Has the GOP Become More Socially Conservative Over The Years?

I am having a debate with some friends (one of whom is an Australian moderate and the other is a non-religious/fiscally conservative Republican). Both contend: 1) the GOP has moved rightward over the years on social issues and 2) the GOP is beholden to the religious right.  Of course, they also say if the Republican party does not drop the socially conservative planks of the platform–which they both view as too moralistic–the party is destined for demise. 

My feeling is that the GOP i…

  1. KC Mulville

    Of course, they also say if the Republican party does not drop the socially conservative planks of the platform–which they both view as too moralistic–the party is destined for demise.

    This is pretty common. All it means is that they don’t agree with those planks.

    It’s become standard rhetoric for critics to point to policy positions they don’t like, and instead of simply saying that they don’t like them, they add on the accusation that they’re the reason why their side lost. The accusation is meaningless. It’s impossible to prove, everyone says it about everyone else’s positions, and for every “fact” or poll that points blame at one position, there’s another one that blames it on something else.

    For my money, the political argument isn’t about moral positions. It’s much more about the role of government in general. We think government should be limited, but a large part of the country thinks that government should expand to have as much power as it wants. That’s where the fight will really be.

  2. Daniel Jeyn

    Frankly, you’ll get a self-selecting confirmation bias here on Ricochet from what I’ve seen, that the religious will see nothing at all wrong, after all everyone THEY know thinks exactly the same as they do.

    I don’t think religious conservatives are in any way more conservative than they were, but they are, I think, more culturally isolated.  That’s partially by their own choice as the culture has gone Leftward they have quite understandably shrugged it off and resigned.  With boutique internet/tv/megachurch services, this is easier than ever for those on the right to live in the world while not being of it.

    I live in a blue state and always have lived in blue states.  What I see is the GOP being demographically checkmated, culturally, in areas where it once held dominance because religious conservatives aren’t a popular brand.  Clever swine like Axlerod use this phenomenon to divide and conquer.

    I’m not blaming the religious right for living their faith.  I am blaming the inevitable problem of echo chambers.

  3. Underwood

    I’m trying to think of any social issues on which the GOP has moved rightward since Reagan and coming up short.

    Your friends are all wet.

    Does everyone agree that the culture is becoming more “liberal”? There were sweeping changes from, say, the early 60s through the late 70s. But since then? Meh. Not so much.

  4. Fred Cole

    Could an atheist be nominated for president by the Republican party?

    How about as a candidate for US Senator?

    Could a person run for president and not talk about their religion and be nominated by the Republican party?

    Could a pro-choicer be nominated?  How about just for VP?

  5. Daniel Jeyn

    To be fair, Fred, I don’t believe a Democrat could win a nomination without giving lip service to religion.  Even if they have a steely, Leninist heart, every Democrat in recent memory moistens his/her eyes before noting how their love for Jesus informs their mission to save the nation from the evil of the Republican party, &etc.

    Fred Cole: Could an atheist be nominated for president by the Republican party?

    How about as a candidate for US Senator?

    Could a person run for president and not talk about their religion and be nominated by the Republican party?

    Could a pro-choicer be nominated?  How about just for VP? · 3 minutes ago

  6. mask

    The culture has moved left, the GOP hasn’t moved right.

    I’m confused by “socially moderate/liberal but fiscally conservative” types who point out that the social con positions on various things are making the GOP politically unviable yet somehow want to assert that small government is popular.

  7. mask
    Fred Cole: Could an atheist be nominated for president by the Republican party?

    How about as a candidate for US Senator?

    Could a person run for president and not talk about their religion and be nominated by the Republican party?

    Could a pro-choicer be nominated?  How about just for VP? · 11 minutes ago

    It hasn’t even been a year since Obama officially came out of the closet in favor of gay marraige.  Even the left tries to walk a tightrope on these issues.

    Democrats are also very fond of hiding behind their religion – with “stalwart” Catholics like Pelosi and Kerry.  Even Obama likes to trot out the Bible once in a while to push for socialism.  I think they’d have a hard time nominating an out and proud atheist.

  8. LowcountryJoe

    When the SoCons extol the virtues of the free market and federalism with the same kind of gusto as their legislate-the-morality forever, we’ll be able to answer in the negative…and drop the SoCon labele

  9. mask
    LowcountryJoe: When the SoCons extol the virtues of the free market and federalism with the same kind of gusto as their legislate-the-morality forever, we’ll be able to answer in the negative…and drop the SoCon labele · 1 minute ago

    Name a politician who extols the virtues of the free market and federalism and there is an excellent chance they are also a SoCon – especially if you’re naming a GOP politician.

  10. mask

    Look at the last two GOP residential nominees.  They didn’t run on any social conservative issues.  You’d also have a hard time claiming they are solid social conservatives (you could maybe claim Romney as a late convert).

    I don’t recall either Bush presidency hitting the social conservative issues very hard either (W was pushing “compassionate conservatism” which is something else entirely).

  11. jkumpire

    Some of these responses are funny to read! As a social conservative it’s great to know that I am the cause of all the evil in the world! Liberals hate people like me, fiscal conservatives hate me, atheists hate me, next thing you know my cat will hate me too!

    Could an atheist be nominated by the Republicans? Who knows, let one try. Could an atheist be nominated by the Democrats? Now that is an interesting question. Every Democratic nominee for a good long time speaks about religion,  but tends to act and govern like an atheist or at least an agnostic.  To get elected they clothe themselves in a veneer of religion, but their policy positions don’t model a religious theme or church much. the religious side of our current president seems more like an act, much like Bill Clinton’s use of religion as a prop.

    Social conservatives tend to the right because the right is right about basic freedoms and the limited role of government. The bigger the government gets the less place religious people and/or social conservatives have a place in the Public Square.  

