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November 13, 2004

Just an Observation on the Republican Coalition

In the political realm, such statements are often taken to be veiled threats, particularly among tentative allies. But I mean this to be purely and simply an observation that our libertarian friends may wish to ponder.

The coalition formed between social conservatives and libertarians has been an uneasy one all along, and the latter have often made the point that they'd be perfectly comfortable switching sides... except for a few not-so-minor concerns about foreign policy and creeping socialism. This sort of wrangling is to be expected as the Republicans' success increases the margins for the party's antipathetic supporters to lean away from each other. Still, I'd advise that no clique convince itself too thoroughly that it is the visitor to the other's big tent and therefore owed deference.

The advice came to me when I read the following from M. Simon, whom Glenn Reynolds quoted on Instapundit:

Voting coalitions are ruled by the least committed members.

So the question to the cultural conservatives is: do you want 2004 to be the Republican high water mark or would you like to extend the string?

While the sentiment of the first sentence has clear merits, its language is interesting: "ruled." I suppose the apropos question is what, precisely, M. Simon believes those mercurial members' dominion to be. We social conservatives might suggest that it is not we who would trade our kingdom for a horse, or a donkey... or an elephant.

Another argument in this skirmish comes to mind. As Eugene Volokh explains it:

What's more, even if the 22% constitutes a plurality, that doesn't tell us much about just how important the issue to a majority of voters. Among other things, look how sensitive the plurality question is to the way the options are given or classified: If you combine terrorism and Iraq under the rubric of "national security," and combine their 19% and 15%, moral values gets displaced as the plurality winner. Likewise if you combine health care (which presumably means making health care more affordable) and economy/jobs, which put together count for 28%, into a single economic well-being category.

So who are the least committed members? Those of a plurality whose votes relate to the direct functions of government, involving foreign and/or economic policy? Or those who vote — as libertarians often complain — according to criteria on the other side of a wall of separation? Farther down in his post, M. Simon asks:

Do you want to make gains on the economic front and on the war or is abortion so important that you would give up further progress in those areas?

It's a good question — one that Republican libertarians and social liberals ought to begin asking themselves. After all, they're the ones who don't vote the way they do based on their social views.

Posted by Justin Katz at November 13, 2004 12:01 PM
Libertarians vs. Social Conservatives

This sounds like the argument put forth in Thomas Frank's book "What's the matter with Kansas?" (or something like that). That social conservatives are being foolish by voting against their (supposed) economic interests when they vote based upon social issues. This Frank cannot comprehend. The question is, can economic growth, and a strong national defense, occur in a society that has little concern for moral values?

Posted by: Mike S. at November 13, 2004 6:49 PM

I recently had to choose: go to work writing software for a company that sells porn videos online? Or endure a few more weeks of uncertainty in the job market?

I hope my daughter forgives me for valuing her virtue more than our familie's short term economic interests.

(I'm working for a bank now)

Posted by: Marty at November 13, 2004 9:20 PM


Good choice. I'm glad it worked out for you.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 13, 2004 9:45 PM