There has been some discussion lately of the bubbling tension within the Republican Party’s base between the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives. Frankly, this tension has always existed but only tends to surface when the GOP is out of power and the two sides are wrangling for influence, with the fiscal conservatives claiming that the social conservatives’ focus on culture war issues is driving away potential Republican voters while the social conservatives claim the the only reason the GOP is even a viable party is because of the loyalty of the Religious Right base.
Grover Norquist undoubtedly comes down on the fiscal conservative side and so it’s no surprise to see him sit down with Dan Gilgoff to offer the social conservatives a little “tough love”:
[Religious Right] leaders sometimes who announce that they want to make everybody be one religion or make everybody think one way … Some religious right leaders do that, acting as if everybody of their faith persuasion votes on their command, which is insulting, not true, and ridiculous. They shouldn’t talk like that.
James Dobson made some comment that 40 percent of the votes for George W. Bush in 2004 came from evangelical Protestants, therefore you owe the presidency to us and you need to do what we want. It’s missing why they voted for Bush. They didn’t vote for him because they’re evangelical Protestants. They voted for Bush because they wanted to be left alone in their faith and family commitments, which are evangelical Protestant. But the orthodox Jews and the Muslims who voted for Bush voted for the same reason, so you can’t go to Bush and say, “Govern as a Baptist.”
Why is a guy who wants to go to church all day in a room with a guy who wants to make money all day and the guy who wants to fire guns all day? What is it we have in common? We all want to be left alone in the zone that is most important in our lives. And if you don’t understand why people are in the room, you don’t understand how you can piss off people who should be your friend.
Traditional-values conservatives who thought the Republicans weren’t doing anything the last eight years remind me of that old joke where the guy is leaning up against the building and a policeman comes over and says, “Move along.” And the guy says, “I’m holding the building up.” And the cop goes, “Don’t be an idiot, get out of here.” And the guy walks away, and the building falls down. The Republicans in the House and Senate were stopping a whole flood of left-of-center social issues on abortion, gay issues, everything. They weren’t winning those issues because the votes weren’t there to pass stuff. But they were stopping bad stuff.
You do have some leaders, not just social conservatives, who want other people to do their work for them. I never insist that a congressman and or a senator go out and lead on the tax issue. I lead on the tax issue. I make it easy for congressmen and senators to do the right thing. There are some social conservatives, like some other guys, who want the president to be point man on their issue. And presidents don’t do that. They want congressmen and senators to jump on the hand grenade for them. No. Make it necessary for candidates to vote X, and they will.
Whining is not a way to change policy or make you beloved by elected officials. Some social conservatives think, “How come the Republican leadership hasn’t done X?” The real question is: Why haven’t you made it the easy and smart thing for any elected official to do?
As for the issue of marriage equality, Norquist refused to say whether he supports it, saying simply that he hasn’t focused on it and saying that the government shouldn’t even be involved in the marriage business anyway:
Churches, synagogues, and mosques should write marriage contracts, and the state should enforce contracts. You shouldn’t have sacraments organized, managed, and defined by the states.
Communities of faith ought to be into denationalizing marriage, just as I want to denationalize healthcare and education, rather than trying to get the federal government to run the post office correctly or manage marriage correctly.
Of course, “denationalizing marriage” is exactly what the Religious Right doesn’t want because it could lead to states granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, which is why they are insisting on the need for a federal marriage amendment.
Needless to say, efforts to repair the rift between the social and fiscal conservatives are probably not going to be helped much by the fact that one of the leading fiscal conservatives more or less accused the Religious Right of being a bunch of whiners who have no idea how politics actually works.