Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Laying the contradictions bare

I’ve remarked before on this blog that I think we are seeing the end of the Reagan Coalition. That is the alliance between social conservatives and economic liberals. Theoretically it’s a mess, but usually the practitioners have been able to keep those divides from being public. Well most of them at least:

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – Republicans can reach a broader base by recasting gay marriage as an issue that could dent pocketbooks as small businesses spend more on health care and other benefits, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said Saturday.
Steele said that was just an example of how the party can retool its message to appeal to young voters and minorities without sacrificing core conservative principles. Steele said he used the argument weeks ago while chatting on a flight with a college student who described herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal on issues like gay marriage.

“Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,” Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. “So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”

Steele is claiming here that by showing that gay marriages cost business extra money*, they might be able to turn the young against gay marriages. But anyone with a seconds thought realises the argument actually shows that ALL marriages cost money and under Steele’s reasoning this is enough to oppose them. In short the party of business just became anti gay marriage.

Now the RNC is in a pretty awful place right now, with their few rising hopes such as John Huntsmen suddenly off to work for Obama as Ambassador to China, leaving also ran talent like Michael Steele to lead the party. I’ve poked fun at him before, but this piece was worth highlighting if only to show the contradictory elements at the heart of modern conservatism laid bare by the man who is tasked more than any other in the US with helping its revival. Only he doesn’t actually notice that. Nor does he seemed to have gaged just how politically unsellable such an idea. Even the most money hungry of Gen-Y’er will not turn against gay marriage (or even all marriage as his argument more logically extends) simply because they know it costs them more money*

* I assume Steele is referring to the cost of health insurance which is often born by businesses, and extends to cover spouses and families in some cases. This could of course be solved by Steele supporting universal healthcare which would free business from acting as a social provider too, but the Republicans are dead against lifting that burden from business… Or maybe Steele really does think married people are more expensive anyway, you know, demanding to actually be allowed to go home and not do endless overtime or caring about their OH&S in the workplace because they have someone who wants them to come home alive un-maimed. Who knows….

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