What Makes a SoCon?

 

A few days ago, several Ricochetti on the member side were kicking around an idea for a podcast featuring social conservatives. (Want to read those in-house conversations? You need to be a member.) It was a good discussion and one that’s been mirrored behind the scenes at the site (we take your suggestions seriously).

It brought an interesting question to mind, however. What makes someone a SoCon? I’ve never used the label in reference to myself because I’m generally fine with gay marriage as a policy matter (though I’m totally opposed to the means by which it’s been gaining ground) and I know that’s usually a litmus test. That said, I’m also pro-life, firmly in favor of the various Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, anti-assisted suicide, totally opposed to the contraception mandate, deeply troubled by the pervasive breakdown of the family, and generally convinced that both the law and the culture are developing an ominously antagonistic posture towards people of faith. So wouldn’t it be sort of weird to say I’m not a social conservative?

You tell me. I’m genuinely curious as to what our readers think the term means, and what the essentials of the SoCon creed are.

Oh, one other thing — if this turns into a 350-comment thread arguing SSM, you will all be sent to your rooms. No dessert.

There are 328 comments.

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  1. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I think a good starting place is the proposition in that society has an interest in the population at large exercising proper muzzle control with their genitals.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay
    • #2
  3. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Beliefs that “Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for any other” and that “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom [by their families].”

    • #3
  4. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Troy, for me, the term doesn’t consist merely in a list of positions; rather it’s an attitude that wants to support an understanding of marriage which has held for millennia (while ensuring avenues for partnership.)  It entails support for the sanctity of life at both ends of the spectrum. It argues for the most local control of decision-making possible and upholds individual responsibility and freedom of association.

    I have a personal responsibility to state my views – and live them; I don’t want government facilitating any of this – too many strings attached.  (I’ll leave the field open now, because I enjoy dessert.)

    • #4
  5. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Well, for starters, someone who believes in the Bill of Rights.

    Beyond that, I would define a SoCon as someone who thinks that society and whatever limited government is necessary should promote values which benefit our society and strengthen the family, such as;

    • traditional marriage and fidelity within that marriage
    • personal responsibility
    • anti-pornography
    • anti-abortion
    • anti-substance abuse
    • #5
  6. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    As I recall, someone suggested that a certain other podcast might already fit the bill…  ;)

    • #6
  7. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    That government power should be used to enforce a specific morality usually defined by some variant of Judaism or Chrisianity.

    • #7
  8. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    A social conservative is a libertarian who has children.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    A person who supports using the power of the state to promote (and/or compel)  biblical morality.

    • #9
  10. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Isn’t it a little pointless to try to rigorously define things like this? I can imagine a SoCon position on a subject, just as I can imagine a Libertarian position on a subject. So it’s on a case-by-case basis for most things. If you come down on the SoCon side a supermajority (say ~80%) of the time, I think it’s fair to use the moniker in general.

    On the other hand, SoCons have a certain feel about them. So, even if Troy fits my earlier definition, he doesn’t seem like a SoCon.

    • #10
  11. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark
    @CharlesMark

    One doesn’t have to be religious to be a social conservative. Who could suggest that there is no secular or scientific argument against abortion? Of course it suits the progressive to paint conservatism as purely religious and therefore supposedly irrational.

    • #11
  12. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    This isn’t a direct answer, but I think Charles CW Cooke made an excellent point in The Conservatarian Manifesto that “the social issues” isn’t a helpful concept as drug use, gay marriage, and abortion are all discrete subjects that don’t necessarily come in a package.

    In more direct answer, I think a feature of Social Conervatism is a belief in the necessity of state protection and reinforcement of some social institutions in order to maintain a healthy society. Marriage is the most obvious example, but I think similar things could be said of the family itself and perhaps, the organized religion.

    Put another way, SoCons tend to believe that government has a legitimate function — perhaps, a duty — in maintaining social public goods.

    • #12
  13. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    I think social conservatives are concerned with issues surrounding traditional Orthodox Judeo/Christian morality and mores. I think you could also talk about social conservatism in terms of government policies or proposed government policies that deal with matters of personal behavior which aren’t primarily questions of economics, defense or security. They include matters of sexuality, drug and alcohol use, family formation and protection, and religious faith.

