Social conservatives are electable. They just aren’t reliable after election.
Undoubtedly, power and the pursuit of it is a transformative process. During election season we watch candidates ideologically shift and mutate, twist and contort to demonstrate themselves during stump messages. This is part of a democratic courting ritual to gain the approval of voters who are once needed in order for them to attain power.
One of the most tragic of courtships is that of the soughtafter social conservative. Social conservatives have a reputation of being both rigid and gullible; which makes them prime predatory pickings for campaigning leaders to “demagogue” their vote. Many volley that a conservative Republican will twist many ideological compromises so they can continue the black art of war at any and all costs. This makes them less than ideal to many conservative communities of faith.
The challenge of all wagging candidates is to convince the most devout and religious that a secular office is simply God’s divine right of management and they are the best one for the job. What is “the moral choice” or the correct political candidate for a social or religious conservative?
Morality, to a politician is subjectively narrowed down to “whatever gets me elected and more power”. You do not have to be a cynic to see there is a longstanding history where some issues take front & center stage for reform while other issues get absolutely no place to debate. For the majority of 30 years, social conservatives are often left with little representation from elected officials but have consistently and repeatedly been used to gain office.
Religious steerage can be whipped into a streamlined frenzy during an election towards the voting both from well agitated congregations. Priests and community faith leaders claim the secular offices in government should be made “God’s job”. The operating logic is mortal man being qualified enough to execute duties of God in proxy. If God were to be an elected official, it would change the mode of government from a democracy to a theocracy. (What would be the point of an election at that point?) Religious conservatives have instead settled for the person they believe they can reign in to do their bidding in office.
Religious fellowships operate on a social construct of religious authority administered by faith leaders over a volunteer congregation. Modern anthropology shows us this consistently in every human society. There have been many power struggles over the critical mass driven by both government and priesthoods. Over human history, political leaders have declared themselves God so there is no higher earthly authority required to attain. Today, the closest a US politician can get to priesthood status is the endorsement of the faith communities.
There are a series of unique conflicts which erode the relevance of an elected social conservative in a secular house of power.
1) Inability to cope with life outside their scope of influence
The Catholic Church itself has struggled through the ages to top or demote the authority of government to the general public, believing its political heirarchy is far superior to that of a man by adoption or election. The lack of choice, free will and personal freedoms drove the Christian reformation. There was a need to be liberated from papal fascism. Over time, this leadership also became corrupt and sough absolute dominance as government. Self-exiled protestants, like the Quakers and the Puritans left their countries in search of religious liberty in the New World.
In each of these instances, religion was institutionalised in society and each society endured personal repression leading many to flee, to become harmed or die. The American evangelical-political conglomeration known as social conservatism would also cause the general public to suffer under repressive conditions if their policies were comprehensively adopted. Women, particularly, would be refused more rights purely based on gender: wages, property ownership, personhood & personal control over individual reproduction. Non-Christian constituencies would lose equal right of representation in secular government if discriminating reforms were to take anchor on domestic religious practices.
Religious conservatives are not reasonable when it comes to life outside of the hive. They want all constituencies’ conformity to their block of belief. They can be just as autocratic as any totalitarian democracy in politics today. That is why they feel the power of Christ compelling them to dominate secular houses of governance and not merely coexist in a live and let live environment.
Manage your expectations. They will continue to rail against anyone who will not toe their line of religious policy.
For most of American history, the argument against having a Catholic POTUS was that the president would make single issue decisions for the country based on a dogmatic faith and that papal authority would dominate the Presidential office to the exclusion of a national constituency. This complaint came from the secular profession of government after witnessing long histories of the Catholic faith indirectly driving wars, mass human deprivation for entire Western societies, women and controlling the poor. The base of the complaint was an affliction to the practice of religious freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
President John F. Kennedy managed to identify with the Catholic voter by being Catholic himself but sustaining the national vote for being moderate-to-progressive in his politics. He wasn’t a social conservative. Much of the public lost their fear of religious demagoguery.
