2014: A Victory for Social Conservatives

The Republicans trounced the Democrats in Tuesday’s elections. The GOP took the Senate, picked up three governorships in deeply Democrat states, staged several high-level upsets, and came close to victories in races that were supposed to be Democratic blowouts, such as the still-undecided Senate election between Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie in Virginia.

Next comes the soul-searching, the scapegoating and the spin. One popular trope is that Republicans won by “moderating” their message and down-playing so-called social issues such as abortion and marriage. Expect to hear this talking point from disappointed Democrats and from establishment Republicans who have already surrendered on these issues and project their views onto ordinary voters.

The trope is slightly plausible because it trades on a half-truth. Republican candidates did emphasize economic growth, health care, immigration, foreign policy and terrorism. They also nationalized local elections by focusing on the unpopular standing of President Obama. But that’s just smart politics. Opinion polls showed that in most districts, these were the issues on voters’ minds. These same issues did not favor the president and did favor Republicans. It would have made little sense for Republicans to campaign on morning-after pills and intrauterine devices.

Moreover, unlike the 2012 election, Republican candidates avoided shooting themselves in the feet with extemporaneous remarks like Missouri Republican candidate Todd Akin did in 2012 when he offered the dubious contention that women who are raped don’t get pregnant.

As an electoral strategy, focusing on voters’ most pressing concerns and avoiding crazy talk is Politics 101. None of these priorities prevent candidates from also being pro-life and pro-real marriage. And in fact, that describes most of the Republicans who won in contested elections on Tuesday. They were both fiscal and social conservatives.

Take Thom Tillis in North Carolina. He was in a highly competitive race against an incumbent who was favored to win, Kay Hagan. When Tillis was the speaker of the House in North Carolina, he fought legal battles against same-sex “marriage.” The social conservative Susan B. Anthony List and the National Organization for Marriage both supported his campaign. He won, despite the presence of Libertarian Party candidate Sean Haugh who drew 3.7 percent of the vote.

In contrast, there’s no evidence that surging support, real or imagined, for so-called same sex “marriage,” abortion and abortifacient drugs dragged down Republican candidates, or helped Democratic candidates on the margins. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Democratic candidates that led with abortion looked like extremists, and they lost.

These Democrats hoped to appeal to women voters on the assumption that most are left-wing, pro-abortion and pro-same-sex “marriage” feminists. Hence their popular refrain of a “War on Women.”

No two candidates embraced this message with more zeal than Wendy Davis in Texas and Mark Udall in Colorado. Both enjoyed the campaigning largesse of Planned Parenthood and fawning and sympathetic coverage from the mainstream media. Both were blown out of the water.

Davis rose to fame in 2013 by unsuccessfully filibustering a Texas bill that tightened medical standards in Texas abortion clinics. This propelled her to prominence in Texas and nationwide. She became the Democratic candidate for governor. Her campaign was directed by two people who steered President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012. She lost to social conservative Greg Abbott by over twenty points among the voters, and ten points by voting women.

Mark Udall made this supposed War on Women the centerpiece of his campaign for the US Senate in Colorado. He even went so far as to (falsely) accuse his opponent, Cory Gardner, of wanting to ban contraception. This theme was so pervasive that some in the media, and even Udall’s supporters, took to referring to him as “Mark Uterus.” Social conservative Gardner beat him by over four points.

What are the lessons? First, voters in the political center don’t like to hear much about abortion. In charging up the rabid pro-abortion base, the Democratic candidates turned off a lot of swing voters. In Colorado, this includes many Hispanic voters, who are more pro-life than the general population. It’s also possible that Democratic gay activism suppressed the black vote in state elections that really mattered. It was down from the previous mid-term election in 2010.

Second, Republican candidates have no good cause to abandon life and marriage. A large segment of the population is strongly pro-life and pro-marriage, whatever is happening in the wider culture. Pundits look in vain for Republican candidates who win because they become social liberals.

But what about Republican Scott Brown? He’s not an especially good test case. Yes, he’s thought to be socially liberal, but in the campaign he avoided the social issues entirely. Who knows how the election would have turned out if he had taken a clear and consistent conservative stand? Besides, he lost.

One thing is clear: In most districts, the stray independent votes picked up by Republican candidates who embraced abortion and a redefinition of marriage would have been more than off-set by the millions of social conservative voters who would have been repelled.

