Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ramesh Ponnuru: "Scapegoating the Social Right"

(Hat tip: Creative Minority Report)

Writing at National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru ponders the factually devoid scapegoating of social conservatives in which many so-called "conservative" commentators are engaged:
In 2002 and 2004, Republicans ran hard on social issues and the courts — and scored victories at every level of politics. In 2006 and 2008, they left those issues off the table, and got walloped. It follows, naturally, that the social issues are to blame for the Republican defeats.

At least, that’s the conclusion that a chorus of commentators has reached. They are attempting to persuade Republicans to soften or downplay their party’s social conservatism and hide its social conservatives in order to resume winning elections. About this campaign to sideline the social Right, three things can be said with a fairly high degree of confidence: It is predictable; it will fail; and it is wrong.

Republicans’ social conservatism provokes more intense and angry opposition than their positions on other issues do. In some parts of the country — places where political writers tend to congregate, for example — social conservatives are so thin on the ground that it is easy to underestimate how widespread their views are. So it is understandable that many people would leap to the conclusion that Republicans would have more support if they backed off on social issues.

Yet there is no real likelihood that the party is going to abandon or reduce its opposition to abortion in particular or kick aside the social conservatives in general. Social conservatives are, for one thing, too woven into the structure of the party to be ejected. In 2004, the Republican convention showcased pro-choicers such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudolph Giuliani, George Pataki, and Colin Powell. So far, the only candidates anyone is mentioning for 2012 are Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford, and Tim Pawlenty. All are pro-life.

The Giuliani campaign’s spectacular flameout shows how hard it would be for Republicans to become pro-choice. Unlike previous pro-choice Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani did not run on his pro-choice position, had a record of accomplishment, tried to meet pro-lifers partway, had huge national name recognition, and took orthodox conservative positions on economic issues. He was no Arlen Specter. Yet he still couldn’t make it. The conventional wisdom blames his failure on his “late-state strategy.” But he adopted that strategy for a reason: He could not compete in Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan, largely because of his position on abortion...

The attempts to blame social conservatism for Republican defeats will not reduce its influence in the party. What they will do is distract attention from the changes the party really does need to make.

[Read the whole thing]
My Comments:
"The impulse to blame social conservatives arises nearly every time Republicans fail. They were blamed for the elder Bush’s 1992 defeat, as though he would have won if only Pat Robertson had not spoken at the Republican convention. They were blamed for losses in the House in 1998. And now they are being blamed for McCain’s rout."

Ramesh left out Dole's loss in 1996, an election in which it was so obvious that the squishy moderate Republican nominee (who was foisted on the rest of us much like McCain was this year) was headed for defeat that all the RINO governors and mayors (e.g. Whitman, Wells, Wilson, Giuliani, etc.) decided to get an early start on scapegoating social conservatives and showed up at the GOP Convention with a plan to strip the pro-life plank from the Republican platform.

RINOs are so pathetically predictable.

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At 12/03/2008 4:02 PM, Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

To me, given that the Ponnuru's point is so painfully obvious, the next question becomes, why do otherwise intelligent people spout this nonsense?

And the only answer I can find that explains the observed fact is this: They're not really pro-life. Not the kind of pro-life that understands the evil of abortion and is determined to stand up against it, come what may.

At 12/04/2008 6:29 AM, Blogger Bob the Ape said...

I don't understand the assertion I see here, and have seen elsewhere, that McCain was somehow "foisted" on the Republican party. So far I as can tell (from the viewpoint of a complete outsider), McCain, running as himself, won most of the primaries, and so got the majority of the delegates. I wasn't happy about it, but he won fair and square.

At 12/04/2008 9:09 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

I didn't say he was "foisted" on the Republican Party. If I meant that, I wouldn't have said "the rest of us", as I'm an independent conservative, not a Republican.

I say he was "foisted" on the social conservatives, of whom neither McCain nor Dole (back in 1996) was our guy.

So, it seems odd that the moderates who were so gung-ho on McCain now seek to pin the blame for his lacklustre performance on social conservatives. He was THEIR guy, not OURS, and they foisted him upon us in the primaries only to abandon ship in the general election when the S.S. McCain started taking on water.


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