Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Shrinking Social Conservative

It looks like social conservatism as a political force is shrinking in America.

Superficially, 2008 seems like a similar success for social conservatives. Following the passage of marriage amendments in Arizona and Florida, as well as California, Maggie Gallagher wrote at National Review Online, “when it comes to marriage, there is no such thing as a blue state or a red state. Americans support marriage as the union of husband and wife.” But a closer look at the election results and the legal developments in the past year suggests that 2008 is in fact the year the marriage debate tipped in favor of same-sex marriage.

Only Arizona passed its traditional marriage initiative by 2004-like margins. While only 38 percent voted against the Florida initiative, the measure passed the required 60-percent threshold by just 2 points. In California, Proposition 8 passed by a bare 52 percent of the vote, and exit polls seem to attribute its success to an abnormally high turnout of socially conservative black voters. In Connecticut, voters had the chance to resist their state’s pro-gay-marriage Supreme Court decision, Kerrigan v. Public Health, by voting for a constitutional convention. That initiative failed by 20 points.
It looks like America is trending towards being a socially liberal nation. A look at the demographics will make that clearer.
Exit polls reveal that without the overwhelming support of voters over 65, neither the Florida nor California marriage initiatives would have passed. Younger voters turned out overwhelmingly against them. Absent an incredible shift in attitudes, same-sex marriage will soon command majority support. Shrinking majorities voting in favor of traditional marriage will encourage similar rulings to the Connecticut court’s.
I think this points to something that is inevitable. Social conservatism as a political force is a spent force. It is dying out.
The minor victories for marriage traditionalists this year point to defeats in the near future. Unless social conservatives find a way to appeal to voters under 40, Newsom’s prediction, “It’s inevitable,” is unassailable.
It is true that social conservatives own the Republican Party. What they don't seem to own is the voters. And it is not just gay marriage that is faltering. Voters don't seem to be too happy with the marijuana laws in the nation. Massachusetts voted to decriminalize marijuana possession for personal use by a whopping 65 to 35 margin. OK Massachusetts is a pretty liberal state. How about Michigan where a medical marijuana initiative was on the ballot? It won 63% to 37%. Which is pretty whopping. If only Republicans could win with those kinds of numbers. (pun intended)

All right. How about another cause celebe of the social conservatives. Abortion. How did that fare in the recent election? In South Dakota a ballot initiative to ban abortion failed 45% to 55%. Now South Dakota is supposed to be one of the rock ribbed conservative states. Failure. Colorado wanted to define life as beginning at conception. Down in flames. And not just down. Spin, crash, and burn down. It lost by a 73% to 27% margin. In a state that used to be counted Republican. And how about the parental notification law in California? Another loss at 48% to 52%.

It seems rather obvious that America is turning socially liberal. In other words the people are saying "Leave Us Alone" and let us make our own choices on social issues. A rather libertarian attitude towards social issues.

So where does that leave the Republican party? Although the social conservatives control the party it looks like the voters are leaning towards the libertarian wing on questions dear to the hearts of our beloved social conservatives. I think it is past time the party returned to its small government roots. On all issues. And it would help if the Republican Congress Critters actually acted responsibly on fiscal issues.

Now am I suggesting that Republicans jettison social conservatives? Not in any way shape or form. What I'm suggesting is that social conservatives adopt the small government position in all matters, not just economic ones. Just say no to Cultural Socialism. Just say no to Economic Socialism. If the party adopted such a stance it just might be a winner.

You can find out more on how various ballot questions fared at


Neil said...

I think a bigger issue is that the Democrat party is in danger of becoming the party of "Retirement for Old Folks, Taxes for Young Folks".

The strangest shift in this election was that more voters trusted the D's to manage the economy than the R's. After thinking on that for a while and taking a look at some opinion polls, I'm of the opinion that this shift was largely the result of baby boomers who trust the D's to pay any price (as long as the money is borrowed), levy any tax (on someone else), in order to protect their retirement.

Bailing out the UAW pensions, bailing out the govt. employee pensions, attempting to maintain Social Security, maintaining Medicare and even expanding it by forcing younger workers into it. All to the benefit of baby-boomers and the detriment of the young. And all doomed to fail anyway.

In the end, the government will default on these obligations, one way or another. But not until after the D's have wrecked the economy trying to retain the status quo. If the Republicans can figure out how to hang that failure around the Democrats' necks, it'll be two generations before the D's are allowed to run the government again.

Will Archer said...

Conservatism is shrinking due to a misguided liberal reputation that has been projected upon the republican party. The republicans trying to center themselves with the lilluminatis have only caused tension in their own party. Conservatives must take the republican party back to its true roots and Americans will eventually focus on what has been important to the republican party from the start.