There just is no political case for Republican candidates to embrace social liberalism. Candidates don’t have to appeal to the entire electorate, let alone to the fringe on the other side, just to the voting majority. The lesson for Republicans for 2016 is clear. (1) Focus on issues voters care about. (2) Don’t say foolish things. (3) Speak carefully about social issues. And (4) don’t forget that there’s little to be gained, and a great deal to lose, by going wobbly on either the economic or the social issues.

Jay W. Richards

By

Jay W. Richards is an Assistant Research Professor in the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and executive editor of The Stream. He is the author of many books, including Money, Greed, and God which received a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award. Most recently, he wrote, with co-author Jonathan Witt, The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom that J.R.R. Tolkien Got and the West Forgot. He has a Ph.D., with honors, in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

  • AnneM040359

    Could the 2014 midterms be a “bell weather” for the 2016 USA Presidential election year?

    • Scott W.

      In word, no. 1. Never underestimate the GOP’s talent in the run for POTUS for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. 2. I’m betting they barf up the Rombot again.

      Get used to HRC.

      • Cap America

        I feel so, too. It’s sad, but the Republicans always shoot themselves in the foot with presidential candidates.

        The Candidate With Money to Fund His Own Election (CMFHOE) will never make it. Too disconnected from reality.

        • The Candidate With Money to Fund His Own Election (CMFHOE) will never make it.

          See Pennsylvania; Tom “Big Bad” Wolf. Wore grandmothers clothes so well, little Red Riding Hood never even asked about what big teeth he had.

          Keystoners will get a refresher course on voting mediocre when the choice is between mediocre and awful.

          You can follow Tommy’s cheap theatrics on twitter @KeystoneKlepto.

      • Hillary is already running to preclude a challenge from Elizabeth Warren, who will become the new smartest person to ever run for President according to the Katzenbergs, Steyers and the rest of the uberleft priests who said the same thing about Obama. Warren will be their darling, it’s already started. It’s hard to notice Bill and Hill couldn’t do squat to save Pryor on home turf.

        I see nothing to indicate that Obama’s intellect is anywhere “incandescent” (hey aren’t we banning incandescent lights) as it was described and his moral and emotional defects are damning.

      • AnneM040359

        We shall see. The problem is that we are dealing with a HRC who is now years older and will be older come 2016. Remember when a man ages he is called distingrished. A woman who ages is called “old”.

    • jacobhalo

      The democrats have Hillary who is Obama in a dress. Electing her will be no change. The republicans have, maybe, Marco Rubio, who is a fresh face. Besides, him, the repubs have no one else.

      • Obama with a pale complexion, Margaret Hamilton’s witch voice and Kim Kardashian’s backside.

        I think Hill has been been hittin’ the bile too much. Jan Michael Vincent looks less messed up than Hill.

      • Chris Cloutier

        Scott Walker, Ben Carson

  • Bubba Gump

    The left is in dismay because they took a beating and they cannot understand why. I think the electorate woke up to the empty suit. Voters looked through the rough of the senate Dems stalling legislation and blaming Republicans. Voters have also been realizing that state legislatures are easier to change for the better. No matter the ballot stuffing the libs do the country is more conservative than they think. The best way to describe this shellacking is “Don’t kick the porch dog”. Dems kicked it once to many times and they found out that it does bite when prevoked.

    • Cap America

      I think national Democratic leaders also see the daily New York Times, etc., writers and video talkers just mirroring their views. And Hollywood mirroring it as well. . . and being convinced by all this padding that the real USA feels this way.

      The midterm election, I feel, benefited the Republicans because deep down inside, many Americans, are queasy about gay marriage and other social evils caused by the Democrat in the White House. They may not enunciate it specifically, but there’s a general unease with the social “change” we’ve been ladled.

      Remember: change can go in both directions and in 2 ways. Things can change for the better and can change for the worse.

      AND we can change things from how they currently are, to the way they worked before. So it’s possible to reverse King Obama’s nonsense.

    • Diana F.