    • #13
  14. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Social conservatism encompasses a bundle of issues. I’ll submit that pro-life is the sine qua non. Life begins at conception. The hardness of people’s hearts being what it is, the law will have to be more permissive.

    • #14
  15. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    I’m socially conservative, because I think it is not only the right way to be , it’s the smart way to be.  But I don’t wanna force that on anybody else. And I don’t want the government trying to force somebody else’s ideas on me, either.

    • #15
  16. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Probable Cause: “A social conservative is a libertarian who has children.”

    I think you may have mistyped. A social conservative is a libertarian who thinks everyone should be treated like children.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    First, I always use “SoCon” these days because the unabbreviated “social conservative” is so obviously undescriptive. Any political view references society and thus “social” concerns.

    SoCons include both big government and limited government types. Some generally accept the status quo, while others (like me) want to eliminate the vast majority of laws, programs, and agencies introduced since Woodrow Wilson. Critics tend to focus on the big government sort, which might or might not be more common.

    Philosophically, SoCons consider laws and politics always in relation to non-legal elements of society. They emphasize the importance of non-government programs and communities, as well as individual efforts and unwritten principles. They basically respect past generations and our cultural inheritance from previous centuries. They welcome the role of religion and morals in political assessments, even though not all SoCons are themselves faithful.

    Practically, “social conservative” is shorthand for general stances on specific issues (which have already been listed). It’s not a club or even a well-organized alliance. It’s simply a category of generally like-minded voters.

    It’s about priorities more than values.

    DocJay identifies a subset of SoCons who he believes prefer morality over liberty. I think it would be more fair to say they believe morality enables liberty. This is a millenia-old Christian concept. The Bible repeatedly refers to the “slavery” of sin. SoCons emphasize “freedom to” live well, rather than “freedom from” any impediments to an all-powerful will.

    • #17
  18. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    DocJay:Deeply held religious beliefs regarding a traditional family existence. The more fervent flavors often favor legislating those beliefs upon others. For that group, morality>liberty.

    I don’t know if I’m right, but to me this seems like a mischaracterization and not a charitable one.

    • #18
  19. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I object to the assumption that SoCons want to enforce a morality through government, because that’s exactly the  opposite of what I want. Quite the contrary, I hold that there are traditional moral standards in society that have been around for hundreds of years (like bans against abortion, definition of marriage, understandings about the human family, etc.) that have been upended by people using law to advance their agenda. Most of what I oppose comes at the Supreme Court, who have used two otherwise-noble principles of equality and due process, and have interpreted them in new ways to enforce their morality on us.

    • #19
  20. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Put another way, SoCons tend to believe that government has a legitimate function — perhaps, a duty — in maintaining social public goods.

    I think,  again,  this is not quite correct. It’s interesting that this mischaracterization keeps getting restated by people who do not consider themselves SoCons.  You’d think that a group of conservatives on a site supposedly known for its civility would manage to treat each other better than this, or that those of you who aren’t SoCons would refrain from commenting, and let the SoCons define themselves.  It’s really just like what the Left does: it creates a straw man conservative position and attacks it. Y’all keep creating straw man SoCon ideas and attacking them.

    • #20
  21. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    I actually think that the accuracy of applying the term SoCon to someone is more a question of his or her policy priorities than it is of particular positions. I use SoCon to mean a conservative for whom social issues hold a high priority relative to other questions of public policy.

    • #21
  22. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Social conservatives are people who understand that we must look to history and tradition as did Edmund Burke in order to understand what social policies are prudent and necessary. We understand that humans are not just random atoms blundering their way through life;  we are part of a past that gave us, yes failures like slavery that we must eschew, but also successes like family that we must preserve in order to preserve and protect the human race and the beautiful planet that is our home.  In other words, we have learned from the past and value those lessons.  Thus change must be gradual and considered.