2) Inability to accept certain realities about their society
Here is a short list of legal residents in America today who do not require civil or human rights or political representation, according to many social conservatives: unmarried women, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender identified people, indigenous peoples, immigrants based on their faiths and places of origin (particularly those from Palestine, Pakistan, India, the middle east, Asia and Africa) or citizens openly practicing faith outside of Judeo-Christian religion.
That is a lot of people.
These are not just citizens but fellow human beings. Those previously listed in this account will be busy supporting the local economy and raising families.
As a fact of life, social conservatives will just continue to deny that it is happening without their effect or permission.
Politics, like human nature change and shift. Social conservatives are divided on issues like immigration, civil rights and contraception. The Catholic Church has their policy. The Southern Baptist convention has their policy. Unions of protestant evangelicals have their policy. Mormons – newer players on the political scene – have their policy and how they want the country run.
Then there are other religious constituencies who are not considered social conservatives at all because they stand outside of the Judeo-Christian faith. Pro-peace Interfaith communities are considered Liberal because they will work together for a common cause with other religions. Their views of chastity and monogamy in marriage are still consistent with traditional beliefs.
Modern churches who cannot be as easily steered by demagoguery observe more moderate approaches to civic participation. There is little focus on political messaging at the pulpit and promotion of diversity in church attendance. These are mostly Episcopal, Methodist, reformed Jewish and Catholic congregations along with various churches working in the inner city or come-as-you-are communities.
Social conservatives eschew pluralistic world views as an immorality in and of itself. So they will throw out a good number of people who participate in the same religious belief system. This suits a certain tactical advantage to those who seek to narrow the numbers of people who are “elect” and those who are not by way of socio-political convention.
4) Elected leaders conveniently forget social conservatives after the election
Ask any social conservative about their moral wins in government and you will hear stories about civil libertarian wins for the practice of their faith. You will not hear how contraceptives have been banned in medical practice or how raped women were forced to bring an incestuous pregnancy to term because the State refused private right of abortion. There are countless examples of how political leaders forgot the people who got them where they are, but none so glaringly obvious than the empty hands of the social conservative.
5) A mandate of hate
Social conservatives have an unreasonable cocktail of public policy which denies the rights of some while promoting the interest of their constituencies.
Self-appointed groups, like “The Moral Majority”, earned a reputation for absorbing the interests of post-civil rights politics of the Southeast. While political reforms changed the customs and laws of secular society after the 1960s, it had not yet transformed the communities of faith which continued to reinforce attitudes and beliefs of southern settlers who profited from slavery. Civil rights recognition flowered late amid the Southern Baptist convention who finally condemned racist practices in the 1980s.
In 2012, Calvinism remains an entrenched belief amid social conservatives. Calvin suggested materially poor and indigenous populations are inherently lazy, immoral human beings who should make themselves worthy to God and society through hard laboring and servitude. The “better” men prove their worth in society and to God by demonstrating wealth and should rule over these lesser, unworthy men. Historically wealth would then equate moral acceptability in provincial European society and guarantee political leadership. This line of thinking gained steam in the mid 1500’s after the Lutherans sought to make a cleaner break from the autocratic controls of Catholicism. It was a system of faith which posed no conflicts to Europe’s political aims to colonize nations abroad and enslave outsiders.
In this system, the only way to absolve yourself of societal degradation is to make enough cash to post recognition among todays Protestant reconstructionist caste masters. You can hear notes of Calvinism in an American conservative as they suggest that minorities and the poor are lazy, and undeserving of power or representation. Money makes the leader blessed by God says the Calvinist. If this angers you, don’t blame God or Money – blame Calvin.
The glowing light of any faith community is their ability to retain their integrity. Politicians will continue to lie, cheat and manipulate to maintain power – including the use of religious critical mass for electorate steerage.
Governments and economic systems rise and fall. It always has been and always will be up to the individual to keep the faith.