The Washington Post

It’s not an ‘argument’ — social and fiscal conservatism are connected

Jon Ward, who recently left the Daily Caller for the Huffington Post, has unfortunately already put aside his considerable reporting skills in favor of serving up two standard liberal canards : 1) Social and fiscal conservatives are at odds and 2) Those sneaky conservatives are trying to pull a fast one on the public. Ward writes:

Social conservatives under pressure to allow the presidential campaign to focus on the economy are pushing back, arguing that the two cannot be disconnected.

As Rep. Michele Bachmann put it in a speech here Saturday: “Social conservatism is fiscal conservatism.”

The Minnesota congresswoman’s line, though an over-simplification, was echoed by numerous social conservatives in conversations with the Huffington Post over the weekend. Their argument is that many of the outcomes that have produced the nation’s economic crisis are, at their core, driven by moral deficiencies: greed, dishonesty, selfishness, cowardice and the like. . . .

It is something of a change from the past, when religious conservatives often argued that America would rise or fall — militarily and economically — based on whether it was following the God of the Bible. God would bless the nation, or curse it, based on its faithfulness to him.

The problem with Ward’s spin is that it simply isn’t true. Modern conservatism has consistently made the point that values and economics are linked. Whether you go back to Ronald Reagan or more recent articulations of this point ( e.g., from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), in scholarly books or even here at Right Turn), you will see this theme reiterated. It’s not only not new, but it is central to the premise of modern conservatism, namely that traditional values (e.g., thrift, delayed gratification, preservation of the family unit) are essential to our political and economic well-being. As I wrote in early December:

Some of the ostensibly sophisticated Republicans who have long wanted to toss social conservatives from the GOP coalition turned up their noses at the Tea Partyers. They tried to hustle upstarts like Marco Rubio out of the primaries. But the Tea Party rallied Republicans and independent voters around an agenda based on limited government. That is the broadest possible foundation for Republicans to reconstruct the majorities that elected Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

We make a mistake by labeling this a purely “economic agenda,” however. What started the Tea Party? A CNBC host ranting that a responsible homeowner shouldn’t pay his irresponsible neighbor’s mortgage. In other words, underlying the Tea Party movement is a set of values — thrift, delayed gratification, personal responsibility, etc. Those are not what we have come to identify as “social” issues, but these are not simply matters of dollars and cents.

But it’s so much juicier and satisfying for the left media to ignore all this and the fact that a very large segment of Tea Partyers identify themselves as Christian conservatives. The notion that conservatives are divided about it (while lying about it with clever arguments!) is a trite liberal media talking point. It’s too bad that this viewpoint is so pervasive that history, polling and commentary must be shoved aside so that the liberal media doesn’t burden their readers with, you know, facts.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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