Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Was 'Divide and Conquer' Among Alinsky's Rules?

by Smitty

Megan McArdle's post about social conservatives in the GOP caught the eye. Here is part of a comment on her site:
And few things get [NY-23 residents] angrier than how the Republican party has been taken over by "the Texans." This is shorthand for the southern-oriented, Protestant-oriented religious right. They hate that crowd more than any Democrat could. Betrayal by your own side always hurts the worst.
Hm. I'm confident that if Governor Perry really had the whole GOP hog-tied, we'd be moving towards an Article V cram-down that would have Princess Pelosi's makeup running in the Tammy Faye Bakker fashion.

Megan responds to the comment less figuratively than I to the notion, however:
Social conservatism just isn't the main issue there. Abortion will be legal no matter what happens on the federal level, and a lot of local Republicans are perfectly fine with that. Evolution will be taught in the schools. What animates Republicans in the upstate is a deep economic conservatism. Their social issues are confined to frowning at drug use, excess drinking, and people who won't work to take care of their families. (And in rural Western New York, there's no question about who can't work, and who won't . . . it is not an anonymous sort of place.)
As long as social issues dominate the Republican Party, they will continue losing their north--I had a lot of relatives who at least considered voting for Obama. Ironically, I wonder if the tea parties won't help bring the two wings of the Republican party together: guns and lower government spending are the two things all members can agree on. But if the south wants to keep its northern Republicans--and the congressional seats that come with them--it's going to have to back off trying to make the northern party look like a miniature version of itself.
To amplify Megan and beat the Federalist drum, the social issues are not what should drive the national GOP. Sure, I'll agree with social conservatives all day long on the usual issues. The reason you Do Not Want legislation about marriage and abortion at the Federal level is that it's as evil as the 16th Amendment. It short circuits the chain of command for the Federal government to concern itself with sexuality, just as it does for the IRS to have eminent domain over your wallet.

While I'd probably never want to visit, a State should have all of the wherewithal to turn itself into Gomorrah. You may agree that XX already has. Trying to use the GOP as a means to enact legislation to force XX to your line or mine is wrongheaded. The Evangelicals, of all people, ought to know this. See Romans 7:7-12.

Politics is secular, and we have to be pluralistic. While the Sermon on the Mount is a personal favorite, a political treatise it is not. (And it tapers off drastically as a foreign policy platform.) People remain responsible for their own actions. It is not on me if the unborn are murdered. I'm comfortable opposing having tax dollars spent to fund the murder, but not with the Federal government controlling the individual behavior.

Thus, while I'm personally as socially conservative as they come, it's my hope that the socons relax a little bit, and realize that they may be doing Alinsky's dirty work, to a degree. Be socons at the State level, and focus on the fiscal issues for national politics. 'Hang together, or hang separately'. Cooperating is both more in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution, and more likely to succeed in preserving the country in the face of a collectivist takeover.

Because the fruit of their faith is surely the apple whose core is an orgy of worms in a knot of rot.


  1. If the writer of that comment at McArdle's blog wants us Texans to regain our independence, I'd be much obliged.

  2. Bravo. Couldn't have said it better myself and lord knows I have tried. Anyone hellbent on replacing the constitution with the new testament is no conservative, social or otherwise. Giving liberals fodder for their inevitable theocrat accusations is the last thing the GOP should do to grow the base.

  3. This seems really odd to me. After a congressional campaign in which it seems Hoffman & his national GOP supporteres went out of their way to emphasize fiscal issues and minimise social issues, suddenly everyone is in agreement that the social conservatives should back off. ??? Exactly who was beating up Dede Scozzafava for being pro-gay? I heard the Susan B. Anthony List was waving "pro-life" signs, but other than that one pro-life advocacy group, exactly who was even bothered that Dede was pro-choice? Esp in a NY race? Taxes. Spending. Stimulus. Card check. These were the issues that national republicans pounded Dede on. So why is everyone (okay, megan and the handful of blogs commenting on her article...) now blaming SoCons?

    It sounds to me that people blame SoCons becuse they are a convenient target and play into the dominant media narrative: Because (1) Palin was involved, (2) Palin's obviously only interested in SoCon issues, (3) SoCons are obviously fringe wackos who only lose elections, and (4) Hoffman lost the race, then Hoffman must have lost the race because he is a fringe wacko only interested in SoCon purity. Disastrous logic, this.

