A Friendly Reminder for the Circular Firing Squad

Hold your fire

By Leon H Wolf Posted in Comments (20) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

I think, almost a week after a disastrous election, that it's time for a friendly reminder of something I first pointed out last year; to wit, fiscal conservatives who are concerned about excessive government spending should lay off blaming the social conservatives for their woes. The same principle goes the other way for social conservatives. Although there are undoubtedly voters who might identify more with small-government conservatism or social conservatism, the general rule when it comes to elected officials is that you don't get to choose one other the other. When it comes to Congress, an elected representative is either conservative or he is not, and the fiscal conservative who's liberal on social issues is simply an animal that does not exist.

By way of review, the defining moment with reference to spending came during last year's battles over the Coburn Amendments. When you look at the list of Senators who supported those amendments, you find Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Jim DeMint, and Jon Kyl - rabid social conservatives all. You know who you don't find on the list? Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, or Lincoln Chafee. As I pointed out last year, the best indicator of whether a Senator is likely to support anti-pork measures like the Coburn amendments, is whether they also opposed government-funded embryo destruction or supported a constitutional amendment for the traditional definition of marriage.

So, if there are fiscal conservatives out there who are sick of the big government spending, don't look to Specter, Snowe and Collins as models for new Republicans - the social liberals in the Senate are the worst porkers in the entire Republican caucus. The best thing you can do for your cause is to support a person who is conservative through and through - because only such a person will actually follow through on a promise to reduce government spending, even at their own political expense.

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A Friendly Reminder for the Circular Firing Squad 20 Comments (0 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

I do find myself in the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Moderate Wing of the Republican Party, but the Northeast "Rockefeller Republicans" are anything but this.

They're just as liberal fiscally as any other Big Government Democrat.

They never met a new government entitlement or spending program they didn't like, and they never met a tax cut that was "prudent and responsible".

Contact the moderators and ask them to change your log-in name.

Unless you're actually the Coulter, you're just asking for trouble.

I'm not Anne Coulter.

"the fiscal conservative who's liberal on social issues is simply an animal that does not exist"

I wouldn't go that far, although it is true that there are none in the Senate, and perhaps now none on the House. But I'd agree that they are a rare breed - social liberalism is usually a pretty strong indicator of an unwillingness to take the heat for being conservative on other matters as well.

"No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong." - Winston Churchill

But isn't a fical conservative / social liberal called a libertarian?

"Greater is an army of sheep led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a sheep" - Defoe

Libertarians tend not to be pro-social engineering.
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

Looking at the roll call votes for Coburn Amendment which shows that it failed 82 to 15, the Federal Marriage Amendment which failed 49-48, and the Embryonic Stem Cell Research bill which passed 63-37, we find something interesting.

Out of the 37 Republican Senators who voted against the Stem Cell Research bill, only 8 of them voted for the Coburn Amendment. Out of the 47 Republicans who voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, again only 8 of them voted for the Coburn Amendment.

Using your litmus test of these three particular bills then, a “social conservative” is a “fiscal conservative” about 17-22% of the time. Which means conversely that 78-83% of the Senators who are “social conservatives” aren’t “fiscal conservatives.”

So while in fact there are fiscal conservatives who are social conservatives (or vice versa), the data Leon selected doesn’t show that one is necessarily a guarantee of the other. Which is also an argument against putting such a great deal of weight on bills which were largely symbolic in the grand scheme of things. A vote against the Energy Bill or the Transportation bill would have saved far more money than the Coburn Amendment.

The point is not that social conservatives are always fiscal conservatives, the point is that there are no (or very few) fiscal conservatives who are not also social conservatives. You've refuted data I didn't argue for.

11 Republicans voted for the Coburn Amendments:

Of those 11, only Sununu did not vote for the Federal Marriage amendment. Of those 11, only Burr voted for government funded embryo destruction. Therefore, 9 of the 11 staunchest fiscal conservatives in the Senate also signed on to two pieces of socially conservative legislation which split the Republican caucus.