      Voter turnout was only 36.6%. Liberals have got what they want over the past few years. They’re satisfied with the status quo and didn’t bother to vote. Conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, the legalization of marijuana, etc., were spurred to get out and vote. We’re going to have two years of complete gridlock with no new legislation passed. The Republicans aren’t close to a veto override, and the Dems will decide it’s payback for six years of Republican obstructionism. It’s time to rethink the congressional system and to look at a direct democracy that bypasses Congress. This would allow us to vote as true Catholics as we could separate individual issues from the party platform they’re attached to. There’s a great article about that at
      http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/26801-focus-we-actually-dont-need-congress-anymore

  • St JD George

    I don’t know about disarray. I watched the concession speech after the election and I immediately felt deflated. The POTUS seemed more defiant than ever that he wasn’t about to change course, especially with his loony 2/3’rds comment. I also heard our new leader in the Senate already volunteer what he was taking off the table which might be their strongest bargaining position. I also heard other pundits say that because of the wide margins our new leaders won’t feel as compelled to listen to the conservative base because they won’t have to know to advance legislation. One positive is that every one in POTUS’s party seems to recognize that he is radioactive so he may be leading a coalition of one, himself. So, time will tell if they have the courage to tackle some of these issues and right the wrongs that have been committed against our society. I’ll never forget the last convention and the loud, boisterous boo that echoed in the hall when it came up for a vote about putting God back into their platform.

    • Paddy

      For Democrats, God is the enemy.

      • And government their god.

  • St JD George

    Spoiler alert: not related to Jay’s fine column, but unfortunately William didn’t offer one on this subject today. More interesting news about the religion of peace. Burning Christians in a kiln – straight out of a play book from the 40’s – a truly heart and gut wrenching story. And then yet another admission from a young jihadi who tells us that the slaughter of innocents is exactly the role model to follow because that’s what their prophet did, and he read straight from the pages of their holy book. So who are we to believe (rhetorical)?

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/11/06/Pakistan-Arrests-43-For-Killing-Christian-Couple-Accused-of-Insulting-Prophet

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/11/05/Russian-ISIS-Fighter-Defends-Massacres-Because-Muhammed-Slaughtered-700-People

  • Cap America

    I’m shocked the Current Occupant totally ignored the election results. He’s not in a “state of denial” as some might offer as an explanation. Instead, he feels he rules by Divine Right, or the implicit general will of the American people.

    This guy is goofy. But makes a convincing appearance. King Obama.

    • Paddy

      He’s a clinical Narcissist.

      • Libido Dominandi.

      • St JD George

        Krauthammer said it best when he described him as a pathological narcissist, and he ought to know being a distinguished psychiatrist.

    • msmischief

      Huh? Biz as usual.

    • Chris Cloutier

      Shocked? Where have you been for the last six years? This man is the most arrogant, narcissistic, ideological man child to have ever occupied the Whitehouse. Did you not look at his background, or see what his associations were, or look at who he was raised by, and under what belief system he operated? He’s a lot more than goofy. He’s downright dangerous. The Republicans were elected for one reason, and one only, and that is to stop him. If the American people wanted the R’s to work with him they would have voted for democrats.

  • Pat Leary

    Well said.

  • thebigdog

    Apart from truth, the greatest asset for conservatism is the abysmal failure of liberal policies when implemented.

    • Liberal (leftist, collectivist, secularist, statist), policies are the political equivalent of the forbidden fruit, its acolytes are elapids encouraging their consumption.

  • Paul

    The tide is turning, let’s hope we can keep up the momentum and return society back to God and as God intends.

    • Chris Cloutier

      Amen!

  • Mike

    The cryptocracy chooses the Republicans when they need the Republicans and the Democrats when they need the Democrats to accomplish what sick agenda they have at the time.  For instance, they gave Obama the win in 2008  in order to provide a much nicer face to the “war on terror”. 

    The planned destruction of the economy,  erosion of civil liberties and police state corruption along with the “Obamacare” debacle has provided a perfect opportunity to rise up Republicans in order to kick the money powers long planned war with Syria and Iran into full gear. We shall wait and see.  Also, to impose “austerity” measures to further strangle the American public, allowing to make the nation ever the more subservient to the wishes of international finance.