  4. @alwaysfiredup,
    Blaming SoCons is a fine divide and conquer tactic.
    It also has a bit of a basis, as I was saying in this post.
    Note that I'm not coming out for or against SoCons as such; merely pointing out that Federal efforts may be misguided.

  5. Gee, as a Christian Social Con I'd LIKE to relax... but every time I try, some version of Frank, above, mouths off about what a pack of theocratic horible godbotherers we are and I decide... why bother? Y'all can either suck it up, or lose elections.

    And Frank? If you live your life avoiding "giving liberals fodder".. you're a liberal, no matter waht you call youself.

  6. @DaveP,
    What of the Federalist point I was making in the post?

  7. "After a congressional campaign in which it seems Hoffman & his national GOP supporteres went out of their way to emphasize fiscal issues and minimise social issues"

    When I visited Hoffman's site a couple of weeks ago, all of the issues except two were buried back in the tabs. The two that were featured on the front page: Gay marriage and abortion.*

    I suppose he may have shifted gears as he passed Scozzafava, but until he did, the social conservative card was played heavy and hard.

    * I'm leaving out the no-tax thing since he just plain lied about both his position and Scozzafava's record. Yes, he signed a "no new tax" pledge ... and then openly contemplated the circumstances under which he'd break it in his position paper.

  8. Smitty, Couldn't it/wouldn't it be argued that in addition to something like abortion being a state level issue, honoring of different marriage types would be a states' rights issue, too? Honoring of one state's ("traditional") marriages by another is currently enforced at the federal level, isn't it? If I have that fact straight, then wouldn't it mean that in order to truly honor our belief in states' rights, we'd have to move in that direction in regards to having our state's ("traditional") marriages honored by another state as well? If I don't have that fact right and all the states are currently just playing nice with each other, then couldn't we end up in a tiff with other states if they want to only honor a portion of the marriage types allowed elsewhere?
    I'm not saying in this comment how I feel about that one way or the other, just trying to explore the scope of your assertion/proposal/argument...

  9. No, marriage and sex are not Federal issues, but it wasn't the social conservative right that made them federal. If you recall, it was the left that gave us Roe v Wade. So long as the issue remains federalized, we have to fight it on a federal battlefield. And that means congressional, senatorial and presidential elections. Once Roe v Wade is repudiated as the wrong decision and awful precedent it is, then we can start working on a state level.

  10. How is Smitty's argument different from the cynical Democrat who says Social Conservatives are loyal to the GOP on "wedge issues" but are never given any real results?

    This race was a total loss for Republicans, but not for social conservatives.

    Social conservatism lost insofar as there is now one more person to support Dem liberalism. But it won insofar as the most socially liberal candidate did not get elected. As a proven loser, she won't be able to undermine the GOP's apparently fragile commitment to social conservatism.

    And a slightly less liberal Dem is now in power to keep the Dems from veering too far on SoCon concerns. He knows that appealing to SoCons a little bit more could secure his seat in the future.

    But these victories are somewhat minor. I think NY23 is a one-off election that doesn't say much.

    It's obnoxious for out-of-staters to comment too much on somebody else's candidates. Politics should be local.

  11. Yeah, yeah, I know. They were so upset about "the Texans" who knew nothing about their local issues pushing a candidate on them. So upset, apparently, that when they actually got the opportunity to vote, said candidate almost won the thing and the local I'm-not-like-those-mean-Teabaggers-I'm-leftist-errrr-progressive-errrr-liberal Republican ended up in single digits.

    That commenter's analysis would appear to be somewhat lacking.

  12. Well, yah, except the Left already nationalized THE social issue--abortion.

    Get that reversed and THEN Federalize like crazy, and may the best State win!

  13. What will the argument be when a federal judge rules on the premise that the federal constitution trumps the state law when it comes to a social issue?

    The federal case law is long, what then? (i.e medicare, death panels, stem-cell research and federal funding of abortion in a health care package)

    Granted timing on the issue is everything and that will become the point sooner or later.

    It just needs to be pointed out to some, that if a behavior exists, or there is some scientific research out there, the federal government is going to fund it.

  14. Smitty:

    See, that's what I have a hard time understanding .... social cons are always being accused of wanting to impose a theocracy & they're always the "BIGGEST thing to fear"... hard to believe considering how little influence they've actually had on the law over the past 30+ years.

