Monday, May 11, 2009

What's right and wrong about Mike Huckabee's take on social cons

Nate Silver runs with Huck's recent assertion that since "social conservatives are also economic conservatives", throwing social cons overboard would mean the party's demise.

If you accept Huckabee's assertion.... it follows that social conservatives are necessarily a subset of economic conservatives. If this is the case, however, is [sic] does not follow, as Huckabee states, that "[t]hrow the social conservatives, the pro-life, pro-family people overboard and the Republican party will be as irrelevant as the Whigs." After all, the social conservatives are also economic conservatives.

If you adopt a message of economic conservatism, it will also appeal to the social conservatives. On the other hand, if you adopt a socially conservative message, a lot of the economic conservatives might be turned off by it and could leave the party.

Of course, we know Huck's wrong about his broad claim -- that social conservatives are all economic conservatives.

As Silver notes, social conservatives who are economically moderate don't just exist, they're squarely in Huck's electoral wheel-house.

The irony of all of this is that Huckabee's greatest appeal is probably to economically moderate (or even liberal), but socially conservative voters, precisely the sorts of voters that he says don't exist. But these voters do exist, and the GOP's medium-term choice is probably in picking between them (which, FWIW, probably requires their making significant into the Hispanic and perhaps even African-American communities) and their alter egos, which are fiscally conservative but socially moderate, libertarianish voters.

But turning back to Huckabee, look for him to repeat his claim that "social conservatives are also economic conservatives" at nearly every opportunity.

One of the biggest knocks on him in '08 was that he wasn't sufficiently economically conservative. But by persuading others to believe social conservatives are, by definition, also economic conservatives, he can cut off Pat Toomey at his left flank.

Now what's right about the essence of Huck's message.

Real Clear Politics runs a piece this morning by David Kuhn, which highlights the lows felt by social cons in the GOP right now, including these sharp words from Richard Land after Steve Schmidt lobbied Republicans to loosen up on gays.

"The Republicans deserve to lose elections under the rule of 'too-stupid-to-govern' if they choose the Log Cabin constituency over social conservatives."

True. But only if it has to be one or the other....