Voting against the energy bill is an ambiguous vote because there were many liberal reasons to vote against it (thus you see Boxer, Biden at all casting nays). Ditto the Transportation bill, which in its final form was opposed by four Republicans (Kyl, McCain, Sununu and Chafee). Chafee opposed it for some weird environmental reason - only Kyl and McCain went on the record condemning the bill for its pork. The Coburn amendments are a better metric because they dealt specifically and only with spending, and the votes are thus unambiguous votes against pork per se.

"We could find a speck of dust and scribble down our life stories..." - The Refreshments

It does seem that we can and do have many social conservatives who are not fiscal conservatives. So, can I blame them for not being fiscally conservative enough?

But by all means, let's not say that social conservatism is the root of the problem - the point of the article is that any fiscal conservative you might wish to find in elected office is, with a 90% probability or greater - also a social conservative.

"We could find a speck of dust and scribble down our life stories..." - The Refreshments

Social conservatism is not the root of the problem, but the socons who are not also fiscalcons I believe are at the heart of the problem and should be dealt with to get us back on track.

Let's just kick out all the people who are with the conservatives on abortion but not on federalism, and vice-versa. Who needs a coalition? What's wrong with perpetual minority status?
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

but why can't we push true conservatives in all districts/states. As long as a person is both a fiscal con and a social con, the base should support them. And since it is impractical (and possibly damaging) to go after some officials in a primary, why not hold the feet of socons to the fiscal con fire.

When you essentially declare the religious right as unacceptable without the cleansing addition of a strong belief in small government, it's a divisive thing to do.

That is, unless you're holding the deficit hawks' feet to the fire equally on issues like marriage and abortion.
If you're seeing shades of gray, it's because you're not looking close enough to see the black and white dots.

it cuts both ways. Personally, I am more of a social moderate, but I do believe it is in the party's best interest to hold the deficit hawks feet to the social issue fire and the socons feet to the fiscal con fire. If we do that, we win more.

Why not start with the people who are not conservative at all? Why is Sam Brownback a greater problem than Arlen Specter?

"We could find a speck of dust and scribble down our life stories..." - The Refreshments

Arlen Specter is a disease.
If "pro" is the opposite of "con", what is the opposite of "progress"?

I would definitely rate Specter a much more pressing problem than Brownback, but I would not give Brownback a pass either. Start with the non-conservatives (ie Specter, Chafee (oops), etc.), but then head on take out reps/senators who are only a socon and not a fiscal con as well. I am sure there are many social conservatives out there who are also fiscal conservatives that could step up in a primary.

I would suggest those that posted here remember the content when they tar and feather Mel Martinez.

"Originalist" or "Strict Constitutionalist" Judges for the Supreme Court. Why can't we have an Originalist or Constitutionalist Representative/Senator?

I would much rather have a congressman who votes against government funding for stem-cell research because he read through the enumerated powers and didn't find "Fund medical research" to be one of them.

I'd rather have a congressman who doesn't use the commerce clause to regulate wages between private employers and their employees.

I would also argue that community standards are best developed and enforced at the community level. If I don't like the community of San Fransisco, for instance, I am free to move somewhere else. [I'm sure there are some extremely conservative communities that I wouldn't care to live in either.] If the Federal Government decides to engineer all communities to look like San Fran [or hypothetical extremely conservative town] then I have no choice but to break the law or move to another country. I don't care for either choice.

Further, as a realist, I would argue that the Federal Government is far too inept to ever effect any social good through legislation - or to ever effectively enforce that legislation. See "Prohibition", "War on Poverty", "War on Drugs", or "Department of Education" - write me if you have any questions.

Sorry, enough ranting I suppose.

In summary: I'd like to see "small/limited government" conservatives in the federal government and "social" conservatives at my local town-hall meeting.

Government is best that governs least...

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