    Here's what ticks me off - - - the Frums, Lindsey Grahams, et al. tell us Republicans should focus on economics, smaller government, fiscal responsibility, national defense, etc. and soft pedal the social issues .... and then they're nowhere to be found on any of the issues they say we should 'focus' on.

    Senate Republicans made Porkulus happen. Republicans made the prescription drug benefit happen, a benefit which added still more obligations to a program careening toward bankruptcy.

    Congressional Republicans haven't demonstrated devotion to any principle beyond keeping their butts firmly planted in the House / Senate seats until they're carried out of the Capitol feet first.

    If the Frumistas want to build a "new" party, perhaps a bit more attentiont actually accomplishing something (though it would leave less time for complaining about those icky people who won't just shut up and vote for 'us') would be in order.

  15. I'm conservative on economic, social, and national security issues. On other issues I'm like a libertarian (without all the kiddie porn).

    But if you are "personally as socially conservative as they come," I do not understand this suggestion to "relax" at all.

    Sure, there are ONLY a few hundred abortions in this country every single day . . . relax? Relax?

    Fight only on the state and local level? Why, if the Constitution were respected, I'd agree, BUT it is not. Any state or local restrictions are stricken by FEDERAL courts. Relax?

    You claim to be "as socially conservative as they come." You keep using these words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.


  16. @Estragon:
    At least your post got posted...

  17. Pah.

    The Reagan Coalition was fiscal conservatives plus social conservatives. If the two work together, they form an absolute majority, not just a plurality.

    The Democrats' focus ever since Reagan's first term has been to bust that up. They appear to have succeeded, in large part because of "Republican moderates" who agree on separating out the social cons as beyond the Pale.

    Congratulations. You have just moderated yourself into irrelevance.


  18. @smitty:

    Ok, I may have missed your overall point then, and bad on me. I suppose since the cons, both EconCons and Socons, are fired up right now, it only makes sense to try to turn them against each other...


    I fully admit to being a looky-loo when it comes to NY-23: there's no earthly reason I should be interested in that race except that it became a national proxy fight. (Which, to me, is the best explanation for why Hoffman lost: the non-ideological voters didn't want a national proxy fight in their backyards, and I can't really blame them.) My interpretation therefore is entirely based on the national response, which came about only after Hoffman approached/passed Dede, and which focused on fiscal issues with Dede's voting record. I think if one is to draw any national lessons from this campaign, you have to look at the dominant narrative while Hoffman was competitive and not the narrative prior to that point. (But see Jay Cost for why we shouldn't even try.)

  19. A small tent Party is a good thing. And I have to tell you my friends - socon arrogance is not a vote getter. If votes are what you want.

    How about this Republican mover and shaker and mom coming out for Marijuana Legalization.

    Which won by 58% in Maine.

    And how about a Libertarian Republican Conservative winning a City Council Seat in Queens.

    If you want a nation wide party you might consider that giving the libertarian wing of the party more scope might help.

  20. Mike LaRoche, any time you want to take your third world state and leave to become a third world country, you let us know. Don't let the door hit you in the a$$ and all.

    And, for those who missed it, turning a Republican district with Republican moderates into a Democratic seat because campaign workers kept yelling about abortion? Thanks for that. We on the left appreciate it. If y'all could take down Charlie Crist and Carly Fiorina, so we can guarantee Democratic wins, I'd sure appreciate it.

    This intra-party stuff is the funnest thing ever.....well, until I have to vote for that DINO Evan Bayh again. But, I do it because I'm a grown up and not some child screaming about how ideology is more important than governing.

    Finally, Demographics: A lesson Ric Locke apparently never learned. Hint: Ric, only 43% of the white folks who elected Reagan voted for Obama, but Obama won. See, just having your "coalition" isn't an absolute majority any longer. There aren't enough of you.

  21. Making marriage a government issue was done by Southerners to prevent interracial marriage.

    You can look it up.

    Once the States got in the act the income Tax Federalized it.

    And don't even get me started on the public school system and forced attendance laws. Those were initiated by Protestants against Jews and Catholics.

    Alcohol was another socon "success". Billy Sunday ring a bell? And ongoing with drug prohibition. Fortunately we came to our senses on alcohol prohibition pretty quick. WE have let drug prohibition fester on.

    In the days when that was going on socons were Dems and Progressives. Huckabee is a remnant of that era.

    Socons are not blameless.

