As Mr. Kelley’s disdain for “so-called moral issues” suggests, the roles he and Ms. Williams play in politics are connected. Since the Reagan era, conservative Christians have grown in prominence as Republican foot soldiers. Voters like Ms. Williams have elevated “values” concerns in a party once associated more with the Chamber of Commerce than the church. “I’m pro-life. Basically, that’s why I’m Republican,” Ms. Williams says [bold mine-DL].
She also agrees with Republican criticism of Democrats’ economic policies. “Democrats are all for social programs which raise my taxes,” says Ms. Williams, who lives in a working-class neighborhood. “I’m not working to pay for people to sit at home watching cable all day.” ~The Wall Street Journal
That’s right. She’s working so that the government can create a prescription drugs boondoggle to benefit pharmaceutical companies. That’s why it makes sense for her to be a Republican.
I understand why pro-life voters typically align with the Republicans. In theory, it makes sense: we pro-lifers vote for you Republicans, and you work to overturn Roe and generally oppose abortion itself (and, by extension, euthanasia and ESCR and so on). It sounds like a fair deal, until you, the pro-lifers, realise that you never really get very much out of it in all these years. But what about getting a majority on the Court, someone will ask. Well, pro-lifers have helped put Republicans in executive power for what will soon be twenty of the last twenty-eight years, during which time these Presidents have nominated seven Supreme Court justices, five of whom are still on the Court today. There has been a Republican-appointed majority on the Court for most of my lifetime, and most of the Republican appointees came in during the Reagan years or later, and yet Roe is realistically farther away than ever from being overturned than it was fifteen years ago. The latest two justices made it clear in their confirmation hearings that they accepted Roe as established precedent–and their nominations are supposed to represent the great clout and triumph of pro-life voters! Someone might point to the various bad choices and disappointments among the nominees in the past (Souter, O’Connor, etc.) and claim that pro-lifers just need to remain patient and gradually build up that anti-Roe majority they have imagined for such a long time.
Given the record of the last three decades, what makes them think that anything will change in the next administration or the one after that? The trouble with pro-life voters is that most routinely vote for the GOP, so the latter have no real incentive to keep them interested or give them anything more than symbolism or limited measures designed to keep them just attached enough to retain their loyalty for another cycle. Someone will say, “Well, that’s politics for you,” but my point would be that pro-life voters need to be much more shrewd in their willingness to withhold support and extract concessions. Yes, this is politics we’re talking about, which is why pro-lifers should play the game a lot better than they have been doing. Those who follow the path of Pat Robertson to pay obeisance to Giuliani are declaring to the party, “Please, exploit us for your own advantage!”
Now maybe pro-life voters have other reasons to be drawn to the GOP, as Ms. Williams does, but the question is whether those other reasons are still real. There used to be a certain rational method to how the Republican Party operated. They might play social conservatives for fools and give their causes little more than lip service, but you could generally count on them to be less profligate in (most kinds of) spending, less reckless overseas and good for business. Now they have virtually none of that going for them and must rely on the idea that they are the pro-life party (which, officially, they are) to remain even remotely competitive. If they aren’t even all that good on delivering for pro-life voters, what, exactly, is the rationale for voting Republican?
The grimly amusing thing about the WSJ article is that the “affluent voters” who are trending Democratic are doing so partly because of the perception of a social conservative chokehold on the GOP, when whatever real political hold social conservatives may have ever had on the party has rarely been weaker in practical terms than it has been over the last few years. The party’s embrace of social conservative rhetoric has made it appear as if the GOP is beholden to social conservatives, when it has never been more apparent than in this cycle that almost the exact opposite is true.