In this column from the “Wall Street Journal”, James Taranto examines the impact of social conservatism on presidential elections, highlighting the new book by Jeffrey Bell, The Case for Polarized Politics. Bell makes the case that the social issues are a winner for GOP candidates, despite what the political pundits and media outlets may say.
“Social conservatism, Mr. Bell argues in his forthcoming book, ‘The Case for Polarized Politics,’ has a winning track record for the GOP. ‘Social issues were nonexistent in the period 1932 to 1964,’ he observes. ‘The Republican Party won two presidential elections out of nine, and they had the Congress for all of four years in that entire period. . . . When social issues came into the mix—I would date it from the 1968 election . . . the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections.’”
“In Mr. Bell’s telling, social conservatism is both relatively new and uniquely American, and it is a response to aggression, not an initiation of it. The left has had ‘its center of gravity in social issues’ since the French Revolution, he says. ‘Yes, the left at that time, with people like Robespierre, was interested in overthrowing the monarchy and the French aristocracy. But they were even more vehemently in favor of bringing down institutions like the family and organized religion. In that regard, the left has never changed. . . . I think we’ve had a good illustration of it in the last month or so.’