ACRU

Social, Economic Conservatives Need Each Other

This excerpt by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski and ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell was published June 15, 2011 on The Washington Examiner website.

Third of a series of three excerpts from Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America, published by Threshold Editions of Simon & Schuster.

Conservative success comes from rebuilding the Republican Party around constitutional principles. We’ll explain in this chapter how all three parts of America’s modern conservative coalition need each other.

But one point should be made here. The vast majority of Tea Party members are also committed social conservatives, as are most elected officials headlining Tea Party rallies, such as former House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in the House. In the Senate, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Among governors, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Rick Perry of Texas.

Conversely, many social conservatives advocate low taxes, economic opportunities free from government control, and requiring people to accept responsibility for their actions.

Both of these philosophies don’t just coexist; properly understood, they naturally reinforce and enhance each other.

Both the Tea Party and the Christian Right are movements, not organizations. There is no recognized overarching authority structure. Both have local leaders and national figures to whom the rank and file look for inspiration and guidance, but members do not answer to them as binding authorities.

Because so many Tea Party attendees are committed people of faith — and some Tea Party leaders need to take this to heart — there are literally millions of Americans currently supporting the Tea Party movement who will denounce and leave that movement if Tea Party leaders ever say anything to support abortion, same-sex marriage, silencing religion, or gun control.

Conversely — and many social-values leaders need to lay hold of this — millions of evangelical Christians, devout Catholics, Mormons and Orthodox Jews are gravely concerned about how big-government policies are crushing our children and grandchildren under a mountain of debt, destroying jobs (or preventing job creation) and endangering the ability of families to stay together and take care of each other.

Consequently, Christian Right leaders who express a lack of concern for these economic issues would see large parts of their organizations forsake them. There is so much overlap between these two movements that either would fall apart by alienating the other.

And the Republican Party has been on the outs with both of these movements. If the GOP does not fully embrace an economic conservative agenda — which will involve bucking well-established interests and long-standing habits such as special tax provisions, earmarks and “moderate” deficits — millions of enraged Tea Party voters will forever forsake the Republican label.

Equally enraged by some Republican leaders expressing support for same-sex marriage, expanding the Education Department and refusing to make judges a front-burner issue, millions of social conservatives — especially within the Christian Right — would leave the Republican Party.

The Republican Party needs both of these constituencies. Alienating either will cause a party split.

But it’s not just that Republicans need to make sure they don’t alienate either of these groups. Republicans should embrace them. Not only do their agendas not conflict, they reinforce and enhance each other.

A revitalized conservative movement embracing every aspect of constitutional conservatism is the key for resurgence and renewal in America.