Some who celebrated Scott Brown's election are shocked at his recent vote for cloture on the new stimulus bill. In response to a report on this event at VFR, I opined as follows:
I've found it hard over the years actually to find an example of the "socially liberal but fiscally conservative" Republican. Sometimes I refer to this creature as a mythical beast. If anything, being in favor of small government is more radical in the present political climate than being, say, against legal abortion. So if a politician is not willing to stick his neck out even on the social issues where he has a strong and recent history in his own party to back him up, why would he be fiscally conservative, when most Republicans haven't been fiscally conservative for a long time?
Perhaps I'm just uninformed, though. Am I just forgetting some recent example of a Republican candidate even close to as socially liberal as Scott Brown who nonetheless strongly opposed big government in concrete ways?
I think that conservatives should stop talking and wrangling among themselves about the mythical beast. Instead, conservatives should be a lot more suspicious of the fiscally conservative credentials of socially liberal Republicans.
I'd like to say a little more about that:
It seems as though pretty frequently, social conservatives are confronted with the hypothetical scenario: What would you do if you could vote for someone who was liberal on social issues like abortion and gay "marriage" but who was fiscally conservative?
Me, I'm an unabashed purist and would tell such a candidate to go pound sand. But some people seem really worried by this hypothetical, and, indeed, there have been movements in conservatism to downplay the social issues in order to back such hypothetical candidates.
My question is, are there such candidates in the Republican party? Now? In recent years?
Part of the problem, of course, is defining "fiscally conservative." But I'm with the people who think Brown's recent vote disqualifies him.
Notice that I specified Republicans. I am fully aware, as one of Auster's commentators points out, that the most plausible place to find such a beast (a social liberal and fiscal conservative) is among hard-core libertarians. But it's extremely unlikely that one is going to find such a critter in the Republican party of today. The commentator has to reach back to Barry Goldwater to make a shot at it.
There are reasons for this: Roe v. Wade, Ronald Reagan, and (to a lesser extent), George W. Bush. The first two are related to social conservatism. Roe v. Wade put abortion on the federal stage. The Reagan era positioned the Republican party as the pro-life party, and many other issues have come in its train. The social liberals attempting to push the homosexual agenda have gravitated to the Democrat party; those opposing it to the Republican, etc. George W. Bush is related to the issue of big government. I recall reading (though I haven't time to look it up) on National Review Online some years ago an account of a Republican convention at which delegates were told that local control of education was no longer part of the Republican agenda because of No Child Left Behind. Oh. If there were any question of the Republican Party as the small-government party before Bush #2, there isn't much of a chance any longer. Any Republican candidate who is even somewhat committed to reducing the size of government has to buck the system and buck his own party far more than he would have to do in order to be pro-life. And a candidate who, like Brown, is to the left of his own party on social issues is likely to be even more in favor of big government than his department generally, as Brown's recent vote for cloture demonstrates.
What does all this mean? It means that, just as you would be skeptical if told of a unicorn in the back yard, you should be skeptical when told that a Republican candidate, though very socially liberal, is "against big government." It also means that even if you, unlike me, would face a dilemma if confronted with such a candidate seeking your vote, you probably don't need to worry about it, because it's not going to come up. You don't need to listen to the people who strategically suggest that we downplay the social issues and try to support candidates who are liberal on those issues, in order to reduce the size of government. Because if we downplay the social issues, we're not likely to get the fiscal issues either. Like Richard Rich in A Man For All Seasons, who sells his soul for Wales, we'll end up with very little in return for our compromise.
Don't bother hunting unicorns. They probably don't exist.