Social Cons Who Heart the Pledge


The GOP's PDF is earning applause from some on the right who think "strengthening the family" is a pressing federal policy issue in 2010. Ralph Reed, come on down!

Significantly, House Republicans rejected the false choice between tea-party issues like cutting spending and delimiting government and pro-family issues like honoring marriage and protecting unborn life. For some strange reason, the media and some in the GOP think the two agendas are incompatible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the exact opposite is true. Pro-family candidates are the most likely to be fiscal conservatives, and tea-party candidates are most likely to be pro-life. Witness Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Marco Rubio, and Christine O'Donnell. How come every time we scratch a tea-party candidate we find a social conservative and a person of deep faith? Could it be that the notion of limiting government and maximizing freedom presupposes a citizenry animated by virtue, faith, and reliance on God? That's certainly what the Founders believed. How refreshing that the House GOP agrees.

Can I get a Newt "don't-cut-entitlements" Gingrich?

[T]he reform Republicans offer a choice between the job killing, big government, high tax agenda of the Democratic Party and a Republican Party agenda to reverse out-of-control spending, restore fiscal accountability leading to a balanced budget, create confidence in the private sector to spur new job creation, and strengthen the family.

How about Marjorie Dannenfelser, of the Susan B. Anthony List?

Today, in its 'Pledge to America' the pro-life Republican House leadership has echoed the voices of pro-life Americans calling for a Congress that will protect Life. The pro-life legislative priorities included in their Pledge reinforce Republican Party unity as we approach these critical mid-term elections.

American Principles Project founder Robert P. George:

What we demanded of the GOP was a firm and clear commitment to marriage, life, and the free and full participation of faith-based institutions in our public life. We got it. Our goal was not to shift the focus of the "Pledge" to social issues, but to make sure that the GOP's longstanding pro-life and pro-marriage commitments were not abandoned, compromised, or passed over in silence.

Yuval Levin:

The first thing that strikes me (especially in comparing this Pledge to the Contract With America) is how much progress pro-lifers have made both in the arena of public opinion and the intra-Republican debate on the abortion question. The Contract avoided the subject like the plague. This document speaks plainly of a commitment to human life several times, lists abortion funding as a key reason for repealing Obamacare, and promises a government-wide Hyde Amendment.

Related Timothy P. Carney: "Tea Partiers Oppose Abortion, Not Just Deficits." And Rep. Paul Ryan: "The Cause of Life Can't be Severed from the Cause of Freedom." And to be sure, not all social cons are jazzed.

I am pretty much the opposite of a social conservative, and will never forget the nadir that was Terri Schiavo conservatism, so none of this exactly tickles my ivories. On the other hand, as awkward as it is for me to admit, some of the most social of cons tend to be the most fiscal of cons, too.

But I think the big takeaway here is the yawning chasm between the Pledge to America and the Contract From America. The latter document, which is a product of Tea Party concerns instead of electoral coalition management, is short, sweet (if on the vague side), and marriage-strengthening-free:

1. Protect the Constitution
2. Reject Cap & Trade
3. Demand a Balanced Budget
4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform
5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government
6. End Runaway Government Spending
7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care
8. Pass an "All-of-the-Above" Energy Policy
9. Stop the Pork
10. Stop the Tax Hikes

I hope, but don't know, that the restive, Democrat-repudiating mood in the country reflects the Contract much more than the Pledge. But the disparity between the two is an always-welcome reminder that the two major parties are reliably incapable of translating strong grassroots sentiment into public policy that acts on it. Democrats are finding that out the hard way this fall, in the various "hippie punching" wars between the snippy White House and a base dissatisfied with pot, Gitmo, war, ObamaCare, and more. Republicans will likewise rediscover the phenomenon if they don't start taking government-downsizing seriously.

Bonus self-linking: Me in 2005 on "The Gingrich Legacy," in which I detail the serial libertarian disappointments with the 1994 GOP revolution, and conclude:

The Republicans located and attracted a new base of voters with bomb-throwing rhetoric that only happened to include some limited-government ideas (hardly surprising, considering the party had been out of government for so long).

The key to maintaining that base, besides the usual vote-buying that every governing party engages in, has been to keep the bombs coming, not to follow up on any of the limited-government promises (with the notable exception of welfare reform). […]

This, finally, might just be the fruit of '94—a base mobilized not to reduce the scope of government, but to jeer at domestic enemies, conflate opposition to war with treason, and vote decisively against Michael Moore.

That self-described libertarians spend more time on these pursuits than noticing how their ideals continue to be mocked by the party they vote for is a testament to the alluring power of party-based populism. That Democratic activists seem eager to emulate key parts of this approach is a reason to curb your enthusiasm about the day when the Gingrich legacy gets the whipping it so richly deserves.