    We do not seek to preserve ways of living and understanding life that give it meaning and purpose through draconian laws; we seek to preserve institutions like marriage and family because they serve as a buffer between the rawer, more coercive power of government and the individual.  For this reason, we do all we can to prevent government from meddling with the family and religious and other belief communities.  They are our bulwark against intrusive government.  If government will not seek to redefine and meddle with core institutions like church and family, we can flourish in our families and belief systems, whatever they may be and other people can flourish too. Everybody may not have everything they want, but there will be considerable freedom for everyone to live as they wish while children in particular are protected from the whims of adults.  Old people are also protected by a deep understanding of the sacredness and value of human life from those who would kill them when they are no longer “useful”.  We are deeply suspicious of those who would promote a “living constitution” that throws away the past, or other “progressive” agendas that ignore and demonize millennia of history and human experience.

    • #22
  23. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Put another way, SoCons tend to believe that government has a legitimate function — perhaps, a duty — in maintaining social public goods.

    … or that those of you who aren’t SoCons would refrain from commenting, and let the SoCons define themselves. It’s really just like what the Left does: it creates a straw man conservative position and attacks it. Y’all keep creating straw man SoCon ideas and attacking them.

    Valid point and because I am not a SoCon I wasn’t going to comment except to insist that FiCons get their own post too. :)

    • #23
  24. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay
    • #24
  25. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Lucy- “…or that those of you who aren’t SoCons would refrain from commenting, and let the SoCons define themselves. It’s really just like what the Left does: it creates a straw man conservative position and attacks it.”

    It’s also very similar to the social conservative commentary on the frequent threads about libertarianism. Sauce for the goose…

    • #25
  26. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Salvatore Padula:Probable Cause: “A social conservative is a libertarian who has children.”

    I think you may have mistyped. A social conservative is a libertarian who thinks everyone should be treated like children.

    oh, zing!  (but I totally disagree, haha)

    • #26
  27. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Jamie Lockett:That government power should be used to enforce a specific morality usually defined by some variant of Judaism or Chrisianity.

    I agree with KC.  This is not a definition that describes very many social conservatives that I know, if any.

    • #27
  28. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    KC Mulville:I object to the assumption that SoCons want to enforce a morality through government, because that’s exactly the opposite of what I want. Quite the contrary, I hold that there are traditional moral standards in society that have been around for hundreds of years (like bans against abortion, definition of marriage, understandings about the human family, etc.) that have been upended by people using law to advance their agenda. Most of what I oppose comes at the Supreme Court, who have used two otherwise-noble principles of equality and due process, and have interpreted them in new ways to enforce their morality on us.

    Again, this is exactly right.  I’ll be the first to annoy troy by saying that my complaint about SSM has always been the way that it restricts liberty, and it is proponents who want the government to enforce social norms.  Why are so many people suggesting the exact opposite when, with the sole exception of abortion (which could be considered  a crime issue), on social/moral questions, the SoCon position is to advance religious liberty?

    • #28
  29. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Put another way, SoCons tend to believe that government has a legitimate function — perhaps, a duty — in maintaining social public goods.

    I think, again, this is not quite correct.

    Okay, good. That’s why I prefaced my remarks with “I think…” [emphasis original.] Happy to be set right.

    Lucy Pevensie:

    It’s interesting that this mischaracterization keeps getting restated by people who do not consider themselves SoCons. You’d think that a group of conservatives on a site supposedly known for its civility would manage to treat each other better than this, or that those of you who aren’t SoCons would refrain from commenting, and let the SoCons define themselves.

    Lucy, I get that you think I’m wrong, but I’d appreciate knowing where I went wrong. I included a great many qualifiers in my comments and I consider myself an ally to SoCons in most projects (certainly at the Federal level) so I’m not sure where you picked-up on any hostility.

    Again, on marriage, most SoCons object to the common libertarian position that it’s best for the state to get out of civil marriage altogether. Unless I’m missing something, their reasoning behind this — which I, ironically, share — seems to be that the institution requires protection in order to function.

    • #29
  30. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Salvatore Padula:It’s also very similar to the social conservative commentary on the frequent threads about libertarianism. Sauce for the goose…

    As it so happens, there’s one going on right now.

    • #30

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