Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Special Interest Follow Up: Jane Galt takes on a topic we covered not too long ago, starting out along our lines:
The Democrats, on the other hand, are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.

This causes two problems. First, it drags the party platform marginally farther to the left than the Republican platform is to the right, which in a 50/50 nation is bad news, and it narrows the well of political talent. At the local level this doesn't matter, since districts go reliably for one party or another, but nationally it's a problem . . .

No dispute there. We said much the same, as I recall (here, here, and here). But I disagree with her contention that the
Republicans only have two groups to please: social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives will, by and large, allow you to throw a bone to the social conservatives so long as you do it somewhere the fiscal conservatives don't have to look at, such as prisons and homeless shelters, or small towns in Alabama. The small towns in Alabama, so long as they are left alone and not asked to celebrate gay wedding ceremonies next to the creche in the town square, will generally leave the fiscal conservatives to their own devices except during the annual farm-subsidy festival.
This is an oversimplification. Social conservatives come in various flavors, just as social liberals do (represented among the Democratic pressure groups on Jane's list by feminists, gays, abortion activists). And we can be fairly certain that, in the near future, GOP nominees will not be endorsing abortion or gay marriage; not because of the "social conservatives," but because social conservatives include anti-abortion groups and anti-gay-marriage groups. Lumping them all together as social conservatives is true in that someone who is opposed to legal abortion will likely be opposed to gay marriage; but it is just as true that a self-identified feminist will likely be "socially liberal" on other issues. I wouldn't deny that Democrats have more (and more powerful) pressure groups barking at them for position statements; in fact, that was my point to begin with. But the GOP has its share of tigers to pet.

Along those lines, Jane's discussion also ignores the NRA, which despite its GOP leanings is neither fiscally nor socially conservative, per se. As I said in previous posts, that makes it a powerful GOP pressure group (since it can't be mollified by low taxes or a sop to the religious right), although it is far from having party-wide litmus test power. Others with a great deal of sway, at least regionally, include farmers (every GOP presidential hopeful goes to Iowa to take the ethanol/corn pledge), oil, timber (viz Bush administration tarriffs), steel (ditto), and telecom. The difference is that most of these groups have equal pull in both parties. And to some extent that benefits the GOP, since they can blow off, say, the teachers, since they know that vote is lost anyway. (Link via VodkaPundit.)

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