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Mitch Daniels

Alex Massie starts off with a faulty assumption in this post on Mitch Daniels and Jim DeMint:

When Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana, proposed a GOP “truce” on social issues it was clear that a) he was interested in running for the party’s presidential nomination and b) that his moderate views on said social issues would most probably be a significant handicap.

Daniels’ problem wasn’t that he had moderate views on social issues (his pro-life credentials, among other things, are impeccable), but that he gave social conservatives the impression that he wanted to downgrade and push aside their priorities. The “truce” proposal didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t really threaten social conservatives, either. Daniels made the mistake of thinking that having a very good record on social issues gave him the freedom to propose such a “truce.”* He has since learned otherwise.

One of the difficulties Daniels faces is that social conservatives already believe they have been given short shrift. They believe they are taken for granted, used to get Republicans elected, and then carefully ignored the rest of the time. In their view, a “truce” on social issues would simply confirm the low priority party leaders give to their main issues. Their complaints are largely valid, but they show why the “truce” proposal was irrelevant. It’s not as if the Republican leadership failed to notice that it was creating huge deficits because it was so preoccupied with trying to restrict abortion.

Social conservatives are the main neglected, under-served constituency in the Republican Party, but most of them seem willing to keep putting up with this treatment for some reason. A lot of people have noticed that Tea Partiers also tend to be very socially conservative, because most Tea Partiers are rank-and-file conservative Republicans, but what has been clear is that these socially conservative Tea Partiers have made fiscal and economic issues their top priority. In effect, they have endorsed the “truce” that some activist groups and politicians find so offensive. This is what makes all of the kvetching about Daniels’ proposal so redundant: a great many social conservatives agree that putting our fiscal house in order is the most pressing issue, which was Daniels’ point.

* Daniels keeps running into resistance whenever he attempts to think creatively about policy problems, or simply whenever he tries to think. Every constituency in the party demands that candidates jump through its hoops, and it doesn’t matter that this has the effect of stifling and stopping debate before it begins. Daniels has supposedly “offended” or “alienated” every major constituency in the party because he has tried to speak intelligently about contemporary problems rather than recite brain-numbing slogans that haven’t been relevant in 20 years. The reaction to Daniels over the last few months is proof that the shameless, ridiculous pandering Romney has engaged in for the last five years was absolutely necessary if he wanted to have a position of leadership in the GOP. Absurdly, the completely non-credible Romney really is the de facto front-runner for the nomination, and somehow Mitch Daniels is treated as a deviationist despite having more credibility on every issue conservatives care about than Romney ever will.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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