Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The war between conservatives

For years, social conservatives have sold their muscle to economic conservatives in exchange for lip service about social issues (see also What's the Matter with Kansas?). Grover Norquist (famed for his comments about bathtubs and ratheads in Coke bottles) is the dean of the modern small government faction. He demands that Republicans he supports sign a pledge never to vote for a tax hike or for new taxes, and he actually beats up on the ones who break the pledge. By building a network focussed tightly on one issue (taxes) he's been able to keep diverse and even opposing interests working together.
This makes it important when the Christian News Service declares that Grover Norquist betrayed conservatives, critics charge. You see, Grover went and did something unforgiveable. He spoke at a conference of the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans are gay, and that means religious authoritarians don't like them:
Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum, also criticized the Dallas Log Cabin Republicans and Norquist.

Norquist's presence at the fund-raiser was "traitorous," she added. "If he was a serious economic conservative, Grover Norquist would not have accepted the invitation or the honorarium for speaking at a fund-raiser for a group bent on the destruction of traditional families," Adams said.

"It's deceitful to pretend to defend sound economic principles while undermining the very fabric of society," she added.

Noting that the ATR asks politicians to "take the pledge" not to raise taxes, [Gary] Glenn [president of the American Family Association] encouraged "fiscally conservative [Americans for Tax Reform] supporters who are also social conservatives to withhold their future support until Grover 'takes the pledge' to no longer give aid and comfort to homosexual activist groups intent on undermining traditional marriage and the family."
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council sez:
Grover has spent years working to assemble a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives and his decision to aid those who are trying to destroy the institution of marriage is truly a disappointment and will no doubt split this important coalition. As social conservatives we remain committed to the country's fiscal and social well-being; we have tolerance neither for increasing taxes nor marginalizing marriage. If only that commitment were mutual.
If the Freepers are to be believed, Norquist is

What this represents is the dissolution of the ruling coalition of the nation. The religious authoritarians are tired of being kicked around. Harriet Miers is the latest in a long string of disappointments for them. They expected power now that they control the White House and both legislative Houses. They wanted to ban abortions and banish gay people to Mars, or possibly Canada. The small government conservatives wanted to decrease the amount of spending, which also didn't happen.

As the leaders in each House abandon their base and spend more time with criminal defense lawyers than their constituents, the base is getting feisty.

One has to wonder if the slow shift of evangelical groups toward environmental issues is a bargaining chip. Whether evangelicals would abandon the Republican party is doubtful, but if the organizations stopped being firm members of the coalition, and were prepared to float, maybe endorsing Democratic anti-poverty measures, environmental policy, etc., the Republicans would lose their muscle. It would be the equivalent of unions abandoning the Democrats.

As long as Republicans were out of power, or distracted by a war in Afghanistan and then Iraq, it was possible for all the parts of the ruling Republican coalition to hang together. The libertarians, small-government conservatives, religious zealots, gun nuts, and the other little factions could all agree that getting someone else elected was the key.

Now, no one seems to be delivering. And the base is getting restless. As always, the problem isn't riding the tiger, it's getting off that's hard.