Fiscal Conservatism Is Not Enough:

What Social Conservatives Offer the Party of Lincoln The Republican victories in Massachusetts (Scott Brown), New Jersey (Chris Christie), and Virginia (Bob McDonnell), coupled with growing disenchantment with President Obama’s initiatives, has the Republican party feeling bullish about its prospects for congressional elections this fall. Many strategists are predicting a repeat of 1994, where the Grand Old Party takes control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Indeed, the party has rebounded dramatically from the beating it took in 2006 and 2008. Even divisions among conservatives within the party that New York Times columnist David Brooks characterizes as pitting “traditionalists” against “reformers”[1] do not appear to be dampening Republican hopes. As historian George H. Nash reminds the faithful, factions have been a feature of American conservatism since the 1950s and reflect the movement’s vitality.[2] Yet among the contradictions that have worked against the ability of the party of Lincoln to become, in the hopes of Karl Rove, “a permanent Republican majority,” is the disconnect that separates the GOP and conservative establishments—including elected and party officials, think tanks and activist organizations, political strategists, and even talk-radio hosts—from registered voters outside the Washington Beltway that the former depend upon for electing Republicans to public office. As Brooks observes, “most professional conservatives are life-long Washingtonians who live comfortably as organization heads, lobbyists, and publicists.” While Brooks applies his characterization to the traditionalists that he finds wanting, it applies equally to the reformers that he champions. Indeed, nothing separates the professional class of Republican thinkers and players from the voting public more than the issue of how the party should position itself vis-à-vis the “social issues.” As much as the media like to portray
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