Alex Massie

Social Conservatives vs Fiscal Conservatives, Part CXIV

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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.

Lo and behold, South Carolina's Jim DeMint - sometimes seen as the senior Tea Party figure in the Senate and a potential 2012 candidate himself - pipes up to claim you "can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.”

This would be news to Milton Friedman, among others. (Though you can argue the extent to which Friedman, like Hayek, was actually a conservative.) Demint, however, is of the view that God and Government are locked in some eternal tussle for supremacy and the larger government becomes the smaller God must be and vice versa.

Even if he does decide to run, DeMint isn't likely to win the GOP nomination but his remarks, indeed beliefs, are bad news for the likes of Daniels (and Mitt Romney*) and a reminder that though quieter this year the social conservatives haven't gone away. And for the likes of DeMint and his wing of the party it's pretty evident, I think, that they're likely to indulge a certain level of hypocrisy on the fiscal front but any backsliding on social issues is grounds for immediate disqualification.

*Almost everything is bad news for Mitt Romney. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

UPDATE: Daniel Larison makes a good case that Daniels' problem is not that he's a moderate on social issues (he's reliably pro-life for instance) but that his "truce" proposal is easily seen as further downgrading the concerns of social conservatives who already, with some reason, think themselves taken for granted by the Republican leadership. That's probably true.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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