    Maybe the rest of the country is right to question socon hubris. It leads to nemesis.

    What we need to do now is to clean up the messes our ancestors made. And I think Palin is just the lady to do it. So there. I'm willing to work with a socon who has a servant's heart. Where are the rest of you on the servants heart question? May I note she appointed a pro-abortion judge?

    As long as the Republican Party is branded the Moral Majority Party it is going to have trouble winning votes in the East and West.

    How about a Branding Campaign? Smaller government and lower spending. And this time we really mean it. Heh.

    Palin's Planned Parenthood Judge

    Die-hard, pro-life activists are contorting themselves into every possible shape to try and forget that Sarah Palin has appointed a former Planned Parenthood advocate to be the decisive vote on the state's supreme court.

    Now there is a candidate I can get behind. Small government. Pays attention to the voters. Lives her life according to her principles.

    Sounds pretty good to me.

  22. Let me also note that marijuana is more popular in Maine than traditional marriage. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  23. Ric L,

    The Democrats have nothing to do with breaking up the socon/libertarian coalition. The abortion litmus test so prevalent around here is more successful in doing the job than anything any Democrat could conjure.

    Remember when the R Party became a wing of the Moral Majority? Socons were overjoyed and then the Rs proved the proposition by getting politically involved in the Terry Schiavo case. It may have been wrongly decided (I don't buy that but for the sake of argument will accept the proposition) but it was definitely not a Federal Case. That was all it took.

    Now you own the brand.

    I suggest you do this. Keep repeating "I'm against abortion but I believe reproduction is none of the government's business". The Palin strategy.

    I ♥ Sarah'cudda

  24. Amen M. Simon,
    And DaveP, I'll put my conservative creds up against anyone's. Hell, I voted libertarian in 80 and 84 because Reagan was too big government for my tatses. Sorry you missed my point so completely on the theocrat comment.

    It was not to accuse anyone of being a theocrat, though that is what those who would supplant the Constitution with the New Testement most certainly are, but only to say those charges are inevitable when the social issues take center stage. Why play into them?

    The leftpress will seize, bend, lie, and mailiciously contort any hint of religion because it feeds their theocrat boogeyman narrative. Knowing this, how could emphasizing religious beliefs possibly build a larger audience than promoting fiscal sanity and smaller government?

    I would defend to the death your right to practice your religion but kill you in a heartbeat if you abuse my constitution to force it on me.

    I am not suggesting we keep the socons off the bus, just away from the steering wheel, and especially the microphone. Moderates, you know, the ones that actually decide elections, are about as comfortable with blatant displays of religiosity as socons are with are with a cross dresser in a gay pride parade.

    Using gay marriage and abortion as litmus tests for conservatism is as bass ackwards as it can be. These issues are inarguably about as personal as can be and in complete contradiction with one of, if not the pre-emminent fundamentals of conservatism - -minimizing government intrusion. (for the record I am pro-life and indifferent on gay marriage)

    My conservatism abides by the constitution that deliberately precluded the mixture of theology and governance. If that is liberal to you, you're part of the problem.

  25. Thanks Frank,

    And your Thu Nov 05, 01:00:00 PM

    Is a gem.

  26. Tom said...

    What will the argument be when a federal judge rules on the premise that the federal constitution trumps the state law when it comes to a social issue?

    You lost that one when a bunch of nutters decided to plant their States Rights flag to defend slavery.

    And making Senators beholden to voters and not States didn't help.

    You got screwed by your ancestors. Deal with it.

    Your only recourse now is States willing to stand up against the Fed and Congress Critters who actually follow the Constitution.

    And the most pro-States Rights feller in government these days (if you count action) is Mr. Obama when he said that med pot is a States Rights issue. He should get props for that from Republicans. Of course he violates the principle in many other areas, but if you don't reward good behavior what are the odds he will even consider more of it?

  27. @M. Simon,
    You lost that one when a bunch of nutters decided to plant their States Rights flag to defend slavery.
    A distinction can be drawn between slavery and sexual expression, though we're not amidst an actual legal case here.

    And making Senators beholden to voters and not States didn't help.
    Oh, the unintended consequences of the 17th Amendment.

    You got screwed by your ancestors. Deal with it.
    History is a source of lessons, not a prison. Amendments, e.g. Prohibition, have been struck. Whether the effort required to overcome the centralization of the last century wrecks the country or not remains to be seen.

