Social conservatism and small government: are they incompatible?
posted at 1:17 pm on February 2, 2012 by MadisonConservative
With Rick Santorum evidently getting his moment in the spotlight of enthusiasm, a lot of discussion has been had regarding his views and how they pertain to the concept of small/limited government. Hopping around YouTube looking for old clips of CNN’s Crossfire(yes, I actually do this with my free time), I stumbled upon an episode from 1987 that discussed the old classic of “dangerous satanic rock music and how it’s destroying our youth/families/society”. For anyone familiar with what a canard it turned out to be, or with the offspring of such movements(pushed not merely by conservatives, but by liberals such as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton), the hindsight makes the following video a fascinating watch:
My primary lamentation of the piece is not the ridiculous, ostentatious questions posed by Lofton, nor even his actual fallback to the most childish name-calling on national television(I won’t even address the Godwin invocation), but that such behavior would come from someone working for the Washington Times.
What truly caught my attention and made me see the connection to the current discussion of Santorum’s worldview is that Zappa makes it a point to label himself as a conservative. Now clearly, Lofton also considers himself a conservative, but their disagreement illuminates exactly the distinction made by Santorum in a post I made recently. There seems to be a cavernous fissure between the kind of conservative who believes government should be prevented from engaging in social engineering, and the kind of conservative who believes government has a responsibility to protect children/families/society from what the consider “harmful influences”. Twenty-five years ago it was rock music, later it’s video games, later it’s McDonald’s, later it’s soft drinks, and on and on. Many libertarian-leaning conservatives noted the same kind of misgivings with Huckabee last time around, who had advocated increased taxes on tobacco products while governor of Arkansas, and who seemed to advocate government monitoring of citizens’ eating habits.
Again, I cite an interview recently featured on Fox Business’ show Freedom Watch, where Santorum made the following comment:
They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues.
That is not how traditional conservatives view the world.
Some questions need to be asked in this discussion. The first is whether the “traditional conservatism” that Santorum refers to aligns with the popular beliefs of those who consider themselves “social conservatives”. Some have pointed out that even the label “Christian Conservative” has a faction all its own. Again, is there any daylight between these labels?
If that alignment does not exist in a satisfactory fashion, how then is modern social conservatism to be defined? Some will probably finish this article with a single, valid thought: “Who cares? This election will be about the economy.” Fair enough, but a consensus on the size and scope of government is critical to the discussion of the economy, with the way the government has been bloated over the last decade, both by Republicans and Democrats. Is it not then crucial that a real debate be had on whether one of the principles of social conservatism should be limited government?
Clearly, the type of establishment Republican we get in champions like Mitt and Newt are seen as representative of big-government policy, and therefore not conservative. It seems to me that if we’re to make this distinction, we need a clear acknowledgment of how the size of government factors into social conservative ideology. Indeed, what common ground is held between social conservatism and the TEA Party movement, the latter of which many people, including myself, have found underrepresented in the late stages of this primary?
Also: By no means do I intend to imply that everyone who identifies themselves as social conservatives or Christian Conservatives are in favor of big government, or that they line up with people like Rick Santorum. I was making an observation from my own experience that, more often than not, those who identify themselves as social conservatives tend to see a benefit in government acting on their behalf if they believe the act is morally justified.