Social conservatives are being thrown under the bus

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Over at BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins argues the religious right are being snubbed by the GOP. His premise is largely based on their being given short shrift in the RNC’s latest autopsy report. That’s flimsy evidence, to be sure. But Coppins’ overall thesis feels exactly right to me.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect Republicans to come out and admit to distancing themselves from social conservative issues. Instead, it will be couched in the language of Federalism. Rather than saying, “we aren’t interested in social issues,” they will say these issues ought to be “left to the states.”

Regardless of the framing, it’s still tantamount to a surrender. And it occurs to me there are two fundamental reasons for this rapid shift.

First, as I’ve argued before, politics is downstream from culture. And conservatives already lost the culture war. Sure, some politicians can stand on principle, but eventually, politicians represent public opinion. You can’t blame a politician — who requires votes to be elected — for responding to the zeitgeist.

The second reason is that social conservative groups —  the so-called “pro-family” groups — are mostly a joke. Too often, they are run like a Christian charity instead of a political outfit (how else would you explain even considering hiring a 25-year old member of the Duggar family to run your organization’s lobbying arm?)

These social groups are found especially wanting when you compare their effectiveness to fiscally conservative groups like The Club for Growth — groups that instill fear in Republicans who cross them.

Case in point: Sen. Rand Paul is a leader in the pro-life movement, but just yesterday, he told CNN that “there are thousands of exceptions” for abortion.

In the wake of the Akin and Mourdock gaffes, this was probably smart politics — especially considering there is little downside to getting crossways of the social conservative movement.

But it’s hard to imagine a conservative senator of equal stature appearing on national television and declaring there are “thousands of exceptions” to low taxes. There could be serious consequences — possibly even a well-funded primary. But social conservatives have no such muscle. Nobody’s afraid of them.

So yes, it feels like socons are about to be thrown under the bus.

Matt K. Lewis