Cultural Conservative v. Moderate
Romney is looking weak in Michigan. Rush Limbaugh opened his show on President’s Day with a monologue on the GOP panic over the rise of Rick Santorum and the diminution of the “inevitable nominee” Mitt Romney. What Limbaugh has identified is a trend we’ve been watching for some time, whereby the GOP insiders are doing everything they can to put Romney over the top. It’s true to say that Romney is in trouble, but he’s clawing his way back a bit in Michigan, as the media continues to hammer on Rick Santorum, suggesting that he’s too conservative. It’s not clear that Rick Santorum is really so conservative as they pretend, and it shows the problem the establishment has with its man Mitt: While they try to convince us that Romney is conservative, they detest cultural conservatism.
The juxtaposition is laughable. On the one hand, the GOP establishment tells us Mitt is a conservative, Romney himself saying he was “severely conservative,” but the conservative wing of the Republican electorate knows better, simply by examining his record. Romneycare is merely the most egregious example of Romney’s flat-out liberalism, but it’s far from the only one. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is too conservative on social issues, although the fact that he is really doesn’t make him a well-rounded conservative because he stood with a number of big-spending plans, like the Medicare prescription drug program implemented by President Bush. If nothing else, what this should provide to you is a template for which leg of the conservative stool the GOP establishment would like to be sawed-off.
Abortion? They don’t want to talk about it. Matters of faith or conscience? They’re simply not interested. Questions of moral concern? They won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. They run shrieking into the night rather than confront such issues, and the reason is simple: When it comes to these issues, important to a vast swath of the GOP electorate, they only pay lip-service but never deliver. These are the people who know they cannot nominate a pro-abortion candidate, so they trot out candidates who will claim they are personally pro-life, while their voting or governing history indicates something different. I will never forget how at the end of their respective presidencies, the two former Bush first ladies each in their turn came out to speak their minds on abortion, parting company from their respective husbands.
This is significant, because what it should demonstrate to you is how these RINOs are culturally distinct from the conservatives whose votes they know they need. This is particularly true with respect to Christian conservatives who live out their professed faith as best they can. The GOP establishment considers them rubes and bumpkins, and pawns in their struggle to maintain power. This is the deadly secret of the GOP establishment, and it’s the basis of their secret fear: They hope you will not notice that theirs is a philosophy that avoids the discussion of cultural conservatism because they see it as divisive. They’re right: These issues are divisive, but what they divide is the establishment from the greater body politic that is conservatism.
This is the meaning of their view of a “big tent.” They think the big tent should take anybody, and accommodate its rules, traditions, and values to any who wish to join in, but the problem with that is the mush that is made of those things by this procedure. More, as cultural conservatives begin to realize that their views are no longer respected, they begin to slip away out under the tent flaps, unwilling to be associated with the amoral circus to which they are then witnesses. As Rush Limbaugh said today, to the establishment Republicans, a guy like Santorum, a devout Catholic, is some kind of “three-eyed monster.” This is undeniably true, and it’s why you shouldn’t be surprised, if you’re a conservative Christian, that they view you in much the same way.
To them, your faith and your adherence to it are evidence that you’re faulty, and that you should be ignored, but they’ll pander to you just enough that you’ll vote for them if it comes to it. This is what they’re hoping is true with Mitt Romney, and that in the end, they can scare you away from real conservatives. To them, religious convictions should be abandoned at the exits of your church. They want Christian votes, but that’s as close to them as they’re willing to stand. Their push for Romney is more evidence of this bias, because Romney’s record on cultural issues has been flaky at best. If Romney fails to close the deal in Michigan, they may look to somebody altogether new, who has a somewhat more “acceptable” view to Christian conservatives. If so, it’s likely to be another Bush family friend, if not Jeb Bush himself, as they hope to freeze out cultural conservatives. Their approach is basically in opposition to mainstream conservatism, the goal of which is and ought to be to get the most conservative nominee possible who can win. The GOP establishment wishes to get the least conservative nominee they can make to pass muster with Christian and cultural conservatives in the GOP, because they wrongly surmise that this is the path to electoral victory in the general election. They’re wrong.