     If Republicans really cared about the budget they would REPUDIATE THE ENTIRE US NATIONAL DEBT. Also, since all our money is created as a form of debt, such a action would mean there would be no money which makes it also necessary to issue new interest free UNITED STATES notes  (NOT Federal Reserve notes) as as well.  (http://michaeljournal.org/home.htm

    Either way, expect these candidates to give social conservatives a small victory here and there over inconsequential issues to keep them hooked on the political process.  Of course, they will do absolutely nothing to restore traditional values to society, as the power of the banks is ALWAYS  inversely proportional to the moral values of a nation.  

    Of course, these “socially and fiscially” conservative candidates wont lift a finger against the devils diabolical plan for the world.  They will allow the money powers population control agenda, social engineering and complete control over American society and the entire world to continue unopposed while they PRETEND to be voices for the “conservative resistance” against the “liberal establishment”.  

    Most people understand the whole thing is rigged and do the right thing by  NOT VOTING. (I do however support voting on ballot questions)  Those that do are mostly doing so to fulfill a psychological need. 

    On a positive note, you never know when god is working on the inside.

    • TERRY

      r u 4 reel?

  • Paddy

    White women have finally seen the folly of the Leftist culture of Death. It insists that they cheapen themselves, work like dogs, hate men, and pay more and more in taxes to support the Leftist base of Hispanics and blacks. How Rodham & Co. can scare white women back into the Leftist fold is anyone’s guess, but they’ll try.

    .

  • Seimon

    The achievement of education begins in the home (as well as anyone who desires it). It begins with the Childs’ upbringing and the stressed importance placed by the parent and/or guardian…click this link now for all of the students to prepare term papers or, any college papers…

  • Jay St. John

    Would Jesus Be a Democrat or a Republican?

    by Jack Clark

    Republican Christians certainly
    would not think that Jesus would be a Democrat, yet — as with most things —
    they are wrong.

    We are given some hints in the Bible
    and the Catholic Church’s teachings about whether Jesus would be a Democrat or
    a Republican:

    · In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus proclaims that how you treat the hungry, the
    thirsty, the sick and other “least of these,” is how you treat Jesus
    himself. And if you fail to help the “least of these,” Jesus
    promises, he will send you to Hell.

    · Catholic social doctrine holds that the resources of the
    earth, and the output of man’s work, are meant to be shared equitably by all.

    · The Catholic Church calls for a “preferential option for
    the poor.”

    · An overwhelming concern for the poor and
    for economic justice permeates the Old Testament.

    · There is the redistribution of wealth injunction of the Old
    Testament Jubilee Year, when slaves were released and land returned to its
    original owners. [67]

    · And last but not least, do I even have to bring up the
    clarion words of Jesus repeated in virtual identical fashion in three of the
    Gospels:

    Mark 10:25

    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man
    to enter the kingdom of God. [other translations] [68]

    Such a teaching directly out of the mouth of Christ does not
    indicate a favorable attitude towards the type of unbridled accumulation of
    wealth celebrated by Republican right-wing pseudo-Christians. [69]

    To hear the Republican
    pseudo-Christians, the Messiah’s real name must have been Jesus “Adam Smith”
    Christ. Could someone please tell me where Jesus extols the effectiveness – let
    alone the morality — of trickle-down economics? Or the genius of the
    “free market”? Or where Jesus indicates even in the slightest way
    that the Matthew 25 suffering “least of these” should not be helped?

    The average Democrat, at least in
    his or her concern that the world’s goods be distributed equitably and that the
    suffering “least of these” be helped, seems a lot closer to the words
    of Jesus, the entire Bible, and Catholic Church social doctrine than does the
    blind, idol-level market-worship of Republican pseudo-Christians. [70]

    In short, is not “Do unto
    others…” the very essence of Democratic goals, and the opposite of the
    operating principle of the Republican Golden Calf, unregulated capitalism?

