Suckers No More?
The White House is also having trouble with its traditional base of social conservatives. The New York Times reports that various conservative Christian groups wrote a letter to the White House indicating that they lack "enthusiasm for changing the retirement system or other tax issues." The groups are "threatening to withhold support" for the privatization scheme "unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage." This follows an earlier NY Times story about how social conservatives are at odds with the big business cronies of conservative lawmakers who only want to cut taxes for the wealthy. "People are not going to give the kind of support necessary for tax reform that leaves the investor class untaxed," said one top religious conservative leader.
As we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Christian conservatives have served as "useful idiots" for Bush's corporate agenda. They've been played for suckers by the kind of Blue State country club Republicans who aren't worried too much about the Religious Right because, you know, their pregnant daughters can always take a vacation in Sweden.
But many people who regard themselves as "social conservatives" are also economic populists. That's a state of affairs that goes back at least to William Jennings Bryan. As Thomas Frank has pointed out, people in today's Red States were just as religious a hundred years ago, and just as prone to shaking their heads at the moral depravity of the coastal "elites." But back then, the Bible Belt formed the geographic base of the Wobblies, the Socialist Party, the Nonpartisan League, and the cooperative movement. And the "elites" they tisk-tisked over were bankers and plutocrats.
The main difference today is that their outrage over abortion and gay marriage gets picked up, thanks to Mellon-Scaife money and Rove's talking points, by the great GOP echo chamber. But their views on corporate power meet with nothing but the chirping of crickets.
Well, some of those people are finally figuring out that they've been shamefully used. With his "political capital" speech after the election and his announcement that a gay marriage amendment is on the back burner, Bush has told social conservatives in no uncertain terms: "Take your $50 off the dresser and get the hell out--I'm done wit ya."