A colleague of mine at Breitbart News said recently in response to some social conservative tactic that disappointed him, “This is why you [social conservatives] are losing.”
He really believes that. He believes we are losing.
Like many conservatives, my colleague cares about the social conservative issues, but cares more deeply about the other two legs of the conservative stool: economics and national security. And he is under the illusion those issues are doing better than ours, that those who work on those issues are somehow better and smarter and more savvy than the religious right.
I contend first that the success of conservative economics and national security are due largely to the reliable foot soldiers of the Christian right. But more than that, working against greater odds than any other part of the coalition, social conservatives have been the most successful part of the conservative coalition. This seems counterintuitive given that abortion is the law of the land still and gay marriage may be imposed any day now. But it is true nonetheless.
Economic conservatives are happy to note that taxes are lower today than they were before Reagan, but they also have to contend with the fact that the US government is bigger now and growing bigger every day. And regulation? Is there any area of our private lives the federal government does not see a role for itself?
While it is arguable that the most successful part of the conservative triad is national security this was due almost completely to the Cold War and after our win there even that issue faded. The U.S. may still have the most powerful economy and most powerful military in the world. But it is also clear that most Americans are happy to allow our world dominance to wither. Even in the age of ISIS it has been a long time since that issue drove a national election.
What about the social issues?
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Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute focusing on international legal and social policy. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of C-FAM.