    Democrat
    vs. Republican Jesus: The Big Picture

    On the overall question of
    redistribution of wealth and income, having rich people is fine, as long as no
    one is dying because the rich hoard too much of the wealth. Once everyone is at
    least minimally taken care of, then the super-greedy can be allowed to
    have more than their fair share. [71]

    The Democratic case,
    however, is that because the rich monopolize such a grotesquely huge share of
    the income and wealth, there’s not enough left for everyone else. [72]

    The top 10% of individuals in the
    United States receive 46% of the income and control 71% of the wealth in this country. Globally, 25% of the
    people receive 75% of the income, and the richest 20% of the world’s
    population monopolizes 86 per cent of global wealth. [73]

    In other words: 80% of humanity must
    try to survive on a mere 14% of the world’s wealth. To look at it in perhaps
    more comprehensible terms: Dividing up $100 among ten people in the same
    proportions would produce two people with $4.30 each, and 8 people with 18
    cents each. How can anyone doubt that such an inequitable division of the
    world’s resources means that those at the bottom will suffer and die as the
    very least of “the least of these”? [74]

    Bottom line: it really isn’t about
    Democrats, Republicans, liberalism, conservatism, or any other -ism. It’s only about ensuring the well-being of “the least
    of these.”

    The purpose here is not to argue
    that Jesus would be a “Democrat” and not a “Republican” if
    he were alive today. It is to point out how ludicrous it is for people who
    profess to be Christians to hyperventilate solely because serious measures to
    ameliorate economic injustice are proposed.

    At the very minimum, Jesus would be
    for enough regulation of capitalism to accomplish the Matthew 25:31-46 goals, not for the law-of-the-jungle,
    let-them-suffer-it’s-their-own-fault Hobbesianism of the Republican right-wing.

    • Mike

      Yup, both parties are endlessly guilty of picking and choosing what teachings of Jesus and/or the church they want to listen to and ignoring ones they don’t. Many of them go out of their way to justify the most flagrant violations of gods law in order to conform to the political platform of their chosen party, despite the fact that neither party is even remotely  close to being in conformity with church teaching and gospel vales.

      Both political parties of are their father the devil. I do think your average “conservative” or “liberal”  means well, despite being entirely ignorant of how the world really works as they are completely brainwashed by the phony left vs right paradigm created by the devil in order to divide and distract. 

      I have said it a million times and I will continue to say it. because it’s the ONLY issue that matters. If we simply canceled all outstanding debt and BANNED ALL interest on loans WITHOUT EXCEPTION (which is completely in accordance with the gospel and church teaching), we could create a society with BOTH the small government ideals of conservatives and justice for the poor desired by liberals. All politics are designed to cover up this essential divine truth that will solve most of the worlds problems. 

      The “free market” only works so long as it is subservient to the laws of god. This means no usury and an understanding that all land and resources ultimately belong to god not man, which calls for a system of just distribution.

      The answer is NOT a communist government or loads of top down corrupt inefficient bureaucratic programs that tax the middle class to give scraps to the poor. Rather, a system of strict anti-trust laws, interest free credit unions, plentiful interest free money issued by the govt. in proportion to economic production, just and completely fixed prices, direct ownership by workers through locally run guilds and cooperatives, which would force management and worker to work together for the common good and would completely eliminate parasitic shareholders (capatilisim) and govt. bureaucrats (communism)” from the picture. Also, a transparent tax code and direct easy to understand laws with no loopholes designed to rid society of banks, lawyers, transnationals, insurance companies, unnecessary govt. bureaucracy, and all other parasitic third parties that drain the wealth of a nation. 

      Such laws will FORCE the creation a society based on BOTH the values of subsidarity AND solidarity and will essentially rid society of most fraud. With all the middlemen out of the way, it would be much easier to reach a common consensus between “conservatives” and “liberals” and create a society based on gospel values. 

  • Rob B.

    I posted this over on the First Things website some days back. I think it applies here too:

    As a Coloradoan, I wish I could be so sanguine about Cory Gardner’s victory. He refused to support personhood amendment that we had on the ballot this year. Also, far from opposing contraception, he wants to make the Pill an over-the-counter “medication.” The only reason I voted for him was because Planned Parenthood is scared to death of him for some reason…

  • Clive

    The facts really do speak for themselves. If Obama was a white conservative, without changing anything else, he’d be lauded as the second-coming of Reagan. It’s going to fun watching all of you whine over the next two years of America failing. When your conservative leadership starts taking the food off of your table in order to give it to the ultra-wealthy, you won’t have “libtards” to blame anymore. You’ll only have yourselves and your blind adherence to an antiquated and corrupt political system that has become little more than an oligarchy.

    As far as the “social change” of treating homosexuals like actual people some people talk about being terrified of. People felt the same about treating black people like human beings. You’re the problem, not intelligent people.

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