The study (.pdf) on which John Avlon hangs his latest call for a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican Party is impressive in many ways. But its index of social conservatism is a bit shoddy and likely to exclude a high percentage of educated people. By this index, I only unambiguously count as a social conservative according to one statement — “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage” — and could maybe stretch to agree with at most one other: “Clear guidelines about what’s good or evil apply to everyone regardless of their situation.”
I don’t broadly speaking think we should “ban books that contain dangerous ideas” or send women back to the kitchen. The latter is a particularly antiquated definition of social conservatism, given that the candidate who most excited social conservatives in 2008 was a working mother whose teenaged daughter had a baby out of wedlock. As for school boards being allowed to fire teachers who are known to be gay, Ronald Reagan opposed a ballot initiative that would esssentially have done just that — in 1978. Was he not a social conservative?
Now, I don’t dispute that younger and independent voters skew to the left of other voters — and my own views — on a number of salient questions, including same-sex marriage. But the Pew study offers a cariacture of social conservatism that is especially unlikely to find many takers among these groups.
UPDATE: I have my own thoughts on the state of social conservatism in today’s Politico.
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