Monday, October 30, 2006

On the Usefulness of Being Used: Cynical observations on the relationship between social conservatives and the Republican Party

I have not read David Kuo's book, Tempting Faith, an account of his experience as a social conservative in the Bush administration, but by all accounts the book is at least partly an expression of Kuo's shock that evangelicals are being used by national Republican Party leaders to gain and keep power.

Well, first of all, the only shocking thing is that anyone would be shocked by this. Anyone who has been around the political block knows that politics is not the place to go if you're looking for pure motives. Many in the Republican Party fought the evangelicals within their own party for years, but then the smart ones began realizing that it was stupid to fight them and much more expedient to use them to for their own political purposes.

The role of social conservatives in the Republican Party in many ways resembles the role of Blacks in the Democratic Party: they are alternatively valued and exploited, and there are people in the party who share their convictions and those who don't. Any competent social conservative leader knows this. The question social conservative leaders must ask is, given that they are being used, do the benefits of working with the party still outweigh the costs?

Is the Republican Party not only in the position of using social conservatives, but of being used by them?

The trouble social conservatives face is that that too many Republican leaders fall into one of two categories: those who don't share the convictions of social conservatives but pretend that they do, and those who do share the convictions of social conservatives and pretend that they don't. The history of the relationship between Republicans and social conservatives is a litany of demagoguery and dissembling, pandering and pusillanimity--peppered with myriad cases of genuine political courage and conservative statesmanship.

In any case, the only alternative for social conservatives is to judge their political leaders on their actions, pure and simple. Here at least there is some hope. If they concentrate on the motives of their political allies, they are in for little other than disappointment.

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