much about getting the best deal for the dollar as it is about cutting spending or reducing the deficit.)
2) Individual accountability (in a societal context, which goes back to the emphasis on human development, including moral and ethical standards, within a society or culture)
3) Long-term outcomes (quantitative data, not “good intentions” analysis)
These three things appear to be the foundational blocks for this branch of social conservatism, with the greatest of the three probably being individual accountability.
The greatest single comparison between compassionate conservatives and this second branch of SoCons is primarily this…that compassionate conservatives see government as being the answer to the problem whereas the new SoCons are far more realistic in acknowledging when government is not only part of the problem but also often the root cause of the problem.
This isn’t my grandaddy’s Republican Party any more. It isn’t even my daddy’s Republican Party. Our nation is facing a totally new scope of challenges now, and we either rise to meet them or watch our country slide into ruin.
A lot of questions have been raised about legislating morality. Do I believe that this second branch of SoCons would consider legislating morality? Let me put it this way…how many people reading this would consider BBA as an effort to legislate morality? Because I could make the argument that this is exactly what it is.
There are plenty of cases where economic and social issues overlap and intertwine to the point that they can’t be easily separated. Given the circumstances that our country is facing, it is imperative (on economic, social, moral and ethical basis) to implement actions that reduce both government spending and our national deficit. We could gut and/or eliminate government agencies, which might serve as a short-term fix, but it won’t resolve the long-term spending problems unless the behaviors of those spending the money change, correct? That’s where qualifiers for government spending, i.e. prudent versus imprudent, come into play. BBA enforces prudent spending behaviors of living within our societal means. This type of legislation influences long-term social and economic outcomes by putting mechanisms into place that act as a deterrent, guarding against any continuation of the reckless and imprudent spending habits that have been displayed by our federal government. “Prudent” IS a qualifying adjective based on historical moral standards. Therefore, it could be argued that enforcing a BBA is a means of legislating morality.
Do I believe this new group of SoCons would support BBA? Oh, yeah, most of them do, along with plenty of FiCons, TEA Party supporters, Independents, some moderates and libertarians. Why do all these people support this legislation? Because the spending situation has gotten out of hand and there needs to be corrective action to restore balance.
Making sure that balance is maintained is part of our role as citizens. Even though there could be and often is a moral imperative that motivates pieces of legislation to be passed into law, this doesn’t mean that every piece of legislation passed into law on the basis of moral imperatives is going to be an extreme imposition on personal freedoms.
I could write more. For example, this new group of SoCons, especially those in the younger age group, seems to be a bit more flexible than traditional SoCons in considering options and alternatives that might provide long-term solutions to the problems our nation is facing.
But this diary is long enough already. So I’ll just leave this open for discussion and debate. I’m sure that other people who find themselves either morphing or melting into this new group of SoCons will have plenty to add.
Thanks for reading.
Afterthought: I’ve only been actively involved in politics for about the last four years, which makes me a relative “newbie”. So if what I have described has another name or label that I just haven’t discovered as of yet, will someone PLEASE identify that for what it is? I may be a SoCon, but I’m not of the compassionate conservative type, and it is getting troublesome constantly trying to define what group I’m in when I don’t know what it is called.