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More conservatives ready to drop social issues

Posted by Richard on June 20, 2010

On Thursday, in an appearance on Fox News with Rep. Ron Paul, Sarah Palin described marijuana as a "minimal problem" that police shouldn't devote scarce resources to. Although opposing legalization because of "the kids," she said:

“If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society.”

On Friday, Power Line's Paul Mirengoff reported on some Washington appearances by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who Mirengoff thinks is "well worth a look" for the 2012 presidential nomination: 

Daniels is pitching the notion that we may need a truce in divisive culture war controversies in order to deal with "survival issues" such as terrorism and debt. But Michael Gerson argues that Daniels is being naïve here. He asks: "Just how would avoiding fights on unrelated social issues make Democratic legislators more likely to vote for broad budget cuts and drastic entitlement reforms?"

Clearly, avoiding such fights would not produce that result. But it might well enable Republicans to become and remain more popular with moderate voters. And this, in turn, might give Republicans the majorities necessary to implement budget cuts and entitlement reforms.

Fellow Power Line blogger John Hinderaker (who, like Mirengoff, seems far from libertarian) added this (emphasis added):

Over the last couple of decades, countless media/political voices have urged Republicans to abandon social conservatism on political grounds, i.e., the need to appeal to upscale suburbanites. This has always struck me as odd, since the social issues have consistently represented a net gain for Republicans–which is why, I assume, liberal commentators are so anxious for Republicans to abandon them. So in the past, my view has always been that Republican and conservative politicians should keep the social issues as one leg of the proverbial three-legged stool.

The present moment, however, represents a departure. It may well be that a consensus exists in favor of reduced federal spending and economic power that dwarfs any plurality on the social issues. So should conservative candidates forget about abortion, gay marriage and so on? The answer depends, obviously, on the particular district in question.

In general, though, it strikes me as a matter of emphasis. I do think that we are in a moment where conservatives should emphasize constitutional government and reduced spending first, and national security second; social issues third, if at all.

As we stare into the economic abyss described by Arthur Laffer, more and more conservatives seem willing to at least declare a "truce" on social issues. The Tea Party movement has deliberately and explicitly elected to set aside divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage, and focus instead on the economic and fiscal crises facing our country. That's a good thing, I think.

I bet November proves me right. 

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One Response to “More conservatives ready to drop social issues”

  1. Jan said

    From your mouth to God’s ear.

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