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Social conservatism on the wane?

Posted by Richard on September 10, 2006

Matt Towery wrote an interesting column the other day entitled Republican voters rejecting social conservatives. His sample size is still a bit too small for drawing sweeping conclusions, but it’s certainly noteworthy when Florida Republicans reject a social conservative for a candidate who endorsed gay civil unions:

… Following the election blowout of Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore in Alabama and the defeat of former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in Georgia comes Tuesday’s overwhelming victory by Florida’s moderate Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist. By a two-to-one margin, he defeated the more socially conservative state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and moved one step closer to succeeding Jeb Bush as governor.

Towery noted that backing civil unions would once have been the "kiss of death" for a Republican, and he has a theory about what changed that:

But ever since Congress, in 2005, rushed to pass through a law to keep alive brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in defiance of Florida and federal courts, the public’s mood on core social issues has shifted.

Indeed, a spokesperson for Schiavo’s family during her final days alive was beaten soundly in a Florida state Senate race on Tuesday.

This trend can be seen in public survey after survey across the nation over the past months.

This isn’t to say social conservatives and the organizations through which they speak and act — like the Christian Coalition — won’t again rise to prominence. But for now, Republican voters across America are tending toward moderation on social issues. They are instead showing more concern for things like immigration, energy costs, security and their own financial futures.

I certainly hope he’s right, and that the GOP gets the message. Here in Colorado, we have a great opportunity to pass the Domestic Partnership Amendment (Referendum I), and I’d like to believe that lots of reasonable and fairminded Republicans will be persuaded by the simple argument of proponents: "It’s not marriage. It’s basic legal rights."

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