Carol Platt Liebau: Death of the Reagan coalition: should we mourn?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Death of the Reagan coalition: should we mourn?

This is guest blogger wile e coyote.

Conservative pundits are pushing Romney as the only way to hold together the "Reagan coalition."

This coalition supposedly combines political conservatism (small government, staunch anti-Communism, low taxes, states rights, gun rights) with social conservatism (pro-life, school prayer, incidents of marriage limited to man+woman).

This coalition may be dying a natural death. On the one hand, the Republicans themselves have thrown political conservatism out the window: witness the profligate spending and large new federal programs under W and the recent Republican congress.

On the other hand, the social conservatives might actually succeed. Reagan, the first divorce to serve as President, advocated socially conservative policies, but got a free pass since the federal courts at that time would not allow implementation. The Supreme Court has already moved well to the right of the 1980 court, and we are one Supreme Court justice away from a sea change.

The Republican party, as a party, is not ready for this sea change. As far as I can tell, there are three principled positions on abortion: (i) allow it at the woman's discretion until the foetus is delivered (draws breath); (ii) ban it, except possibly to save a rape victim's life, since human life begins at conception; and (iii) somewhere in between. The social conservatives seem unwilling to have a reasoned discussion about the range of this somewhere in between, even if that is where they stand. I believe they demonstrate similar rigidity on other social issues.

Romney as a person and as a candidate represents an effort to paper over the above failings and the above differences. They can't be papered over. After 28 years, Republicans need to hash out openly and self-critically how we've done and what we ought to do.

This coalition must change to survive, or die and be replaced.

4 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Hey Wile, you only listed two of the three legs of the Reagan coalition tripod. In addition to the political conservatives and the social conservatives, there is the pro-corporatist wing. They are the segment of the Republican party who have no problems with fiscal irresponsibility or with welfare, provided the money gets transferred into business via corporate welfare.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

The social conservative wing is every bit as important as the political conservative wing and in my view are the same. That the issue of abortion seems to be problematic is BECAUSE it is human life involved. How does one compromise on the life of another? These social issues are paramount for the future of our culture and it is folly to ignore them or wish they weren't so important to those like myself. Seems to me, that a greater focus on such issues is required considering how they've been more ignored since the 60's causing so many social problems as a result. For one proof, just read Carol's book. Had conservatives/Republicans not stood by and done little, her book might never have been necessary.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Wile E Coyote said...

Coyote here.

The "pro-corporatist wing" of the Republican party, as Twister puts it, helped throw small-government conservatism (and fiscal restraint) under the bus. But, "corporatism" is not a formal part of the "Reagan coalition," even if corporatists vote Republican. (If you look at the 1986 Tax Reform Act, by the way, you will see a huge cutback in tax shelters and other "corporatist" mechanisms.)

Twister, I think what you really wish to insinuate is that the corporatists "own" the Republicans in the same way unions and trial lawyers own the Democrats. I think you will find the same types, and often the same people, feeding at both the Republican and Democratic troughs.

Marshall, on abortion, separate the Constitutional analysis from the policy analysis. We often "compromise" on the life of another: killing in self-defense, no obligation to save another in danger, pulling the plug on the brain dead. Just because the issue is important and human life is involved doesn't tell you how to handle the issue.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

Killing in self-defense is justifiable. No one is mandated to allow themselves to be muredered. Allowing someone to die is situational and can carry some legal ramifications in some jurisdictions if one plainly has the ability to prevent it. Pulling the plug on the brain dead is no problem since the person is dead, unless you're referring to a Terry Shiavo type case where the person has reduced brain function. Then, just as in abortion, there are too many unanswered questions that need to be asked and answered before action is taken. This is where the issue is of great import and an indication of our national character, something about which I care greatly. Let the left continue to play fast and loose with human lives, vascilating according to convenience between when it is or isn't appropriate to respect and value it. I prefer that conservatism continues to take the lead in preserving some sense of honor and virtue in such matters.

5:06 PM  

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