  28. I see that the professional blog troll/Jeff Goldstein stalker "timb" has crawled out from under his rock.

  29. While it is hardly appropriate for the Republican party to push an explicit agenda making the federal government Christian it is not inappropriate for it to provide a bulwark against the the more extremist secularists on the left who wish to use the federal government to drive Christianity into small corners never to be heard from in the public sphere again. If the Republican party ever drops its pro-life plank while abortion on demand is the rule of the day it will lose its most fervent supporters.

    That being said, the campaign to drive the federal government back into the confines of the constitution that formed it ought to be the rallying cry of the political opposition. Just please let's stay away from immanentizing the apocalyptic visions that have provided popular support for so much of our late middle-eastern adventurism.

  30. If the Republican party ever drops its pro-life plank while abortion on demand is the rule of the day it will lose its most fervent supporters.

    That is exactly right. Without social conservatives, the GOP is finished.

    Much like Ronald Reagan before her, Sarah Palin seems to have found an effective way of presenting a balanced Republican message that draws social conservatives as well as those of a more libertarian bent.

  31. If the Republican party ever drops its pro-life plank while abortion on demand is the rule of the day it will lose its most fervent supporters.

    Well then. I guess small government (the right to be left alone) and lower spending are not enough for you.

    So the deal is: we small government types can't win nationally with you and we can't win nationally without you.

    What good are you?


    We will be back adventuring in the Middle East because the new guy is giving away all the advantages Bush put on the table.

    Let me remind you that the lack of adventuring in the 30s gave us too much adventure in the 40s.

    Say isn't "Peace In Our Time" a good Christian Hymn? Or at least part of one?

    Yes It Is

  32. Well said, Mike....I mean, sure you didn't say anything, but you typed it without too many grammatical errors.

  33. Anyone who thinks that pro-life is a losing issue at the polls is not paying attention. Anyone who thinks that spending billions and even trillions of dollars occupying entire nations in the middle east to put pressure on a handful of angry goat herders is a winning issue is also not paying attention.

  34. "What animates Republicans in the upstate is a deep economic conservatism..."
    The problem is that they NEVER practice or show any interest in "economic conservatism"! Take Snowe for example. A perfect NE republican who describes herself as a "New England economic conservative"; she voted for Bush's 08 stimulus, TARP, Obama's stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, and has given her nod to socialist Healthcare. Now, those bills had nothing to do with 'social conservatism", but she voted for all of them.

    In fact the whole fiscal conservatism/social liberal position is a canard anyways. They not only supports abortion, they support federally subsidize abortion services.

    The key to remember about Hoffman is that in less than 60 days, he went from being a CPA to a national figure who managed greater than 46% of the vote, all while coming under attack from people who should have supported him. So much for conservatism being dead or conservatives not able to compete in the NE.

    Bottom line: The fuck with RINOs. My money went to Hoffman and will go to Rubio, but not one fucking penny to the NRCC or the NRSC.

  35. Pro-life wins in some places and loses in others. We ought to calibrate our candidates accordingly.

    I think strong libertarians like Ron Paul and Sarah Palin do well all over the nation. Both are socons BTW but neither (despite MSM efforts to tar them) run on a Culture War platform.

    And yes. Replace the RINOs with libertarian Republicans where socons can't win. Local sensibilities matter.

    Had Hoffman also been on the Libertarian line in NY that might have been enough for him to win. It worked in Queens.

    Libertarian Republican Wins In Queens

    As I said a number of threads back: A libertarian/socon alliance is unbeatable.

  36. Moderates decide elections.

    Of course moderate in Texas is not moderate in New York City. Calibrate the candidates accordingly.

  37. Anonymous said...

    Anyone who thinks that pro-life is a losing issue at the polls is not paying attention. Anyone who thinks that spending billions and even trillions of dollars occupying entire nations in the middle east to put pressure on a handful of angry goat herders is a winning issue is also not paying attention.

    Abortion is a regional issue. A NATIONAL political party should treat it that way.


    And yes. Angry goat herders are no existential threat. OTOH if they get WMDs they will be more of a problem.

    Best to civilize them first.

  38. managed to get Democrat Bill Owens elected in a solidly Republican Upstate New York congressional district. They accomplished this feat by driving the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, from the race because of her apostasy on abortion and gay rights.

    Democrat Press spins it as gays and abortion

    I think Frank was correct.