Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Deconstructing the Social Conservative Vote

In response to Taleena's comment to an earlier post, let me deconstruct the "social conservative" vote.

"Social Conservatives" = "Political Christians."

There. Having in one fell swoop decrypted 50% of current political newspeak, let me expand my remarks:

Catholics = Traditional blue-collar lunchbox Democrats. The Democrats ran working class Catholics off the reservation in 1973 with their embrace of Roe v. Wade to the exclusion of all else. Non-pro-abortion candidates were barred from speaking at national conventions and from having any voice in platform committees. Made the jump to Republican identity with Reagan's 1980 campaign. Still feel more comfortable with the Dems social emphasis. Would bolt in a New York minute for a pro-life Democratic candidate.

African-American Christians (AME and others) = Since 1964 Democratic. Their shift from the Republican Party is the second greatest political blunder in modern US history. When the Party of Lincoln® stood by during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, even the Democrats freezing black delegates out their 1964 National Convention couldn't stop the tide. Except for a few free-thinkers, this block is has linked cultural, church and political identification together in a way only dreamed of by Jerry Falwell at the height of his mid-1980s power.

This block has stood by the Democrats through 30 years of neglect and abuse and I see no sea change coming. The continued trashing of conservative blacks such as Thomas, Rice, and Steele shows how diligently the A-A community polices itself to repress aberrant voices. However, the rise of A-A leaders such as Barak Obama may indicate a new insistence that the Democrats respond to a wider spectrum of A-A concerns rather than the hustlings of a few poverty pimps. (Al Sharpton, call your office!) While the RNC has continued to reach out to black groups such as the NAACP, expect few black Christian voices to speak out for Republican candidates in 2008.

Evangelical Christians = Solidly Republican. (Who everybody thinks about when you say "social conservative") The greatest political blunder in modern US history was when Democrats, drunk with political power of Watergate, were goaded by their most left-wing elements to demonize Evangelical Christians. For most of my lifetime, most Evangelicals had an other-worldly focus, tending to ignore political involvement (seeing it akin to re-arranging deckchairs on the Titanic). But the leftward swing of the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and 1970s radicalized some evangelical leaders.

Their political concerns reviled by the DNC, shut out from main-stream media, Evangelicals had formed a parallel cultural, social, and educational structure. Many Evangelicals, untutored in either Theology or Political Science, were easily directed by para-church leaders to the Republicans. Evangelicals saw the world (and hence the political process) as an arena with good guys and bad guys. People who went to church tended to be good guys. People who said you were an ignorant, snake-handling, redneck for going to church tended to be bad guys. And the more Evangelicals swung rightward, the more the Democrats demonized them. It was a self-reinforcing feedback.

Evangelicals have been Republican's most stalwart base, sticking with the party even when they were marginalized. Since 1984 every Republican presidential candidate has had to have a "born again" story to include in their stump speech. GWB quite frankly has a stem-winder.

Wither "Social Conservatives?" What will 2006 and 2008 bring? I think that rank-and-file social conservatives will vote for a McCain or a Guliani, if they feel that they have a conservative Supreme Court to guard the legacy of their gains of the last 20 years.

Will Democrats be able to tell a convincing narrative to Evangelicals? Perhaps. Gov. Mark R. Warner of Virginia might be able to do so. But to do so he will have to Square the Circle and Untie the Gordian's Knot, both of which I will detail in a later post...

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