Social conservatism in the United States
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Social conservatism in the United States is a political ideology focused on the preservation of traditional values and beliefs, hearkening back to values believed to be present at the American founding. It focuses on a concern with moral and social values which proponents of the ideology see as degraded in modern society by social democracy and liberalism. Social conservatism, while defined differently by many scholars, is often conflated with religious conservatism. Religious conservatives push for a focus on Judeo-Christian traditions as a guiding force for the country on social issues, leading them to be considered social conservatives. Social conservatives are concerned with many social issues such as abortion, sex education, gun control, the equal rights amendment, school prayer, same-sex marriage, and many others. They oppose many of the cultural changes brought on by the culture wars and the sexual revolution. Summarily, this branch of conservatism is concerned with moral and social issues within the United States and uses tradition, strict morals, and religion as solutions for these problems.
Social conservatives are generally "pro-life", opposed to abortion on moral grounds. These beliefs are often based on the argument of "fetal personhood". Personhood arguments focus on giving a fetus the status of a person which then entitles them to the right to life. Social conservatives often support the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
Social conservatives are against the legalization of same-sex marriage, supporting instead laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. They oppose same-sex marriage over concerns on parenting, religious concerns, concerns of continued changes to the definition of marriage, and concerns about tradition. Conservatives are often opposed to homosexuality, and therefore are concerned with "normalizing" homosexuality through the institution of marriage. Some republicans support Same-Sex Marriage, Equal Rights, and non-discrimination laws, these republicans are known as the Log Cabin Republicans.
Social conservatives concerned with the moral education and possibly age-inappropriate information children receive from sex education classes in public schools. They prefer Abstinence-only sex education, as opposed to Comprehensive sex education. This view stems from strong beliefs in parental authority and strict moral values.
This time period saw a surge in grassroots conservative activism in response to the successes of liberal politics in changing American culture. Democrats continued to put forward increasingly liberal policy ideas that ran counter to the beliefs of many conservative Americans, such as the New Deal, which mobilized them to protect their interests. Conservatives supported radical conservative candidates such as Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Republican primary. A rise of the "Radical Right" with social conservatives who believed in a strict moral code and religious authority.
Historians have pointed to the 1970s as a turning point where "a vast shift toward social and political conservatism" really began. Meg Jacobs and Julian Zelizer argue that this period saw an increase an activism and concern with personal and social issues which lead to a growth of conservatism. There are multiple theories on the growth of conservatism in this period. Some of the possible reasons or combination of reasons for this phenomenon are the backlash from the Vietnam war, the expanded conversation on civil rights, the economic changes in the United States, and the overall changes in culture in this period. Some scholars refer to social conservatism and renewed conservative grassroots activism as a reaction to the counterculture and cultural upheaval of the 1960s-1970s. A notable event regarding social policy in the 1970s was the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 which recognized a legal right to Abortion.
Ronald Reagan, a prominent and well-supported conservative republican, exemplifies the rise of conservatives in mainstream politics. Reagan appealed to conservatives who felt marginalized by the growing liberalization of American culture, calling on "the forgotten man" or Moral majority. After the tumultuous period of political and cultural changes in the 1960s-70s, Reagan's moderate traditionalism appeared as a source of needed stability for many Americans.
Major conservative welfare reform took place in the 1990s. In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was passed narrowing the benefits of welfare recipients and encouraging work. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also came into effect during this period, limiting the time benefits can be received.
Social conservatives again became powerful in American politics in 2001 with the election of socially conservative President George W. Bush. It has been argued that many of Bush's policy decisions were strongly influenced by his religious beliefs. During his time in office Bush would pass influential conservative social policies such as the Defense of Marriage Act and support an increase in funding of Abstinence-Only Education. While President Bush did not strongly promote pro-life policies, he supported the movement through an emphasis on parental rights and focus on strict regulation of taxpayer funding.
In American politics, the Republican Party is the largest political party with some socially conservative ideals incorporated into its platform. Social conservatives predominantly support the Republican Party, although there are also socially conservative Democrats who break ranks with the party platform. Despite this, there have been instances where the Republican Party's nominee has been considered too socially progressive by social conservatives. This has led to the support of third party candidates from parties such as the Constitution Party, whose philosophies more closely parallel that of social conservatism. While many social conservatives see third parties as a viable option in such a situation, some high-profile social conservatives see the excessive support of them as dangerous. This fear arises from the possibility of vote splitting. Social conservatives, like any other interest-group, usually must find a balance between pragmatic electability and ideological principles when supporting candidates.
Commentator Randall Hoven of The American Thinker has remarked, "Using the National Journals ratings of Senators in 2007, the correlation coefficient between "economic" scores and "social" scores is 90%. That means they almost always go together; financial conservatives are almost always social conservatives and vice versa".
The American Tea Party movement, despite being mostly made up of stringent social conservatives, is economically conservative but generally avoids social conservative issues. The Tea Party Patriots is officially neutral on social conservatism. While social conservatism emphasizes faith and family as core values, the Tea Party Patriots identifies its "Core Values" as "Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, Free Markets." Some branches are opposed to social conservatism. However, independent polls have repeatedly shown that Tea Party supporters are nearly indistinguishable in their views from traditional Republican social conservatives, despite their choice to emphasize economic issues. While not allying itself exclusively with the Christian conservative movement, members of the Tea Party movement identify with the Christian conservative movement more strongly than the general American populace (44% compared to 34% of the population), yet some social conservative leaders have denounced it for its "libertarian" and "irreligious" views. Nearly 80% of those in the Tea Party movement are members of the Republican party.
- Peter Hitchens
- Phyllis Schlafly
- Beverly LaHaye
- Ronald Reagan
- George W. Bush
- Steven Crowder
- George Wallace
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- American Solidarity Party
- Concerned Women for America
- Family Research Council
- Eagle Forum
- First Liberty
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He also, to litigate on behalf of socially conservative issues, helped in 1994 to foundthe Alliance Defense Fund, which has notched up more than twenty-five victories before the U.S. Supreme Court and hundreds more before the lower court.
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For the socially-conservative American who thinks government intervention has some place in the economy, the American Solidarity Party might fit.
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... supposed the federal law, as did the socially conservative Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
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In 2003 Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, questioned the Republican commitment to fighting for the socially conservative policies that defined the group.
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