  12. Nick Stuart

    If the GOP wants to try to win elections without the social conservative vote, good luck with that. One factor in Romney losing was that the social conservatives stayed home (or so I’ve read, who really knows?).

    Mark Kirk won the senate seat in Illinois & I wouldn’t figure him to be particularly social conservative. The Illinois GOP is split on same sex marriage (helping to guarantee their complete irrelevance for another couple of decades). Recently defeated Judy Biggert was a pro-abortion stalwart and never missed a chance to stick her finger in the eye of homeschool and private-school families [then wondered why they didn’t turn out to help her when she was trying to keep her seat in a district gerrymandered to perfection for the new rep Bill “Bananas” Foster).

    Bush 41 was certainly not, Bush 43 & Romney were not particularly socially conservative. The standard GOP line to socialconservatives has been lip service in campaigns so the socialconservatives can be fleeced of campaign cash and worked like rented mules until the election, then disowned like a red-headed stepchild the day after (until the next campaign season).

  13. jkumpire

    From above.

    You don’t have to believe Richard John Niehouse, all you have to do is look around! Look at Europe, China and so many other places. Where government is big more often then not the people are called to worship and treat the state as God, overtly in communist states (DRNK) or covertly in most socialist states. God is replaced with the state as the purveyor of all goods, security and protection.

    We social conservatives, us miserable trolls, have to go somewhere, so we go the Republican Party who at least gives lip service to basic liberty and freedom, the things that the Founders gave us (you know those ‘God Given’ rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness/property) that made our country the greatest ever on the face of the earth.

    So, agnostic/atheistic  economic conservative/libertarian guy or gal, run in 2016 as a Republican and see if you can make it. Or better yet, run as a Democrat and see if you can get through primaries against the god-like saviors of big government like Hillary! or Janet Napalitano. I have plenty of popcorn to watch those happy days go by.

  14. Austin Murrey
    Fred Cole: Could an atheist be nominated for president by the Republican party?

    How about as a candidate for US Senator?

    Could a person run for president and not talk about their religion and be nominated by the Republican party?

     · 41 minutes ago

    Fred, the answer for all of the above depends on both the candidate and other atheists.

    The problem atheism faces in America is not that it’s being put down by hordes of angry Christians demanding lock-step adherence to their beliefs – we can’t get that from each other, much less non-Christians.

    Atheists have a publicity problem because a large number of the most vocal atheists are jerks about it.  Look at films like Religulous, or Dawkins famous flying spaghetti monster – all they say to believers are that believers are stupid for having their beliefs, that the beliefs themselves are stupid and sometimes for fun the beliefs have done nothing but unleash evil and misery across the earth. 

    Hard to win tolerance when that’s your most prominent message.  Contrast that with Penn Jilette – he’s an atheist and I’d vote for him.

  15. BrentB67

    Fred – I would like to think it is possible, the key is their fighting as vigorously for religious liberty as others. I forget who to credit, but the religious right will do well to realize the path to their goals is less government not more different government.

  16. Tommy De Seno
    C

    We’ve turned into a Tower of Babel because the term conservative, and the concept of right and left, have become words whose definition are no longer constant.

    The right/left paradigm is designed for the issue of government control of the economy.   It only makes mathematical sense in relation thereto.

    Social issues are stuck on the right/left continuum artificially, with no real reason for doing so.

    Does Democrat Bob Casey from Pennsylvania really move rightward on the scale because he is pro-life?  Of course not, because that has nothing at all to do with government control of the economy (except in a freakonomics sort of way).

    Does Dick Cheney’s support for gay marriage move him leftward on the scale?  Of course not.

    You want cohesion in your own party?  You want the power of influence others to your party?   Remove social issues from the right/left continuum completely.  Make it just about government control of production in the enconomy.

  17. Eric Warren

    The answer is no, it is less socially conservative.

    In some parts of the country, it seems to me, the social right has a lock on the apparatus. Used to be, the only people who volunteered were social conservatives, and this was always an excuse why politicians had to fall in line with the activists for social conservatism. Then, others started volunteering, so they just made it less inviting to get involved. 

    Try getting involved, and see if at any point, anyone really makes you feel welcome, asks your opinion on anything, or asks you for anything other than to stuff, smile, or dial. Try it at a Democrat office, too. Report back.  I would love to see undercover boss send a Republican Congressman into a campaign office for a governor somewhere. That would be hilarious, though, I would miss it because I don’t watch the show.

  18. flownover

    I think Tommy deSeno is on the right track, and once again the media is manipulating everyone on the board here for their own motives.

    California mindset at work here. Actually, it’s a bit Alinskyite, in that it allows for the identification and isolation and polarization and ensuing stigmatization . 

  19. Cutlass
    mask: Look at the last two GOP residential nominees.  They didn’t run on any social conservative issues.  You’d also have a hard time claiming they are solid social conservatives (you could maybe claim Romney as a late convert).

    I don’t recall either Bush presidency hitting the social conservative issues very hard either (W was pushing “compassionate conservatism” which is something else entirely).

    Actually, Bush was extremely effective at appealing to social conservatives. His prominent stances on stem cell research and gay marriage were key to turning out evangelicals and likely won him reelection. When Bush came out strong against gay marriage in ’04 it was a huge deal – for example, it drove Andrew Sullivan from being one of the more eloquent Bush defenders to an unhinged moonbat overnight.

  20. Cutlass

    I will say that I think social conservatives do have less influence over the party, given that fiscal issues have move to the forefront. The difference is that the left finds it useful to paint the right as a bunch of crazy theocrats, so they exaggerate the current influence.

    Republicans are a coalition, just like Democrats. Unions have less influence over Democrats, yet they are still essential for one to be nominated and/or elected president. The same can be said of social conservatives.

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In